At a public hearing Wednesday, several community members voiced support for the Port of Coupeville’s proposal to create a district that will allow board members to raise taxes without going to the ballot.
The port will continue taking public comments through Oct. 22.
The meeting opened with a presentation by James Darling of Leeward Strategies on the three separate but related actions about which Port commissioners are soliciting public feedback.
The first action is the creation of the industrial development district, or IDD. To form one, port commissioners must determine that the lands to be included in the IDD, in this case the entire port district, meet at least one of the state’s 10 criteria to be considered “marginal lands.”
Darling said the port district undertook an analysis earlier this year to determine whether it met any of the state’s criteria. A findings memorandum on the analysis released on April 4 preliminarily indicated that lands within the port district meet four of the state’s 10 criteria: faulty planning, inadequate utilities, subject to being submerged by water and a lack of proper utilization.
The second action would be to adopt an industrial development tax levy. Currently, Washington ports can enact a regular levy of up to 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Forming an IDD would allow the port district to levy up to an additional 45 cents per $1,000 over six years, though the port would not finalize a levy amount until after forming the IDD.
In the Port of Coupeville’s case, a 45 cent per $1,000 levy would raise just over $7.5 million for the port.
A recent state law would allow the port to collect the $7.5 million over a 20-year period instead of a six-year period. It could not collect more than $1.2 million in any given year.
The port has already identified $13.6 million worth of projects to complete at the Coupeville Wharf, Greenbank Farm and collections building. Money from the industrial development levy would contribute to these projects, alongside funding from other sources.
The third action is to amend the Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements to include a description of the IDD and proposed tax levy and the updated project list.
Community members at the hearing asked clarifying questions and expressed gratitude to the commissioners for taking the initiative to protect the port’s historic properties.
“There has been a long history of the maintenance can getting kicked down the road, and I really want to commend this commission for finally saying, ‘We are determined to do something about these properties so that they don’t fall down around our ears,’” said Coupeville resident Deborah Fisher. “Lots of people love the farm. They love the wharf. They want to see them continue and be economically viable.”
“They’re properties that are worth taking care of,” reiterated Coupeville resident Deborah Crompton.
Anyone else wishing to submit comments about the IDD can do so through Oct. 22 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the port office at 360-222-3688.