Fairhope Marina & Boatyard: A City Asset for Our Community

Some Fairhope residents may be unaware that the city owns the Marina, beachfront, and boatyard located at the end of Seacliff Drive. This area is currently known as the Eastern Shore Marina, but at one time was called the Fairhope Docks and was completely owned and operated by the City of Fairhope.

Currently, the existing leases will expire for the boat slips and a boatyard this October and we have an opportunity now to enhance this city asset to bring better services and quality of life to both citizens and visitors.

The City Council and I have discussed the following options:

Although a final decision for future plans for the marina should be made with input from an experienced marina planner, Sea Cliff residents and more citizens, the decision needed today is how to handle the two leases expiring in October.

The prior council resolved to begin bidding these waterfront properties out six months before October 2017. We are officially five months out before the leases expire.

Marina’s History:

Unfortunately, we are unsure of how the city originally acquired this property but I’ve sent a request to the city attorney to formally investigate the title to the marina properties and to return the original deeds and any dedications or resolutions of these waterfront properties to me and city council to review.

We do know that the Fairhope Docks came into being during World War II. A string of shrimp boats lined the western side of Fly Creek, and a small concrete block building served as Fairhope’s fish market where shrimpers and fishermen sold their daily catch to our residents. Its reputation was far and wide. Today, that building houses 17 Turtles, an entrepreneurial endeavor, which our city will continue to foster, that rents out kayaks and canoes for those who want to venture up Fly Creek or out into the Bay on a calm day.

For a city that treasures its history like we do, we have sadly lost much of which now belongs to the Fairhope Marina at Fly Creek. We know the fishing industry suffered over time and only a few shrimp boats remain reminding us that not only have we always been an art “colony” but we have also been a fishing town. Shrimping continues today at the marina though on a smaller scale.

Roy Reynolds who lived on Volanta Avenue “went down the hill” in the 1970’s and started the first ‘boat fixing’ business at the marina. We know this because Donnie Barrett, our Fairhope Museum Director, worked for Mr. Reynolds “lifting heavy equipment and working in the heat” for 50 cents an hour. In the 1980’s our government decided to lease out the marina property. That lease is coming to an end this year, and the City has the great opportunity write a new chapter to better serve our community.

 

Click to Download Marina Lease October 2002 

Click to Download Boatyard Lease – Eastern Shore Marina 01-11-2016

Why were the Fairhope Docks originally leased out? By law a city cannot lease or sell its property unless the council says it is “not needed.”

This city asset has been classified as “NOT NEEDED” by prior council and
leased to a private operator since the 1980s.  The most recent lease  required $3,000 per month or 6% of gross revenues. (For the previous 15 years the lease was $1,000 or 5% of revenue and for 14+ years the $1,000 threshold has never been surpassed).

These low rents do not properly reflect the worth of the $3.3 million property. Overall, the City is only paid $43,500 annually in rent for this property. In comparison, Fly Creek Marina charges $300 per month for a 25-foot boat. Just four 25-foot boats generate $1,200 for the Fly Creek Marina. In contrast, the City of Fairhope generates $1,100 for 62 leased slips.

This city asset could in fact be “needed” by the citizens of Fairhope for many various purposes. One major purpose to keep in mind is the City’s responsibility to maintain environmental protections and upkeep of our bay and bay front properties. In addition, Fairhope citizens certainly use our other parks for recreational and leisure purposes.

The parcel of land that is currently being leased is worth $3,102,800 at fair market value. How could something so valuable be considered “not needed.”  The land, the buildings and the piers altogether are worth $3,381,000.

While our lessee may have provided a much-needed service to boaters with slips and boat repairs, there has not been accountability for the general maintenance over the years.

As Mayor of the  City of Fairhope, I am one of a 10-member council for the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery.  When I took office I submitted a proposal for $6,000,000 to invest in the marina and bay front city assets and the proposal is currently in its second phase of approval. Regardless of its approval however, the city needs to revitalize, invest and maintain our marina with your tax dollars:

The demand is high for boat slip rentals. It only makes sense the city receive 100% of fair market value on the revenue from the marina slips rental and fuel dock to maintain this asset for future generations.

And I’m not alone in this opinion.

Click here for the marina case study summary.

Click here for Comp study other municipal marinas.

The next step is obtain the title to the marina properties and to return the original deeds and any dedications or resolutions of these waterfront properties from our city attorney.  Review the findings and council will make a decision on how to proceed with the two leases.

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