Last-minute changes salvage Bainbridge liveboard plan

February 2011 News Tristan Baurick -

Last-minute changes to a rental agreement for Eagle Harbor's liveaboards have calmed outrage at former provisions that many anchored-out residents said were intrusive and disrespectful.

"Yesterday, I thought most of us were going to say 'to hell with this,'" said liveaboard Rich Seubert. "But now, with these changes, I think more will sign on."

Seubert has assisted city officials in brokering an agreement with the state Department of Natural Resources, which manages the inner-harbor, to create Puget Sound's first open-water marina. But when the details of the agreement were revealed last month, Seubert and about half the harbor's 20 liveaboards balked.

They objected to provisions allowing city staff to board liveaboard vessels "at anytime" and without notice, and a requirement that the city harbor master must be present to watch liveaboards dump or pump sewage into a designated onshore receptacle.

"That's just demoralizing," Seubert said of the sewage provision.

City Councilwoman Hilary Franz negotiated changes in recent days that softened both provisions.

Now the city must give 24-hour notice before boarding. And liveaboards must sign a document noting weekly sewage disposal rather than having the harbor master present.

Franz now has commitments from about a dozen liveaboards who say they'll sign subleases. She thinks more will follow.

The rental cost will be higher than many liveaboards feel comfortable paying. Seubert estimates it will cost almost $450 per month for his 55-foot power boat, and around $250 for most other liveaboard vessels, which average about 30 feet.

One area where DNR would not bend was on its houseboats restrictions. Considering houseboats a "non-water dependent use," no houseboats will be allowed in the open water marina unless a $31,000 fee is paid each year. None of the five or six houseboat residents can afford that amount.

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