Port agrees on a final marina cost of $9 million

FREELAND — The first phase of the new South Whidbey Marina in Langley will cost $9 million, commissioners said this week.

At a special meeting Wednesday, port commissioners unanimously approved a resolution for constructing the marina. What remains unresolved is the size of the property tax increase the port will put before South End voters on Nov. 4, as well as the final design of the marina makeover.

Commissioners said they will vote on those issues at their next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 9.

“We want the finer details to be as accurate as we can make them,” said Port Commissioner Lynae Slinden.

The port has floated two different levy rate ideas to pay for the project.

At first they considered tripling the rate from the current 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to a total of 30 cents. That proposal included a perpetual tax increase, and port officials said they were planning to use the increased revenues for a whole host of port activities beyond the improvements at the Langley Marina.

Last month, port officials reduced that number to a 25 cent property tax increase and on Wednesday, they discussed a further reduction.

“My gut tells me that we could do this with a total tax levy rate of 19 to 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or an increase of roughly 9 cents,” said financial consultant Dane Anderson.

He noted that all his financial models are based on total port district needs, not just the marina. He added that a 25 percent contingency amount is built in to account for rising prices related to the marina.

Seitle said that whatever rate the port decides, it wouldn’t affect the sentiments of taxpayers.

“Personally, I don’t think 10 or 15 cents will affect the levy rate vote that much,” Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle said.

He also cast doubt on earlier estimates for the marina project.

“The probable costs of construction are hard to predict with any certainty until we reach a 25 percent level of design.”

Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert said the contributions from taxpayers will be substantially less than $9 million.

“The amount won’t be known until the number and size of slips is determined. The taxpayer contribution will be somewhere between $5 million and $7 million, depending on moorage revenue over the next 20 years,” he said.

So far, the size of the marina is still in flux. The project will add anywhere from 26 to 40 slips, though more will be available for temporary moorage on the floating breakwater.

The breakwater, which the port bought last year from Bremerton for $400,000, is the driving factor, according to port engineering consultant Greg York.

“It defends the future marina from wind-generated wave action from the north so that is where it must be located,” he said. “More important, it’s here and we need to make the best use of it.”

York said the most cost-effective plan is to have several floating docks attached via movable “bridges” that adjust to wave action. Tapert felt otherwise.

“Separation of the breakwater and smaller attenuators to help stop waves and currents from damaging boats in the harbor isn’t safe,” he said. “I prefer a solid design providing year-round protection and the maximum number of slips.”

York replied that anything is possible but an enclosed design drives the initial price up.

Tapert was unconvinced.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” he said.

Some remain skeptical of the port’s plan to pay for the project.

“There’s a fatal flaw in your reasoning,” said Joe Murphy. “Do the math and it won’t fly. If you divide $9 million by 40 slips, it works out to more than $300,000 per slip.”

Seitle said the first phase is more expensive but the cost per slip declines rapidly once construction moves into the second phase.

Port manager Ed Field said there were restrictions on services the port could provide currently, including power and water.

“We need the support of the city of Langley on what their uplands final plan will be before a mature marina can take shape,” he said.

Slinden added that the port must conform to the city’s uplands plan, which doesn’t exist yet.

Boater David Powers said he spends $1,000 a month on his boat in Oak Harbor.

“I’d like to spend it here,” he said.

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