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City of Bainbridge, DNR making headway in open-water marina negotiations

Discussions between the state’s Department of Natural Resources and a city negotiation team for a lease on the open-water marina will become much clearer in the next few weeks when the city draws up a survey to delineate the area of the marina.

The survey will mark a turning point in the negotiations, which have been steadily gaining steam since a council-driven negotiating team was formed in February.

“We’re making very good progress,” said Bridget Moran, deputy supervisor of aquatics for DNR. “We’re getting all the issues on the table, and I think it’s going very well.”

Though the City Council voted on a plan for a 16-slip open-water marina last October, the specifics could not be determined until a survey of the land was completed. The survey, which DNR expects to have sometime this month, will show the full size of the marina and record the number of residential and transient spots available in the harbor.

The council will discuss the information discovered during negotiations at a special workshop May 25, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

City Councilor Kirsten Hytopoulos, who is one of two council members on the negotiating team, said the workshop is necessary whether or not any changes are made to the plan as voted last year. team received council authorization to take what they’ve learned and meet with leaders of the liveaboard community to discuss their options. The results of those discussions will be reported at the workshop.

“We’re going to need a workshop no matter what we do,” she said. “There’s some details we’re going to have to hash out.”

The survey will clarify some of the issues, including allowing DNR to calculate the actual rental rates for residential vessels.

“Configuration of rent is the next big step; we’ve talked about it conceptually for some time,” she said.

DNR has said that the rental rate for residential vessels is one of the non-negotiable parts of the lease. The state agency has held firm at 22 cents per square foot for a 360-degree swing of the area the boats take up.

One piece of the marina that remains unclear is the fate of Bainbridge’s century-old liveaboard community. A number of the 16 to 20 residents, who live a self-sustaining lifestyle with little money, would be forced to leave or move onto one of the shoreline docks should the marina be implemented as voted. The council’s October plan reserved space for four liveaboard vessels.

Rich Seubert, a liveaboard resident and member of Boaters and Mariners of Bainbridge Island (BAMBI), said the city team hasn’t bargained with the liveaboards’ interests in mind.

“Basically, the negotiating team hasn’t really negotiated from the liveaboards’ perspective, only from the perspective of the Harbor Commission’s recommendation of four liveaboards.”

The participation of the liveaboard community is critical for the function of the marina, said Councilor Hilary Franz, since they will pay for a large portion of the annual costs of the marina.

Seubert hopes meetings between the city team and the liveaboard community can produce an outcome that accommodates the liveaboards.

“I think we still have a ways to go, and I hope we can all work together to come up with a positive solution,” he said.

The survey may show the potential for more liveaboard slips within the marina. Moran said the total number of slips in the survey will count transient spots in other public use areas, like the city dock. Those slips can be added to the number in the open-water marina, potentially leading to a higher number of liveaboards allowed in the marina. State law dictates that 10 percent of the slips can be dedicated to residential vessels, however the city increased its allowable percentage to 25 through its Shoreline Master Plan.

It’s the council’s call whether or not to add more spaces for liveaboards should the survey find enough transient buoys to do so.

Moran said the DNR has yet to receive any changes to the scope of the marina.

“The fact is that the council voted for that type of marina, and we’re working under the assumption that’s the direction the city wants to go until we hear otherwise,” she said.

Throughout the process, the city has made clear that the marina had to be a “budget neutral” project. The city will receive $140,000 from the state to accomplish that goal. Those funds will go toward the removal of derelict vessels and installation of buoys.

Moran said the implementation of buoys can begin soon after a lease is agreed upon. DNR’s goal was that the document be completed and signed sometime this summer, and the negotiating parties are on track for that possibility, she said.

According to documents on the marina, the area will cost the city approximately $21,000 annually in maintenance. The plan is to recover those costs through lease costs to residential vessels. Moran suggested the city could charge a small fee ($8-$15 nightly) for transient boats to recoup some of the costs.

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