By Eric Livingston
Now that I’ve had a few weeks to think about it, I find myself saddened by the Port’s decision to withdraw their Harbor Square Master Plan.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t changed my position about the HSMP but, and while I’m not entirely sure, if I were in their position I might have done the same. Nevertheless, it just feels like the Port gave up the ship.
Yes, the City Council is just as guilty, and yes, the City Council did kick the can down the road. Each side of the issue will blame the other side for the demise of the HSMP and, oddly, both sides of the argument are somewhat correct. In any case, the blame game is a dopey argument that nobody wins.
So, what’s done is done; get over it.
However, there is one niggling little problem; the problem, and this will be true of all marinas (public or private), not just the Port of Edmonds, is that Boating or Yachting, as a leisure activity, will grow at a slower pace than in the past.
OK, so revenues will grow, just slower. But the costs of operation and maintenance of the marina, however, will grow much faster.
This means that the entire waterfront will become harder and more expensive for the Port to maintain. Even in its current state, one can see that some of the boards in the boardwalk will need to be replaced in the relatively near future. Some of the machinery the Port needs to operate is well beyond its life expectancy. Non-working machinery makes it harder for the Port to attract new customers to use the Port.
By the same token, Harbor Square is also aging and requires maintenance. This too is becoming more expensive, but is needed to attract new renters. However, for the near term, Harbor Square will continue to operate in the black. But, at some point, H.S. will be in the red.
Is any of this the City’s problem? Well, technically, no.
It is our problem.
The Port staff and the Commissioners work their heads to the bone on finding ways to hold down costs. Also, the Port genuinely makes what efforts it can to avoid having to raise moorage rates and/or the taxes of the citizens that live in the Port Districts. But market forces and economic issues are beyond their – or anybody’s – control. In short, the Port can’t avoid raising rates, (yes, the Port did raise moorage rates in the past couple of years, but not as much as was probably needed) and they can’t avoid raising taxes forever.
So, what to do?
On one hand, the City’s Strategic Plan says that H.S. redevelopment is a “Very High Priority.” The Strategic Plan also says that both the City of Edmonds and the Port of Edmonds are on point for developing a plan to meet the stated goal. Page 20 of the Strategic Plan shows that the Economic Development Department, Development Services Department, Public Works Department, Parks & Recreation Department, Community Transit, Sound Transit, Friends of Edmonds Marsh, Waterfront property and business owners, and finally, the Citizens of Edmonds are to participate in the development of a redevelopment plan to meet the Plan’s stated goal.
Page 20 also shows that this project’s complexity is “Very High”; an understatement, given the depth of passions and height of emotions shown over the past year regarding the HSMP. The Plan projects a redevelopment scheme being achieved in 12 months. The likelihood of that happening is pretty thin.
Nevertheless, all the parties – including us citizens – will need to put aside the passions of the past year or so, the Port needs to return to conversation and begin to discuss what will work for the Citizens, the City and the Port.
Or, on the other hand, we can keep quiet and when the taxes increase, just accept that we’ll have no real complaint about having to pay. We won’t get what we expect; we’ll get what we deserve.
Much of the reason that makes Edmonds a destination is the waterfront. Without a well maintained, fully operational and beautiful waterfront, Edmonds becomes a city that people simply drive though to get to the ferry on their way to the peninsula.
About the author: Eric B. Livingston has degrees in art (focusing on sculpture and a minor in music), culinary art, technical writing and has credits towards an MBA. He has been awarded prizes for photography and portrait sculpture, has had a one man show, as well as having had work accepted in juried art exhibitions in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. He has researched and written papers on “Aesthetic Universals in Art”, “Linguistics of Food/Cookery” (which was submitted to the 2009 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery), a white paper for a non-electric irrigation pump manufacturer and wrote several pieces for Seattle Home & Lifestyles magazine. Currently he is a freelance web designer and tech writer. He resides in Edmonds with wife, Eliza, and a dog, Pershing.