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Free ride on the waterfront

July 2010 News Jack Danylchuk - Northern News Services

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - If the harbour commission proposed for Yellowknife Bay moves beyond the talking phase and takes control of the city's waterfront, Paul Servos has some words of advice almost certain to raise the hackles of those who take free moorage for granted. 

"Market value," says Servos, chief executive officer of the Greater Victoria Port Authority, in Victoria, B.C. "That would be my one piece of advice - market value. Make that the guiding principle. If we didn't get market value we wouldn't be able to sustain the assets we were given."

Established in 2002, the Victoria port authority started life with a cruise ship terminal, a float home community, 14,000 linear feet of rental moorage, a busy floatplane terminal, and waterside spaces that it leases to restaurants, buskers and artisans.

Rents and fees earn the port authority $6 million a year - half of it collected from visiting cruise ships, making it Victoria's eighth largest taxpayer, said Servos. "We're a private corporation registered as a not for profit society; we receive no grants."

Since 1998, when Canada Marine Act revisions turned harbour management over to local authorities or private agencies, "there has been no free moorage on the west coast," he said.

Moorage for boats is $10 a linear foot per month. Transient vessels, about 3,800 a year, pay $1.40 per foot per day. Houseboat rents are $1 per sq foot per month, plus a licence fee of $150 a month, plus utilities, and the local improvement portion of the municipal property tax. If that sounds high, Servos cites an independent third-party review that found the opposite.

Houseboat rents were 40 to 50 cents a square foot when the port authority took over management of the marinas. "We raised the rent to market value. You're talking about waterfront property, downtown, in British Columbia's capital city," he said.

The authority is run by a board of directors appointed by the City of Victoria, the Capital Regional District, Esquimalt Municipality, Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Victoria, and the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations - disparate groups that do not always agree on issues.


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