News

Langley Marina, A look at the future

LANGLEY — Port officials presented their new plan for the future of the city’s small boat harbor to city officials Wednesday, a $15 million make-over that will make the Langley marina a magnet for visitors and residents alike.

“We want this to be a key destination for visitors from all over Puget Sound, whether they have a boat or not,” said port manager Ed Field.

“You have entrusted us with this valuable property and we want to do it justice,” Field told the council. “Our plan is for a recreational marina that we hope will be an economic force for Langley and South Whidbey.”

Under a deal brokered earlier this year, the city will transfer ownership of the marina in 2009. Port officials have spent months remaking the master plan for the small boat harbor, which will eventually be renamed the South Whidbey Marina.

The Langley council and a standing-room-only crowd listened closely as Field outlined the plan, which allows for space for between 117 to 245 vessels, as well as room for float planes.

“I’ve built a couple of marinas and I’d love to build this one,” Field said.

Though Field addressed each piece of the three-phase project, which includes not only a new marina but also a new park and commercial space along the shore, port officials offered few new details on what may be the most contentious pieces of the ambitious plan: How a land swap with a private developer would lead to a four-story building filled with condos on now-public property at the marina, or how the rebuilt boat harbor would be funded.

On the water

Pointing to a large conceptual painting, Field described the “pod” design of the marina.

The main marina contains roughly 100 slips and the two breakwaters add another 1,000 feet for visitor moorage, adding 24 to 30 slips depending on vessel length.

Six seasonal pods will add up to eight vessels each in the initial development for a total of 48 slips.

“Visually, the marina will be striking for anyone standing on the bluff above,” Field said.

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 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 boats.

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

Field said the clock is ticking on the existing marina due to environmental concerns on the creosote-soaked piers that make up the existing marina.

The new floats are constructed of foam-filled, reinforced concrete with wood protective strips. The south end of the breakwater will serve as a public fishing and crabbing pier.

Field said the port would make sure impacts to Langley’s downtown would be minimal once building begins.

“We know it will be a bad season for Langley merchants during the construction phase,” Field said.

“If we first deploy floating pods anchored in position with chains and serviced by water taxis, boaters will still be welcome while all this is going on. We want to keep Langley on the map in the summer for the sailing public,” he said.

Field added that the seasonal pods are a technically and financially feasible method to expand the marina during heavy use periods.

The uplands

The upland part of the plan is essential to support and enhance the marina user’s experience, Field said.

Commissioners hope to create a boat harbor “village,” with a refurbished old tugboat at the bottom of Wharf Street to catch the eyes of visitors. A marina plaza would be constructed near the waterfront, including an expanded Phil Simon Park.

The still-evovling plan includes public parking for 50 cars and six boat trailers.

The bed-and-breakfast Drake’s Landing, and the current toilet facilities, will be moved or demolished so that parking spaces can be tucked into the bottom of the bluff.

The new plan also shows that the removal of the current timber-pile marina structure will lessen the pile-up of sand on the boat launch ramp, a continuing source of irritation to local users.

“There are more critical area issues to deal with but we believe this is a reasonable and appropriate approach,” Field said. “We have to start somewhere and get the ball rolling.”

Plan is still evolving

Not much was said during the presentation about two new buildings the port hopes will be built on the property, to the north and south of the boat ramp.

On the north side is the three-story, 2,500-square-foot “Port Building” that could house a harbormaster’s office, showers, laundry, public restrooms and a mix of retail water-related businesses. All told, the building would range in size from 7,000 to 7,500 square feet.

In a later interview, Greg York, an engineering consultant for the port, said the new building would be built to blend in with structures already in place near the marina.

“The upper floors will be scaled back so the texture of the architecture melds with the Boatyard Inn,” he said. “There isn’t a lot of space there, and I don’t want visitors to see any violent alteration to the current look.”

To the south will be a residential building rising three to four stories high.

Details are sketchy at this point, but the initial idea has the port’s office and parking on the ground floor with condominiums above.

“It’s not going to be that big,” York said. “Maybe five to eight residences. But no design work has been done by the port’s partner as yet.”

That partner is Colorado-based developer Brian Stowell, who has an option to buy Drake’s Landing.

The port hopes Stowell will buy the bed-and-breakfast at the marina and move it off-site. That would clear up land for the new parking lot.

In exchange, Stowell would build and own both structures.

“Of course, nothing has been worked out so far,” York said.

In an e-mail this week, Stowell said it’s too soon to provide details.

“While we think an upland layout along the lines proposed by the port district would be advantageous for the Langley marina, we are essentially on the sidelines waiting for some kind of read from city council and the (state) encumbering agency,” Stowell said.

“Right now we are just trying to be open minded about what the best waterfront configuration is for all involved, including any future business owners down there,” he added.

Timeline and financing

Phase one of the multi-year effort requires the fabrication and installation of the seasonal moorage pods, followed by demolishing the existing marina, abandoned dock and removing the sunken tire breakwater.

Phase two is construction of the upland element, including the two buildings and condominiums, and finally building the main marina.

To pay for the marina, the port is focusing on state and federal economic development grants and money obtained from a public/private partnership with developers and businesses.

Implementation of an Industrial Development District by the port is also a consideration.

Under state law, port districts are authorized to acquire by purchase or condemnation all lands necessary for improvement of a specific area within an identified “development district.” Ports can levy special one-time assessments over a six-year period and issue local improvement bonds to pay for the development projects.

“We will examine all the financial options,” Commissioner Geoff Tapert said Thursday.

“When Bremerton built their new marina they were creative, even getting money from us for the breakwater, plus grants and an IDD. But first, the city and the public need to review and comment on the plan itself,” he said.

The port will hold a special meeting on the plan at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland.

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

INFO BOX

Who owns what at the marina:

City of Langley, .28 acres

Port district, 1.50 acres

Marina state lease, 1.47 acres

Wharf Street Holding Co., .07 acres

Drake’s Landing, .20 acres

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