After nearly five years of renovating a new space for visitors to the Key Peninsula — which included a new cafe and rebuilt docks — the owner of Lakebay Marina has decided to not reopen the site next season, which begins in May.
“It’s an ongoing, expensive project,” said Mark Scott, who purchased the marina in 2013. “It’s a disappointment.”
Scott purchased Lakebay Marina after working with multiple marinas in Seattle. As a teenager he once took his boat from Seattle to the marina for a burger and a visit. He said buying his own marina and seeing it become a success was a large goal for himself.
Once he took ownership, Lakebay Marina reopened for free park use and free boat docking along with a new cafe that served local beers and food made in house from locally sourced ingredients.
Cynthia Rose, who was hired by Scott to be manager of the marina, said lack of revenue during the winter and the inability to properly advertise the marina forced Scott’s hand into closing.
“The marina is a seasonal business,” Rose said. “We only have six months out of the year to make a year’s worth of revenue.”
The pair tried to market the marina as a winter destination where people could host parties, weddings and other winter events, but they said a lack of signage due to county codes made it nearly impossible for tourists to find the marina.
“It is not an easy driving destination,” Rose said. “It’s a great boating destination.”
The future of the marina hangs in limbo while Scott decides what the next steps for the marina are.
THE COUNTY CODES
Scott and Rose say that because of the density of the trees in Lakebay, having on-site only signs is a useless way to direct drivers to the marina. Instead, he would like off-site signs near state Route 302 and state Route 16 that could direct drivers to their cafe.
“Basically the (Pierce County) code makes me place my signs in the woods or on private property,” Scott said. “And my business needs to be directly off of (state Route 16) or (state Route 302) for me to place a sign next to those.”
According to county code, Chapter 18B, prohibited signs include;
▪ Any location that obstructs or otherwise interferes with pedestrian traffic or any official traffic sign, signal or device, drivers view approaching, merging, or intersecting traffic.
▪ Encroaching upon or overhanging into public right-of-way, except when given express permission in writing by the County Engineer.
▪ Upon or propped up against a utility pole, light standard, traffic sign, fire hydrant or any other facility or equipment located within the public right-of-way.
▪ Painted on or attached to a vehicle when such vehicle is parked to be visible from a public right-of-way for the purpose of providing advertisement of products and/or services and when such vehicle is not regularly used for business activities;
▪ Attached to or painted on a tree or fence, except as needed on utility facility fencing;
▪ Within any required perimeter or parking lot landscaping, except for signs not exceeding 4 feet in height when no required landscaping is disturbed;
▪ Off-site signs excluding; directional and temporary signage to advertise a public community event, signs that advertise multiple businesses within a given business district or commercial center and any signs as authorized in the Key Peninsula Community Plan Area.
According to code in the Key Peninsula Community Plan Area, businesses in Key Peninsula rural commercial centers that do not have frontage on state Route 302 or the Key Peninsula Highway, or have less than 100 feet of frontage, may have one off-site business identification sign. But these businesses are required to consolidate these signs on “individual monument sign support structures near a location where customers would leave (state Route 302) or the Key Peninsula Highway to access the business location.”
The county has been working with Scott for the past few years while he tried to bring the marina back to life, said Derek Young, Pierce County Councilman for District 7.
“My office deals with a lot of complaints and needs from people in this area,” Young said. “We actually have given him some options on where he can place an off-site sign. What he wants is to put a directional sign out at the highway because it’s some distance from the highway to the marina.”
Scott disagreed with the area where the county allowed him to place a sign, Young said.
But the codes are clear, and the county cannot make an exception for any one business, the Councilman added.
“They are there for a reason,” Young said. “If every business put up an off-site sign from the highway, we would have a lot of signs on the highway. You end up with a clutter of them and that’s what the county and city (of Gig Harbor) has tried to avoid.”
Off-site signs are allowed on private property but Scott and Rose said they ran into some difficulties finding any property owners who would allow a business sign on their land.
“This lady basically said she didn’t want a sign because it would lead to more businesses’ signs on her property, which is fair,” Scott said. “It’s her private property and she doesn’t have to allow it.”
Scott said he’s also had trouble getting the marina ready to reopen because when he bought it from the previous owner the building and docks were dilapidated. The marina needed newer, safer docks and the building to be brought up to multiple building codes among any aesthetic renovations. Young said the county had to work with Scott on multiple issues regarding illegal residence, permits to allow camping and more.
Scott declined to estimate the cost of renovations.
“It was just thing after thing,” Scott said. “It took more than six months to reopen even part of it.”
MAKING THE MARINA A HISTORICAL LANDMARK
On Nov. 21, a meeting was held by the Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission where Lakebay Marina was to be discussed regarding historical landmark status, but the proposal was tabled after Scott emailed commissioners stating he did not want to have the marina on the register.
“We were excited to recommend this to the county council,” Pierce 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.”
The proposal was written and published by a volunteer community member named Catherine Williams, no relation. If the proposal had been recommended to Council and approved for historical status, it would have qualified the business for certain grants. These grants could help the owners with costs for renovations, business or more.
“We don’t want to push him towards any decision,” Williams said. “Until he lets us know, the issue will be tabled.”
According to the proposal, Lakebay Marina was once the Washington Co-Operative Egg and Poultry Association warehouse, where egg farmers would deliver eggs to cities and counties around the Puget Sound for business.
“The warehouse operated from 1928 to 1956,” the proposal states. “The original pier was constructed by Captain Carl Lorenz in 1884. Capt. Lorenz operated the local sawmill in Lakebay.”
The proposal states Lorenz used the dock to transfer timber to Tacoma until it became the egg co-operative in 1928. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the marina became a camping and boating destination.
Rose said the rich history of the marina was one of the reasons Scott wanted to see the marina succeed and bring more people to the Lakebay area.
For now the marina remains closed and whether or not it will reopen under the current ownership is undetermined.
“We wanted the place to be unique,” Rose said. “We wanted it to be a Lakebay destination.”