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UPDATED: City council checks out marina plans

LANGLEY — Langley City Council members said Wednesday they liked the final design for the new marina, but they wanted to know more.

The Port of South Whidbey has planned an $8.2 million makeover of the marina after it takes control of the property next year. The council invited port manager Ed Field to its meeting this week to explain the port’s design for the project. The current plan will add 65 slips to the marina, plus space for tour boats and passenger vessels.

The port hopes council members will help promote the project before it goes to voters in November.

Port commissioners voted in July to put a 9 cent property tax increase on the Nov. 4 ballot to pay for the renovation project.

Councilwoman Rene Neff generally liked the design, but raised concerns over the lack of an on-site manager.

“The port takes over on Jan. 1, and there should be someone getting up to speed on progress, because right now we’re turning people away daily for lack of space,” she said.

Councilman Bob Waterman asked about the port’s plans for the uplands portion of the marina.

Field said that regardless of the outcome of the levy vote, the port will upgrade the boat-launch ramp and add floats, improve parking and spruce up Phil Simon Park.

“But we don’t want to commit to major renovations that may have to be changed down the road,” he said. “Onshore improvements will be limited for the time being.”

Waterman also asked about the prospects for a fueling facility at the marina, something many boaters have requested.

Field said the cost was considered too high, but the port is looking at alternate choices.

“Possibly a floating fuel barge could work, but a full-scale, land-based operation isn’t financially feasible right now,” he said.

Councilman Robert Gilman wondered about the ratio of permanent to transient slips. Visiting boaters who use the marina are expected to help Langley’s economy more than do islanders who use the expanded boat harbor.

“The whole economic question is getting more serious by the day,” Gilman said.

“It helps the port district to have permanent mooring, but what does that do for us?” he asked. “How much money will come to the city?”

Field explained that the design provides for extra visitor slips using the “Mediterranean mooring” concept where boats tie up stern first.

“Langley will be at the top of the hill when visitors come here, but this is the South Whidbey Marina, intended to provide an economic benefit to the whole South End,” Field said.

Field declined to offer details on the project’s financial benefits, and suggested that council members get specifics from port commissioners, none of whom were present.

Field noted that, provided the levy passes, permitting and actual construction would take roughly 33 months to complete.

Council members agreed to set up a meeting in September with the port to discuss design, financial and personnel issues.

The proposed levy — which would add 9 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to the tax bills of property owners within the boundaries of the South Whidbey School District — would be assessed for 20 years, or retired earlier should state or federal grant money become available.

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 from the port district for an owner of a $360,000 home would be approximately $70 a year.

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