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Port officials stern over covered slips

Last Wednesday the Port of Bremerton signed off on OPUS’s plaza design for the waterfront conference center, the cornerstone of the downtown redevelopment plan.

However, Port of Bremerton Commissioners and city officials bumped heads Monday, July 8 over a crucial aspect of the proposed marina — covered moorage.

On the surface the disagreement is logistical, but the eventual decision about covered moorage could affect the waterfront view.

Every resident or tourist who visits the waterfront in downtown Bremerton after the new marina is built will either see the two-story tall sides and roofs of covered boat sheds, or a stretch of blue ocean water, interspersed with boats and masts.

The Port wants to include permanent boat covers at the marina to protect boats from the rainy Northwest weather, and to provide financial stability for the expanded marina.

According to Port Commissioner Mary Ann Huntington, there is a major demand in the Northwest for covered moorage. At the Port Orchard marina some boaters have been on a waiting list for 10 years for a covered slip, she said.

When Port Commissioners take out loans to pay for the multi-million dollar marina, they want to be assured they can make the money back —

covered moorage offers that insurance because it sells better than uncovered, Huntington said.

However, the problem in Mayor Bozeman’s eyes is that building a batch of covered boat slots creates an waterfront eyesore.

“We’ve sold this site based on view and ambience,” he said at the meeting.

“It’s a huge issue, and I don’t know how we will resolve it.”

Bozeman does not want people to look out restaraunt windows to see the sides of boat sheds, he said.

Though a covered marina will garner significant tourist and boating revenue, and boat space for approximately 200 owners, Bremerton’s other 37,000 residents may experience a diminished sense of waterfront ambience, Bozeman said.

In a letter to the Port Commissioners, OPUS architecture officials mirrored Bozeman’s words, saying they strongly recommend no covered moorage at the Marina.

“It is clear that both the waterfront view experience and covered moorage cannot both happen in Bremerton. The decision is simply which interest (the typical citizen’s or the typical boater’s) deserves preference,” the letter stated.

At Monday’s meeting, development coordinator Gary Sexton spoke on behalf of OPUS, saying the firm is not willing to negotiate.

“That was news to us,” said Huntington, who previously said OPUS was willing to negotiate with the Port.

Huntington wondered rather Sexton was speaking for himself or for OPUS, but after the meeting, OPUS’s Bart Brynestad, in charge of convention center project, confirmed Sexton’s contention that covered moorage is not allowable.

“You’re looking at some ugly structures instead of gorgeous waterfront, and I think it would hurt the entire revitalization of downtown Bremerton. I absolutely will not support (covered moorage) and I am totally against it,” Brynestad said.

Initially, Mayor Cary Bozeman asked the Port Commissioners to model the Port Orchard Marina.

The Port Orchard Marina brings in over a $1 million annually, and one of the selling points, according to Port Commissioners, is covered moorage.

However, when the marina was built 29 years ago, many residents protested, said Commissioner Huntington.

Naysayers worried about the out-of-towners the marina might attract, and about the degradation of the waterfront view from covered sheds. Now Huntington says the city of Port Orchard recognizes the economic boost the port provides.

Next, the Port must send notice to OPUS regarding their opinion on covered versus uncovered sheds and other pier and facility layout characteristics.

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