Nanaimo Marina Association takes lease rate dispute to federal government

NANAIMO - Nanaimo Port Authority and waterfront businesses battle over rising water lease fees.

Nanaimo Marina Association has presented a letter of complaint to Transport Canada and senior government officials to promote transferring properties managed by the port authority to provincial or municipal jurisdiction.

The letter, presented last week by spokesman Odai Sirri, is the latest volley in the dispute between the marina association, representing a group of waterfront business operators, and the Nanaimo Port Authority over rising foreshore lease rates, which Sirri said, are financially crippling marina owners.

“We filed our letter of complaint … and they’re aware of the controversy and situation, the urgent need for attention and we’ll be getting a response from them soon on next steps,” Sirri said.

Last week the Nanaimo Yacht Club also announced its support for the marina association.

“I would join the association too if I thought I had the opportunity to get a better deal, so I would think they’re rallying together because the more members they have the stronger it is,“ said Bernie Dumas, Nanaimo Port Authority president and CEO, who has promised to work with businesses operating on waterfront properties under port authority jurisdiction to find a workable solution.

Dumas said new fees won’t be established until late 2017, the port authority is consulting with ports on the Island and elsewhere, several businesses have already renewed lease contracts and most of Nanaimo’s marinas are operating at full capacity.

Dumas said the port authority has established lease fees the same way since the 1970s without issue until property values skyrocketed in recent years, adding there might even be fee reductions from the 2017 evaluation.

“We’re not going to be able to say to you today what that’s going to be, but we’re going to try and make it work,” he said. “Transport Canada’s trying to stay out of it. They do have a role to play and we will be talking to them about it because we just do not have the right to do what we want.”

According to Transport Canada, Canadian port authorities are solely responsible for how property market values are assessed to establish lease fees.

“The method of establishing and applying fair market value is the port authority’s responsibility and is not directed by Transport Canada,” said Mélanie Lalonde, Transport Canada spokeswoman in an e-mail.