Grapeview port looks at tax for boat launch repairs

Arla Shephard, July 9, 2015, Kitsap Sun

The Port of Grapeview is considering a property tax increase to pay for boat launch repairs and other projects.


The port might levy an industrial development district tax, which is unique to port districts. It would raise the district’s rate from about 3 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to 18.36 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, declining each year over the next 20 years.


State law requires port commissioners to hold a hearing before considering the tax increase resolution, but no vote of port district residents is requires.


The port attempted to raise its taxes to 13 cents per $1,000 in 2013 through a vote, but the measure failed. The district has also applied twice for state Recreation and Conservation Office grants to pay for boat launch repairs, without success.


“We don’t have any other options,” said port Commissioner Glenn Carlson. “With our current rate, our budget is about $24,000 a year … We don’t have any other way to go.”


The port presented its draft comprehensive plan, which includes the tax increase, in a public meeting on June 30. Since then, many people have since expressed concern that the port did not meet state requirements by posting two legal notices advertising the meeting.


Other residents feel the plan doesn’t do enough to explain how funds levied would pay for repairs or other projects.


“The only thing we heard is they want to raise our taxes, with no money earmarked for anything,” said Glenn Hoopman, of Grapeview. “We’re thinking we’re going to be taxed for who knows what, for them to waste more money. They’re spending frivolously and don’t know what they’re doing.”


The boat launch, built in 1960 and used extensively by shellfish farmers and for recreational purposes, has been in poor condition for several years, Carlson said.


An evaluation by the Portland Cement Company, cited in the port’s draft comprehensive plan, notes that the ramp has many wide cracks with failed sealant, shattered slabs and other poor surface conditions that require reconstruction.


The ramp is also crooked, Carlson said.


“We would like to straighten it out,” he said. “We consider it a hazard. We’re really, really afraid that at some point down the road our liability carrier is going to say we need to do something or they’ll raise our rates or cancel us. It’s a fear.”


While the comprehensive plan does not explain how an industrial development district would pay for boat launch repairs or list the total cost of boat launch repairs or reconstruction, Carlson emphasized that the plan is still in draft form.


“Everything we have in the plan is something we want to address going down the road,” he said. “We’re not hiding anything. Everything is right up front, we’re being transparent. It wouldn’t be any kind of underhanded thing or anything that would happen without already being discussed.”


A port’s primary concern is economic development, so the port has tasked a three-member advisory committee with looking at the port purchasing the private Fair Harbor Marina or other parcels, Carlson added.


Aside from the Fair Harbor Marina, the port’s draft plan does not specifically mention the purchase of other land.


The plan does mention enlarging the launch parking lot, adding an accessible restroom at the lot, charging launch users a monthly or annual fee and the possibility of a merger with the Port of Allyn or Port of Shelton, with the primary objective being the repair of the launch.


Hoopman and others argue that repairing the launch only benefits a few residents.


“The people at Mason Lake, they don’t use the launch, they have their own lake,” he said. “A lot of people feel the same way, why not charge the people who use it? It’s just a select few who stand to gain from it. This is a bed-and-breakfast community, not an economically driven community.”

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