Port may need to reconsider newly set passenger fee | Opinion

For several months commissioners with the Port of Coupeville have been discussing the potential lease of a new harbor tours business.

That business, Heavenly Harbor Tours run by Patrick Kelly, would feature hourly historic tours of Penn Cove and also could be utilized as a water taxi to and from the Captain Whidbey Inn.

At maximum capacity, the boat could seat 14 people per tour, with as many as 12 tours each day.

Kelly said his business model has tickets running about $25 for the tour, but in the beginning he plans on offering discounts and deals to build ridership.

There’s no doubt that, if successful, this harbor tours business could bring in viable business revenue to the community.

The problem is, the port and Kelly can’t seem to agree on lease terms.

The port is set on terms of $300 a month moorage, waived for the first year, and a $1 per head passenger fee.

Kelly is set on $300 a month moorage and no passenger fee.

His reasoning is no other marinas in the area charge a per-head fee — not Deception Pass and not South Whidbey.

Port officials said they’re not in the business of making money, but they aren’t going to spend more than they can take in and turning the wharf into a commercial enterprise will increase their expenses.

Seemingly, the two parties seem to be fighting over $1. But those dollars do add up.

Kelly claims he could be paying the port more than $5,000 a month in passenger fees during the peak season.

For a small starting business, that does seem like a lot.

Kelly said he is still hoping to come to an agreement and is even willing to consider the per-head fee if commissioners can show him their reasoning.

The problem is, commissioners are set in their final offer and aren’t open to further discussions.

While commissioners say they are here to support economic development in Coupeville, shutting down discussions on a potentially thriving business doesn’t seem to be the way to this.

We understand that the port has two historic entities to manage and maintain. We fully encourage the port’s efforts to tighten its policies and procedures and find ways to increase revenue to become a thriving enterprise.

But shutting down potential business and revenue because someone questions the justification behind certain charges seems counterproductive.

In an effort to show it is supportive of new business, the port did offer to waive moorage for the first year.

In a show of further good faith, perhaps the port should reopen discussions and be open to considering a cap on the passenger fee.


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