Budget would give marinas rent break in Washington state

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Washington state lawmakers' budget includes a last-minute addition that would give six marina owners in Tacoma and the San Juan Islands a break in the rents they pay the state for waterfront.

The temporary change is buried in the 281-page budget bill that passed last week during an all-night special session, The News Tribune newspaper reported. It’s a potential six-figure hit to an account that funds state acquisition of waterfront and building of shoreline boardwalks and trails.

Rep. Hans Dunshee told the newspaper that it looks like “cutting a deal for someone” and he planned to ask Gov. Chris Gregoire to veto that section of the budget.

But developers Herb Simon and Ted Johnson, owners of beneficiary Foss Harbor Marina, say their rent is unfairly high and that the budget change would move it closer to the better deals competitors get.

Marinas have debated perceived inequities in rents for decades. Some pay hundreds of dollars a year to the state Department of Natural Resources; others pay hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The rent is calculated based on the value of the adjacent property, so rates are higher for Foss Harbor near downtown museums than for, say, a marina near Browns Point that Johnson said competes for the same customers, the newspaper reported.

Supporters call this budget move a “pilot project” for two areas where the disparities between neighboring marinas are most stark, Tacoma and the San Juans, and said they hope it will lead to a statewide change.

It had to be small to prevent an even larger loss of revenue to the state Department of Natural Resources, they say.

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