Port of Port Townsend considers moorage exemptions

Effort to preserve maritime heritage

PORT TOWNSEND — Vessels with local historic significance could remain in Port of Port Townsend marinas regardless of their ownership, according to a proposed amendment to the port’s rules and regulations.

Port commissioners were presented with a draft on April 24 of a new rule that would make an exception to the moorage transfer limitations currently in place for certain vessels that reflect the area’s maritime industry and heritage.

Executive Director Eron Berg said he was looking to the three commissioners for direction and suggestions on the proposed modifications and additions.

“This is a significant rule change,” Berg said. “It’s not just a tweak, but a fundamental shift to the way the marina operates in terms of moorage and transfer of use. It’s targeted for Port Townsend and the composition of our marina.”

The benefit of receiving iconic vessel designation would be a new owner’s ability to retain its assigned moorage and thus keep the vessel on the waterfront. The moorage would terminate if the vessel leaves the marina through sale or destruction.

The draft defined “iconic vessels” as those that have a current or historical connection to Port Townsend or Jefferson County boat designers, builders, captains, races, crew or tradespeople; be sea-worthy, well-maintained or in active restoration; have had a moorage license for at least 10 years; and be approved by a five-member committee appointed to assess if they meet the criteria.

Commissioners were generally in favor of maintaining the particular character of the marinas by keeping vessels with a local connection in them, but they probed the details of the draft and requested changes.

Commissioner Carol Hasse said she wanted to see more clear and simple criteria for what constitutes an iconic vessel with the possibility of expanding it at a later time.

“If you’re licensee who owns a wooden boat or a vessel that was built in Port Townsend, it wouldn’t matter necessarily how long you were in the marina but that you had a permanent slip,” Hasse said.

Berg said the port wants to make clear that gaining iconic vessel status is not mandatory; owners would have to opt into the process.

“This is an option that the owner has to ask for,” he said.

Commissioner Pete Hanke asked what the financial impact of changing the moorage rule would be. Berg said fees would remain stable so it would have little effect on the port’s bottom line.

Commissioners asked for revisions to the draft to include changing “iconic” to “heritage”; eliminating the necessity of a committee; cutting in half the permanent license requirement to five years; and using Hasse’s recommended criteria.

The revised draft would be distributed to moorage licensees for their feedback, Berg said. The first formal reading will take place at the May 8 commission meeting with the goal of finalizing the rule in late May.


Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@ peninsulanews.us.

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