The Town of Comox is moving toward increasing its marina rates, having approved first, second and third readings of a bylaw at its last public meeting.
Council passed motions to move the bylaw ahead, with a rate hike of six per cent, at a public meeting on March 18. The meeting had been moved from council chambers to the larger d’Esterre Seniors Centre hall next door due to COVID-19 spacing regulations at the time.
The question was whether to increase rates by the staff recommendation of six per cent or consider a larger amount. Mayor Russ Arnott had recused himself during the discussion as he has space at the marina, so Coun. Pat McKenna took over as chair for council to discuss the matter.
Coun. Alex Bissinger, appearing at the meeting via Internet, suggested considering a larger option, citing a number of large projects on the horizon for the Town for which it will need revenue.
“In my mind, this seems a way to increase our revenue without taxing home owners,” she said.
Staff had suggested the six per cent as it would be in line with the annual tax increase in the budget for the Town. A report to council suggests increasing the rates to match private industry rates would create a significant burden on current marina residents, though staff added it is not necessarily “good public policy” to undercut the private sector by a large amount. The proposed increase is seen as a first step toward generating more revenue for the facility. Any money left over is to be put in a reserve fund for capital upgrades at the marina. Currently, the Marina Capital Reserve Fund stands at approximately $467,000.
Coun. Ken Grant agreed with the figure suggested by staff, saying if the Town is planning on raising marina rates by a large amount, the prudent way to do this is incrementally.
“I’m happy with the staff recommendation,” he said. “I think there’s boat owners down there that will get very riled if we raise the rates too much, and I think taking an incremental approach will be a better way.”
The staff report notes the rates have not changed since 2017, with the result being a large discrepancy between the fees and moorage offered by the Town versus local private marinas. In the Town, the rates range from $1,642 for a 24-foot vessel up to $3,705 for a 41-foot vessel. For the same size boats, the private marinas charge rates ranging from 26 to 33 per cent higher. The report also reiterates the point that bringing up the rates in one year to match private rates would prove to be burden for the current residents at the marina. There is also a recommendation to increase the dinghy fees by 10 per cent.