Council passes open-water marina

The volume of boats parked in Eagle Harbor has grown over the years. This photo was shot two weeks ago looking West from the middle of the harbor. - Staff Photo/Brad Camp
The volume of boats parked in Eagle Harbor has grown over the years. This photo was shot two weeks ago looking West from the middle of the harbor.
— image credit: Staff Photo/Brad Camp

After nearly a decade of debate and several more hours of failed motions and in-depth discussion, the City Council has decided on a plan for an open-water marina.

Councilors went back and forth Wednesday on several options before choosing a 16-boat, minimal open-water marina – the cheapest of the three options presented.

The option, for which the city must submit a lease application to the state Department of Natural Resources by the end of the year, features 12 existing linear moorage spots for transient (less than 30 days) vessels and four additional multi-point buoys for residential boats.

Several live-aboard residents at the meeting voiced displeasure at the city’s decision, saying it will drive out a community that has been a part of Bainbridge history for more than a century.

“This means that the oldest community on Bainbridge Island will be gone,” said Rich Seubert, who has been living on a boat in the harbor for eight years.

Seubert said there are about 20 live-aboards on the island, and he wants to know how the city will decide which ones get the four spots in the open-water marina.

The lease rate for each of those four vessels will be 22 cents per square foot, and the entire encumbered area. For example, the rent for a 35-foot boat will be approximately $365; and another $21 per month added to a 45-foot vessel.

Tami Allen, harbormaster for the city, said those four live-aboards could save some money by sharing buoys and anchors.

Currently, Allen said, live-aboard residents that remain out on open water pay nothing.

The live-aboard residents that don’t move into the open-water marina will have to vie for spots in one of Eagle Harbor’s five land-based marinas, Allen said.

With the selection of the open-water marina, occupied vessels are only allowed to reside in the open-water and land-based marinas or city docks, according to city documentation on the project.

One live-aboard, Craig Spencer, questioned why someone would choose to live in the open-water marina when land-based spots are cheaper and provide more services.

“Why would anyone pay more for mooring where you have none of the facilities you get in a marina?” he said. “Nobody in their right mind would pay more for being out on the water.”

The agreed-upon option will cost $10,000 for infrastructure with an additional $21,507 in annual fees. The infrastructure cost comes in the form of the new buoys for residential vessels.

The minimal option was by far the cheapest of the three. The largest of the three options cost $104,000 for infrastructure and more than $51,000 annually, and the mid-range option needed $32,000 for infrastructure and $49,713 annually.

The discussion changed drastically when the council and city found out recently that it no longer would receive a discount on its lease. When compiling the data for the three options, the city worked under the assumption that it would only pay for one-third the swinging area covered by rented boats.

“We have no basis to charge less than the full area encumbered,” said Bridget Moran, supervisor of aquatics and agency resources for DNR. “That is an option that we are not legally allowed to offer.”

Upon first hearing about the change in charges, councilor Bill Knobloch thought the open-water marina was dead.

“We waited too long; we lost control of how we’re going to manage our own harbor,” he said.

The change in fees added $13,000 to the minimal option, $32,000 to the intermediate option and $35,000 to the largest option.

The decision to go with the minimal option came after several council members raised concerns, suggested alternate options and brought up postponing the decision process.

Councilors Barry Peters and Kjell Stoknes were concerned with a risk factor associated with this marina. As part of the lease agreement between the city and DNR, a portion of the rent paid would go to the DNR. That money has to be paid whether boats are present in the marina or not. Peters and Stoknes said the city is taking on too much risk for an area that may remain empty for periods of time.

“When I look at the cost per month, it is more for a boater to live in a marina, which to me says there is more risk to the city that we’ll have a vacancy,” Stoknes said. “I don’t have enough information to vote on this.”

Stoknes was one of the three councilors who voted against the motion.

Knobloch, who initially presented the motion to choose the minimal option, also had some doubts about the risk involved.

“I can tell you straight out, we’re going to have vacancies – people can’t afford it,” he said.

Several councilors advocated pushing the decision to the Oct. 28 council meeting. Delaying the option didn’t gain any support after the council learned that it can make changes and receive input from the public throughout the process of negotiating the lease with DNR.

Prior to this decision, numerous vessels were in violation of authorized uses on state aquatic lands. Had the council taken no action, the DNR promised to begin citing offending boats. Moran said the council’s decision will help the city maintain the harbor and keep the beauty of the island intact.

“We feel that we must be responsible stewards of the land, while retaining the unique characteristics of this island and following the law, she said.”

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