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Port to put tax increase for marina on November ballot

FREELAND — Port of South Whidbey commissioners unanimously agreed this week to put a tax increase on the November ballot to pay for the $8.2 million makeover of the Langley Marina.

“It’s up to the voters now,” said Port Commissioner Lynae Slinden.

At their meeting Wednesday night, commissioners decided on a ballot measure for a 9-cent increase in the port’s property tax levy. The levy would be assessed for 20 years.

Currently, the port collects 10.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

If the measure passes in November, homeowners would see a roughly $32 per year increase for a home valued at $360,000. The total levy for an owner of a $360,000 home would be approximately $70 a year.

Though the Freeland Library conference room was prepared for a big crowd, only one resident showed to voice his concerns; Mike Noblet from Clinton and the former mayor of Bothell.

“It bothers me that a lot of people are hurting financially in this district,” Noblet told commissioners.

“You may be competing against other agencies that provide essential services, such as the fire department and hospital,” he added.

Noblet also said the marina is something that 99 percent of the people on the island won’t use.

“It seems this project has a life of its own. Did you ever consider a do-nothing alternative? You are building something for the well-being of the few and I think you’re making a mistake,” he said.

Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert said the whole marina project has been on the table since at least 2004, with many public presentations, discussions and input.

“Investing in a structure like this is the right thing to do if we want to encourage the economy to grow,” Tapert said.

Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle said he is worried about the economic downturn as well.

“A marina is considered a luxury by some,” he said.

“Our main charter is economic development and an economic model prepared for us has shown the positive effects a marina will have,” Seitle said. “A great deal of time and effort has been invested and if we can take the boater’s money, we’ll be glad to do it. It will definitely benefit people who don’t own boats.”

Slinden said the project will improve the economy of South Whidbey.

“This is something we’ve committed to do with the city of Langley and it will bring in tourism business that will affect the entire South End,” she said.

Noblet noted that, though he respects the work the commissioners did, he hoped the voters fully realized what’s at stake.

“This isn’t discretionary spending,” he said. “When it’s on your tax bill, it has to be paid.”

Port officials also agreed on a final design for Phase I of the project, which will add 67 leasable slips, including several stern-to-boat tie-ups.

The layout is intended to maximize the number of slips, both transient and permanent, which can be accommodated by the initial improvements.

There will be 34 new permanent slips with utilities along the new east-west walkway. There will also be 10 new transient slips with utilities along the walkway on the opposite side of the small boat center.

Slinden said the design was worth all the changes .

“It’s a nice balance between the needs and desires expressed by people during the many public meetings we held,” she said.

Whatever the outcome of the vote in November, the port plans to do at least a “mini-makeover” of the uplands when they formally take control in January.

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