Port reluctant to expand SEA Marine lease

Posted 5/29/19

SEA Marine is hoping to expand its footprint on Port Townsend’s working waterfront, but the port commission is resisting.

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Port reluctant to expand SEA Marine lease

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SEA Marine is hoping to expand its footprint on Port Townsend’s working waterfront, but the port commission is resisting.

For the past several months, SEA Marine general manager Chris Bakken has been trying to renegotiate SEA Marine’s lease with the Port of Port Townsend to extend its existing land and dock leases, and to lease another parcel of land, known as the ‘Back 40,’ directly behind SEA Marine’s current operation at 419 Jackson Street.

“The long term plan we have is two things,” Bakken said. “We need to be able to carry SEA Marine through the next economic downturn. We also want to expand our ability to store boats and work on more boats.”

But Bakken has been unable to get the lease negotiation on the port’s agenda. At the port meeting on May 22, he spoke to the Port Commission during the public comment period, expressing his frustration.

“We are asking for a fair and competitive lease on land that is zoned for maritime use,” he said at the meeting. “Is this not why ports and port districts were formed?”

The current lease has eight years before it needs to be renewed, Bakken said, but that might not be enough time before an economic downturn would affect SEA Marine’s ability to succeed without an expansion of space.

“I want to have a good feeling that we’re using that land to the best use for the community,” said commission chair Bill Putney.

Putney’s main concern with renegotiating the lease is a piece of commercial property, owned by Pat Shannon, one of the partners at SEA Marine.

“It’s a concern because it’s not a piece of property that the port controls,” Putney said. “It’s outside of the shoreline master plan. They might move their current operation buildings to the newly leased property to make the commercial property available for other development.”

In an email Putney asked that SEA Marine get a contractual assurance from Shannon about how SEA Marine’s commercial property will be used in the future.

“We can not directly control the use of Pat’s property,” Putney wrote. “Luckily, since he is a partner in SEA Marine, we can require that assurance contractually as part of a lease with SEA Marine. I leave it to SEA Marine to propose a way to legally make that commitment. I think that is a gating item to be handled before the more routine lease negotiations can move forward.”

Bakken said he feels requiring Shannon to make a commitment like that is holding SEA Marine “hostage,” from any expansion.

“We have eight years left on the lease,” Bakken said. “But we’re trying to see that SEA Marine survives. That requires the space back there. We want to finance new buildings and new infrastructure.”

At the port meeting Wednesday, others spoke up in favor of SEA Marine.

“In the interest of economic development, supporting a working waterfront, and developing Point Hudson consistent with existing zoning, the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association, through its Board of Trustees encourages the Port to negotiate seriously and in good faith with SEA Marine to extend their current land and dock leases and to lease the ‘Back 40’ minus parking,” said Pam Petranek, speaking on behalf of the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association.

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