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Islanders renew call for haulout facility

Boaters, others say the yard could become an attraction like the Ballard Locks.

Residents hoping for a boat yard on Eagle Harbor crafted a wish list on Tuesday, expressing the amenities they’d like to see at the proposed facility.

Washington State Ferries will permit a boat yard facility on the west side of their maintenance yard, representatives announced early this month. WSF will lease under an acre for boaters to haul out and maintain vessels.

Boaters at a meeting hosted by the city Harbor Commission said they want to be able to repair, paint and pressure-wash boats on land.

They’d like to have forlklifts or cranes and a pier stretching out into the harbor.

They want ample parking for workers and customers, lighting and fencing for security, restrooms and showers. Some said the yard should have the capability to haul out derelict vessels and fuel up visiting ones.

Harbormaster Tami Allen suggested a viewing area for passersby to watch the vessels come and go.

“People could see all the boats on the trail,” she said. “It could be a spectator sport.”

Some chuckled at the idea, but Bob Smith said the idea had merit.

“It’d be like the Ballard Locks for the tourists,” he said.

While some foot-bound visitors may enjoy watching the boats, Harbor Commissioner Rob Jacques said the yard would also draw boat-bound tourists and keep locals at home.

“This would bring people here who might go to Port Townsend and Edmonds” for haulout facilities, he said. “I go to Port Orchard for my boat, but I’d like to stay here, and spend my money here.”

While many balked at the small size of the yard proposed by WSF, commissioners and city staff said sharing facilities with WSF was out of the question, citing the state’s “homeland security” concerns.

Some boaters grew irritated with discussions about what WSF will and won’t allow.

“I’m aggravated by all this talk about the ferries as though they’re some godly thing,” Smith said. “They’re ours. They’re a service, damn it.”

Smith and his wife Rachel have long attempted to hold WSF accountable to a 1974 state Shoreline Hearings Board ruling that reserves two acres at the mouth of the Winslow ravine creek for a commercial boat yard facility.

“We’ll tell them it’s our land and then we’ll figure out what to do with it,” Smith said.

WSF contends it is instead bound by a mid-1990s agreement it signed with the city designating a one-acre yard for 20 years.

City-contracted attorneys and the state Attorney General’s office are still mulling over which agreement trumps the other.

Some at the meeting doubted the 26-year-old ruling, which was originally imposed over a condominium development on Harborview Drive, has hold over the state. WSF condemned an existing boat yard next door in 1994 to make way for its own growing maintenance facility.

One attendee compared WSF’s acquisition of the yard to the state Department of Transportation condemning an office building to make way for a highway. Any commercial zoning or other covenants tied to the area disappear once the DOT paves over it, he said.

Should WSF hold firm on their claim, Smith advocates having the city subsidize the yard as a park-like venture.

“If we keep it as a business, we’ll be wiped out,” he said. “It should be treated as a park, by god. We have facilities for sports. And boating is a sport. Maybe subsidizing it with a park aspect is what we want.”

Some attendees expect WSF to charge rates too high for a commercial boat yard operator and expressed support for a public-backed yard, pointing to the city’s support for farmlands and open spaces.

Jacques plans to draft a letter to WSF expressing local boaters’ desires for a boat yard. He will enlist more public input for the letter before submitting it, he said. The commission will discuss the boat yard issue again at its Jan. 6 meeting.

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