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Port is ready for comment on marina plan

Love it? Hate it?

The Port of South Whidbey is hoping South End residents will come out tonight to throw roses or rocks at the port’s new plan to expand the Langley Marina.

For the last month, port commissioners have been preparing for their presentation on the marina reconstruction project. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Freeland’s Trinity Lutheran Church and is expected to last two hours.

It will begin with a brief presentation on the project by port manager Ed Field followed by a question-and-answer period.

After the presentation, commissioners, staff and engineering consultant Greg York from Art Anderson Associates will discuss the various aspects of the project and take public comment from those in attendance.

“I would hope we get a big turnout because public input is where we get our direction,” said Port Commissioner Lynae Slinden.

“And this meeting is for people all over South Whidbey because they’ll be paying for it,” she said.

Port commissioners have stated that all financing options are on the table — grants, levies and bonds included.

Last month, the port publicly revealed its conceptual plan to the Langley City Council.

On Jan. 14, Commissioner Rolf Seitle and port manager Ed Field met with Mayor Paul Samuelson and Community Planning Director Larry Cort.

“The mayor has not heard any negative comments from the city council,” Seitle said. “They’ve all been positive so far.”

Even so, there are questions.

Langley City Councilman Bob Waterman said there are a lot of legal and community issues that must be addressed.

“I’m encouraged the port has a plan for the marina,” Waterman said. “I want to know more about state and federal permitting that may affect the plan and the cost.”

“Also, exactly what businesses are they thinking about down there, the height of any buildings, and how many condos,” he said.

Waterman added that a joint plan agreeable to the city, port and community is a goal worth pursuing.

Councilman Bob Gilman noted that the change in personnel — including a new mayor, the return of Cort to city staff and the firing of City Administrator Walt Blackford — has created a delay in meaningful discussions.

“But as an individual, I’m glad to see things moving forward,” Gilman said.

“I want us to focus on the broader economic development, how the marina will influence the larger South Whidbey economy,” he added.

Gilman said he hasn’t seen an assessment on the best place to spend community dollars. Port officials have said that rebuilding the marina will cost $15 million.

“There may be challenging times ahead economically,” he said. “Where can $15 million give us the best bang for the buck?”

“And I want to make sure we have a nice park, a place for people from land or sea can have to access the beach. That’s of interest to me,” he said.

Seitle noted the port is concentrating on the marina, not the uplands part of the project. The uplands component has concerned some because it has included talk of a public-private land swap that could lead to a four-story-high commercial building complete with condos next to the marina.

Seitle expects a wide cross-section of people to show up at tonight’s meeting.

“We’ll be ready to answer any questions, about anything, as much as we can,” he said.

Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert is hoping for a broad spectrum of South Enders to attend.

“I expect we’ll be doing more observing and listening,” Tapert said. “But if anyone has a question, we’ll be there.”

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

TO LEARN MORE

What: Port of South Whidbey public marina project presentation.

When: 7 to 9 p.m. tonight.

Where: Trinity Lutheran Church, Freeland.

Information and comment forms will be available for the full two-hour period. The public is encouraged to come by, learn about and comment on the project at any time until 9 p.m., even if they are not able to attend for the initial presentation.

The details:

The South Whidbey Marina

Initially, the port has budgeted $200,000 to renovate the existing boat launch ramp, a project that’s been on the drawing board for years.

The next phase includes tearing out the old 35-slip marina, plus the docks, wharf, Phil Simon Park and the restrooms. The facilities would be replaced with a new state-of-the-art facility that could serve 80 to 100 vessels plus another 25 slips on six outlying “pods.”

Port commissioners also envision a new pier extending almost 800 feet into the harbor, sited slightly south of the existing pier and ending at a 400-foot floating dock specially designed to combat damaging waves.

Satellite piers will lead to protected marina hub modules where up to seven small boats can tie up in the harbor, with six pods in all. The port anticipates the slips to be used by a mix of permanent and transient boaters.

The recently acquired breakwater the port purchased from Bremerton will protect the entire complex from northeastern winds and waves and will be used to attract small cruise ships and whale watch tour boat operators. Tall lamps along the floating dock will light the walkway at night.

The plan’s designers, Art Anderson Associates, have made room for a sewage pump-out station, a water taxi landing and future float plane tie-up at the end of the breakwater.

Anchored outside the main marina will be six more pods, each accommodating four to six summer overflow boats for short periods.

The rebuilt marina would have space for 125 boats. By comparison, the only other major marina on Whidbey Island is in Oak Harbor, which has 424 total slips.

The uplands

The landward side of the marina master plan concept is slowly taking shape.

Driving down Wharf Road, visitors will first see a turn-around area big enough for fire trucks. On one side would be a large boat sculpture. Straight ahead will be a narrow paved road running along the bluff with up to 35 parking spots against a 10-foot retaining wall. At the south end will be a special area for boat trailer parking.

If commissioners can find private developers interested in reaching a deal, the port would like to build two three- or four-story structures no higher than 35 feet with 3,700 square feet of space. The buildings would straddle the end of the new pier, with one building becoming home to the port’s offices.

The other structure would house several water-based retail stores — a dive shop, kayak rental and marine supply outlet or seafood restaurant — with 10 condominiums on the top two floors and a subterranean garage.

Running along the entire waterfront will be the new Phil Simon Park, a roughly 50-by-800-foot stretch of grass and landscaped greenery with picnic tables and benches. A stout bulkhead will face the marina.

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