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Clinton sticks to Kenmir property for ferry parking

"Clinton residents just said no to state officials Monday night, and not just one time. They said no to eight out of nine options proposed to solve ferry congestion in the dock area, and instead supported the state’s least-favored option -- purchase of the Kenmir property.About 50 citizens and members of the Clinton Subarea Planning Committee met with a State Ferries delegation headed by Russell East, director of ferry terminals.The officials came equipped with photographic maps describing nine options for passenger pick-up and drop-off, most involving improvements to Ferry Dock Road where such activity now takes place. A retaining wall was proposed to provide pullover parking for from 10 to 20 vehicles.But local residents wanted nothing that would increase congestion in the area and make safety problems even worse. Instead, they stuck to the community’s long-held position that the Kenmir property across the highway would best solve vehicular and pedestrian traffic problems. The building on the property once housed the Admiral’s Mistress restaurant, but is now partially leased by the state during the dock reconstruction project.East stuck to the ferry system’s position that the Kenmir property is too costly and also poses serious safety risks to pedestrians who would have to cross the highway to reach the ferry passenger loading area.In fact, ferry officials had little information about the Kenmir property, not even an estimated cost. The crowd seemed surprised by that, since the Advisory Committee had recommended the purchase last April, and owner Chuck Kenmir had publicly pegged the price at $1.3 million. “If you don’t know what the cost is why did you list it (as an option),” asked citizen Jenny Marks.Advisory Committee chairman Patrick Normile outlined several ways to make the Kenmir property a safe passenger drop-off area, as did others in the audience, including Jack Leengran, chairman of the Ferry Advisory Committee. And no other option received anything near unanimous support.East was obviously worried about his budget. “If the budget says half a million dollars, is there an option?” he asked, seeking a palatable option to the Kenmir purchase. “We’re willing to take a look at that (Kenmir), but is there anything else on the table even worth considering? If none of the low cost alternatives are acceptable, I need to know that.”Normile responded, “Tell Mr. Green (Paul Green, CEO of State Ferries) that the community hasn’t changed its mind.”Jan Smith, port of South Whidbey commissioner, tried to alleviate the state’s cost concerns by offering the port’s help in a Kenmir property project. “It makes it a lower cost proposal when done in conjunction with local government,” she said, noting other projects the port has done with state agencies, such as Possession Beach Waterfront Park and the Bush Point land acquisition and boat launch. The audience applauded her comments.Mike Helland, a committee member, joined others in saying that a long-term solution to ferry traffic problems can’t be accomplished using existing roads and parking lots. “It’s going to take an investment in real estate,” he said.The ferry officials left the two-hour meeting with a clear impression of what the Clinton community wants. Now, the community will have to wait for a response."

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