Lease rate hikes irk marina operators
Ron Francis is 86 years old and can be found every day at his 21-slip marina at the foot of Pembina Avenue in Queensborough.
He’s constantly fixing, cleaning and working in what his wife calls his “playpen.”
He loves the work.
It’s also his retirement fund. But he believes that’s being threatened by the actions of Port Metro Vancouver (PMV).
For about 18 months now, Francis has been fighting PMV over the rent for his water-lot lease.
He’s not alone. It’s an issue that’s upset a lot of people along the Fraser River’s Annacis Channel.
Early last year, PMV told Francis they were going to boost his annual rent from $6,400 to $33,000.
“There’s no way I’m going to make that kind of money,” he told the port authority.
They told him to pay up.
For the last five years PMV has managed water-lot leases along the Fraser, including the province-owned part of the river.
While it has decided to abandon the provincial contract, the channel east of No. 9 Road in Richmond remains under federal jurisdiction.
Dorothy Leighton, president of the Community Residential Waterlot Leaseholders Association said PMV previously hired an expert from the federal public works department to set the rates.
This time, inexperienced personnel did the calculations using old Google images, she said, which she argues overestimate the amount of water lot used.
They also charged the water-lot leaseholders—which includes six boats and seven float homes—based on the industrial value of their adjacent land on the shore.
She hired her own technicians and managed to get the rent on her float-home community in East Richmond reduced.
Leighton said initially it was jacked 134 per cent to $23,400. But her persistence paid off and eventually she settled on $15,000. Now she’s helping others like Francis.
“It is a confusing way of calculating rent,” said Leighton. “The main thing is the port’s ignorance. A lot of people succumb to the bullying.”
Leighton believes the rent should be based on a percentage of the business. “It’s so much more sensible if it is actually based on what you’re making.”
Leighton believes PMV will have to rethink its increases after the province sets its rates, likely in September. She said current and past dealings with provincial authorities have been much more reasonable.
Ron Francis' marina at the foot of Pembina in New Westminster's Queensborough neighbourhood
Image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader
PMV spokesman John Parker-Jervis said many of the Fraser River tenants hadn’t had an increase in 10 years. The process, he added, has not changed in 30 years and the port authority uses the industrial land value to determine the water-lot land values.
He pointed out the situation could be worse for the leaseholders if PMV went with residential land value instead.
Royal City Marina owner Kent Carbis said initially his increase for his 20-slip operation was more than 300 per cent. It’s down to 200 per cent with negotiations continuing.
“Who knows what their justification is,” said Carbis of PMV’s rates. “We’ve been struggling with this for a couple of years.”
Carbis said if PMV persists in charging exorbitant rates many operations will have to close and then the port authority won’t get any money. He added charging higher moorage rates to pay for the increase won’t help operators. Rather than pay higher fees boat owners will simply move to open water and drop anchor. That, he noted, will create environmental issues for the government to deal with.
“I don’t know how it’s going to end up. I’ll survive it. I really do think it’s going to affect a lot of people,” said Carbis.
Francis said PMV told him if he didn’t pay they’d find someone else to take over the lease. But that doesn’t make sense to him. The only access to the water-lot is through the land he owns. And he isn’t about to let that happen.
“It’s unreasonable. If you look at the bigger picture, if that’s what they want to do, to get rid of us, then that’s the way to do it., Make it so it’s not profitable anymore and they have the power to do it,” said Francis. “They’re going to bury me on (his marina).”