By James Casey, March 17, 2015, Peninsula Daily News
Local governments would reap taxes from land eyed for expansion by Platypus Marine whether the boatbuilder leases or buys the 5-acre harborfront tract.
In the former case, Port of Port Angeles officials said Monday, the port would pay a leasehold excise tax of about $10,000 a year on the site where Platypus hopes to double its production and its workforce.
If Platypus can buy the land outright at Marine Drive and North Cedar Street, as it prefers to do, it would pay an equal annual amount in property tax, according to the port.
Port commissioners had been nettled by the Clallam County Assessor’s saying she preferred the public port to sell it to the private firm and return it to the tax rolls.
Assessor Pam Rushton made the comment last week when she learned of Platypus’ request to buy real estate the boatbuilder said is worth more than $700,000.
But the leasehold excise tax — assessed on the rental of public property to private entities — is designed to plug precisely that sort of revenue gap, state revenue officials said, although exact parity is impossible to determine.
The excise tax rate is 12.84 percent of the yearly rent on a tract of public land, according to Mel Kirpes, program director with the state Department of Revenue in Olympia.
About 53 percent of it goes to the state, and 47 percent reverts to the county and city where the leased land is located, he said.
Property tax, in contrast, is collected by the county treasurer and apportioned to local government agencies.
Platypus officials had urged port commissioners Thursday to sell the site they say could double their production and employ 75 more people within five years. Their income would average $48,500 a year.
Port officials demurred, saying they preferred to give Platypus a long-term lease.
On Monday, port commissioners John Calhoun and Jim Hallett restated their case, saying it had taken the state’s public ports a century to wrest waterfront property from private owners — mostly mill owners and railroads.
They said some owners had abused the land economically and environmentally.
On Thursday, Platypus owner Judson Linnabary and marketing director Marty Marchant had told the port they wanted to buy the land to ensure financial certainty and guarantee land-use control.
Such a deal would mirror the one struck with Westport Shipyard, Platypus’ next door-neighbor on the harborfront, in 2003. Westport uses its 100,000-square-foot structure to build luxury yachts.
Platypus builds, repairs and services recreational boats, commercial craft, and Navy and Coast Guard vessels.
Linnabary said he had approached the port about a year ago but went public with the proposal last week after losing patience with port officials.
Port commissioners directed their executive director, Ken O’Hollaren, to discuss a 50-year lease with a 30-year extension, or a sale with a buyback clause should Platypus need to sell the land.
As of Monday, Marchant said, the port and Platypus hadn’t reached an agreement.