With discussions and inquiries continuing about the ownership of John Wayne Marina in Sequim, leaders with John Wayne Enterprises told the Port of Port Angeles that it can’t sell it without the company’s consent.
John Wayne Enterprises (JWE) President Ethan Wayne, the son of the late actor John Wayne, a Sequim Bay land owner, informed the port Jan. 3 that the limited liability private company is against the marina being owned by any entity other than the port.
JWE has hired the international law firm Perkins Coie to represent its interests.
Wayne Enterprises, the predecessor of JWE, deeded the property to the port in 1981 for development of a public marina.
“The Wayne family did not give away tens of millions of dollars (in today’s dollars) or its private beachfront property so that the port could sell it to another owner,” Wayne said in a Jan. 3 email to John Nutter, port director of properties, marinas and airports.
“We are prepared to express our opposition to the sale, our disappointment and justified anger publicly.”
Port officials have considered selling the marina for more than a year.
The most publicized current option — potential ownership of the marina by the city of Sequim, with the operational involvement of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe — may place JWE’s investment of ownership of land around the marina “at risk,” Wayne said.
Karen Goschen, port executive director, said Jan. 9 the port is exploring options to sell or lease the 300-slip marina and that she hopes to meet with Wayne by Jan. 31 to further explain the marina’s status.
She said she disagrees that the port cannot sell the facility. She added that the port has not determined if it will sell it, although the decision has been made not to sell it to a private buyer so as to keep it open to the public.
In her response to Wayne on Jan. 8, she said, “there is no predetermination of a sale” and that an upcoming request-for-information process “will be used to gather conceptual management and ownership models to consider.”
Commissioners have pledged not to take action on a new ownership, operation or lease arrangement until after Dec. 1.
Goschen said commissioners at their Jan. 22 or Feb. 12 meeting will consider approving language for a request-for-information solicitation to potential marina buyers and lessees for “conceptual business models” to take over responsibility for the marina.
Goschen said she and JWE officials have met once in person and had phone conversations about options for the marina’s future since a buyer said he was interested in purchasing the marina in fall 2017.
“I would like to talk with Ethan to have a chance to better explain what and why the port is doing what it is doing, and there is plenty of time to have that discussion,” she said.
Ethan Wayne has not returned calls for comment about the marina’s future since potential buyer Ron Cole, owner of Bend, Ore.-based Buffalo River Holdings, first inquired of the port in October 2017 about purchasing the marina, setting in motion the port’s ongoing review.
JWE owns 105 acres next to the marina valued at $3.6 million and zoned for planned-resort-community development.
The marina is valued at $7.7 million, according to the county assessor’s office.
Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said there are no pending land-use permits, nor have JWE recently discussed developing the property.
Wayne’s Jan. 3 email mirrored a 1995 letter from Wayne Enterprises that expressed similar concerns about the Port selling the marina to any buyer, only this time citing the tribe and city.
“A sale of the Marina to the City with the involvement of the Tribe may place this investment at risk should the Marina deteriorate or be used in a manner that has a detrimental impact on our future use,” Wayne said.
He said if an RFI is issued, John Wayne Enterprises “will be forced” to respond to the solicitation.
“It is very frustrating to think John Wayne Enterprises may be asked to by the Port to buy back the land that was gifted to the public, solely to protect this investment,” Wayne said.
Wayne said JWE has agreed to meet with the tribe by Jan. 31.
“We would like to have an opportunity to discuss a concrete proposal that would guarantee the performance of the Port’s obligations to us before any one specific option is explored,” Wayne said.
“This was our position in 1995, when the Port was previously considering selling the marina, and it remains our position today.”
Bush has reached out to Wayne for a meeting too, and said it would be more efficient to have a meeting between the four entities in the near future.
Wayne’s letter is at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Letter1.
Goschen’s response is at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Let ter2.
Port officials have said the facility needs $22 million in piling, breakwater and float upgrades by 2035 that the port cannot afford and which port commissioners do not want to ask the port’s countywide property owners to cover through a tax-funded measure.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the City of Sequim agreed to split the cost of an approximate $77,000 study through Reed Middleton to determine the scope and cost of marina upgrades before responding to the RFI, Bush said.
The study should be completed in April or May, he added.
Bush and city councilors discussed options at a special meeting on Jan. 4 before unanimously agreeing on the joint study with the tribe.
In a separate interview, he said there are multiple scenarios for operating the marina in a partnership between the city and tribe, but he said the city is contemplating a transfer of ownership, not a sale.
Bush said it’s not unusual for one public entity to transfer ownership to another, such as with King County transferring parks and pools to cities.
“Our main philosophy is that our taxpayers pay port taxes too,” Bush said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense for rate payers to pay twice.”
Currently, two Washington cities — Des Moines and Oak Harbor — operate their own marinas.
Bush said a key question city officials have is if the marina was transferred immediately, how much money would it need to generate before significant improvements are needed.
“There are a lot of models that could emerge,” Bush said in partnering with the tribe. “The city’s primary objective is to make sure public ownership of John Wayne Marina is upheld.”