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Port gets closer to acquiring land near Clinton dock

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. A final 2004 budget approved by the Port of South Whidbey this week has the taxing district spending $725,000 to purchase beach and commercial property next to the Clinton ferry dock.

Approximately one acre of land is expected to be in public hands as of early January, when the Port will purchase what is known as the Kenmir property, a slice of land next to the ferry dock that is currently the site of a pay parking lot and a two-story commercial building. The Port plans to have the building razed in May to make way for a park, but might keep the parking lot open as late as September to generate income.

At their regular meeting Wednesday night, the Port’s three commissioners — Lynae Slinden, Gene Sears and Rolf Seitle — had one of their last public conversations about the purchase prior to Dec. 10, the date on which the Port must exercise its option to buy the property. The commissioners and Port consultant Phil Pearl noted that the Port will need to prepare and negotiate lease agreements with the tenants of the building on the property, as well as arrange to have the 37-car parking lot maintained as a revenue source for at least six months. Pearl said the lot will generate, at minimum, $300 a week in income, but potentially as much as $700.

Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle recommended trying to negotiate a fixed lease for the park with its current lessee, Patti’s Parking, which leases the Port’s Humphrey Road parking lot. Though the commissioners took no action on the suggestion, all three gave their informal assent to the idea.

The Port needs to make arrangements to maintain the site as is for at least six months because it does not yet have the funding to begin a development project at the Kenmir property. Money set aside in the Port’s $1.06 million 2004 budget for the property is for its purchase only. The commissioners expect to receive grant funding in the fall of 2004 from the state’s Interagency Committee on Outdoor Recreation to develop the land into a public park. If approved by the IAC, the Port could receive up to $500,000 to reimburse the money used for the purchase.

The Port has also asked the Washington State Ferry System for financial assistance. However, said Commissioner Lynae Slinden, the acceptance of any WSF assistance is contingent on what the ferry system might want in return. Ferry officials have, in recent public meetings, intimated that a Port-owned park might wind up being an expansion site for its dock and facilities in the future.

To make the land purchase, the Port will dip into its $1.5 million cash balance. That balance is expected to be at $1.23 million by December 2004. By far, the largest expense in the budget is the Kenmir property purchase.

The port will take in $791,150 in property tax income in 2004, $3,875 more than in 2003. Port financial officer Chuck Edwards said the increase comes through new construction and an allowed 1 percent revenue increase based in reassessed existing property values.

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