Key Peninsula’s Lakebay Marina is becoming better known these days for acrimony and investigations than its historic past and future potential.
Multiple county and state agencies are investigating Roger Mark Scott and his properties, the Lakebay Marina and Lakebay Marina Cafe, for a variety of issues, including illegal camping at the marina, water and sewer violations and illegal shellfish harvesting.
Scott, who bought the marina and cafe in 2013, says he’s being red-taped to death, his dream of having a fully functioning marina becoming a burden he’s considered abandoning.
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“It’s just frustrating to see the county doesn’t realize it’s an important piece of the county,” Scott said.
Pierce County officials say a marina and restaurant are needed on the Key Peninsula but not at the cost of the public’s health and safety.
“There is no question, it was a massive project,” County Councilman Derek Young said. “There is no question (Scott) has put in a massive amount of work and resources into it. But that also doesn’t mean we can excuse the potential public health, safety and welfare problems. That is ultimately where we have to draw the line.”
A divided community
The Lakebay marina and cafe still were operating as of the end of July. The marina is open during the warmer months. Scott shuts it down during winter.
Some Key Peninsula residents have soured on the marina after four years of issues with the county, state and community.
Susan Mendenhall, the administrator of the popular Key Peninsula Facebook page, monitors the opinions of more than 7,000 members. Over the years, she has seen how excitement for the marina has flickered away.
“People were really excited about the marina. They like the location, there was a place for music,” Mendenhall said. “There was a time we really felt it was going to be a success. But then there were stories … The general feel is disappointment and reluctance to continue to support an establishment that has been fraught with so many problems.”
Scott said he believes the county doesn’t value the property and has kept him from making it a destination.
“It’s not just for me, it’s for the public, it’s for the kids,” he said. “It’s so they can have memories of coming to the place and being able to play on the beach and camp.”
Pierce County senior planner Ty Booth described the issues at Lakebay Marina as a “multi-tentacled problem.”
“There are some confirmed violations out of Lakebay, and then there are some alleged violations,” he said. “We are investigating the alleged violations.”
The marina is comprised of five parcels on Lorenz Road on the eastern side of the Key Peninsula. It is on Mayo Cove, which feeds into Puget Sound’s Carr Inlet.
Since Scott took over, the property has been or is being investigated by the Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the state departments of Ecology and Natural Resources.
Allegations include hosting an illegal RV park; improper food handling; water and sewer violations, including RV owners dumping raw sewage into the cove; illegal clam and oyster harvesting; failing to properly test an underground fuel storage tank; allowing illegal live-aboards; improperly scuttling boats; and running an illegal campground.
On May 10, multiple state and county agencies met to share notes on each department’s investigation into the marina, Booth said.
One of the biggest challenges seems to be the campers and renters on the property, along with live aboards docked at the marina. According to the Department of Natural Resources, investigations into live aboards and derelict boats have been continuing since 2017.
No public showers or restrooms are available for campers, and neither are proper sewage hookups. Booth said his department has worked to help Scott meet county code, but so far he has not been able to meet deadlines or requirements.
“Mr. Scott has actually had two customer information meetings with our department and other sections of this department to discuss what would be needed to establish an RV park on the site,” Booth said.
“He also made an application to try and confirm, in so many words, that he had non-conforming rights for an RV park. We ended up denying it because we could not prove he had grandfathered rights.”
Scott argues the marina has been historically used for camping.
“It’s always been camping,” he said. “I don’t know how they can deny that.”
Cynthia Rose, a former employee of the marina, is one of the campers on the property.
“I saw Scott’s ad on Craigslist in 2017 for RV camping,” she said. “So that’s how I met Scott. I didn’t know he didn’t have the permits. That’s something you assume.”
Scott says his water has passed county tests time and time again, and he enjoys the clams from his beach.
“We have people dig clams off the beach all the time,” he said. “I’ve eaten them and they’re fine.”
On June 22, county code enforcement sent a final notice and order for Scott to comply with county codes. He appealed on July 3, Booth said. A public hearing before a hearing examiner is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 12.
History at risk
Last winter, Scott announced he was planning to close the marina permanently, because it was too costly to run for only six months a year. At the time, he’d begun the process of having the marina placed on the county’s historical register.
In 1884, Carl Lorenz built a pier on the site that was used to transfer timber bound for Tacoma until 1928. Then the Washington Co-Operative Egg and Poultry Association built a warehouse for its members’ products there. The association ran its operation until 1956, according to county records.
The county Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission tabled Scott’s proposal in November after he emailed commissioners, stating he no longer wanted the marina on the register.
“We were excited to recommend this to the County Council,” county senior planner Chad Williams said. “But Scott emailed us saying he wanted to remove the proposal because he may plan on selling the marina.”
Had the marina been given historical status, it and Scott would have qualified for grants to help with costs for renovations, business operations or more.
Scott stood by his decision to rescind the application.
“Why would I want to work with them?” he asked. “I want to be involved with people who want to be a part of the community.”
Scott said he believes the county wants his business to fail, because it is on “prime real estate.”
“I pulled back because the county is not for it, they are for residential,” he said. “There are five lots there, and I could just sell them and say, ‘Forget it’. In my mind, I have considered it a lot. But when kids are there ... those are the cute things. I get all kinds of people who say this is a needed thing.”
Booth said the county wants to see a tourist attraction on the Key Peninsula and Lakebay Marina become compliant.
“We recognize the place as historic,” Booth said. “The Key Peninsula has a vision and noted in its community plan for tourist sites such as this. There is a lack of sites like this in the South Sound and as our population grows, it only will become more needed. We would love to work with Mr. Scott to bring this site into compliance.”
“The difficult part is Mr. Scott bought a very old, run-down facility. He should be given credit for purchasing it and trying to put money and work into it.”