EDITORIAL

Warwick Cove boatyard angst

Posted 11/19/20

To the Editor: There are those of you who live in Warwick, shop there, use the public services, send their kids to the Warwick schools, pay taxes, and maybe die there. Then there are the boat people. I am one of them. According to the City of Warwick

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EDITORIAL

Warwick Cove boatyard angst

Posted

To the Editor:

There are those of you who live in Warwick, shop there, use the public services, send their kids to the Warwick schools, pay taxes, and maybe die there. Then there are the boat people. I am one of them.

According to the City of Warwick website, there are 2,673 boat slips and 65 commercial moorings in Warwick spread around 13 boatyards. From the East Greenwich line, into Apponaug, and then on to Warwick Cove and then finally to the Warwick Cranston line in Pawtuxet. The boat slip count sounds about right. There are many more moorings owned and maintained by individuals. The Harbormaster says there are over 850 with a $3 a foot annual fee paid to the City. That gets you to around 3,500 boats. Assuming each boat is used by 2 people, you have 7.000 people with their second floating home in Warwick. That is almost 10% of the city’s population.

I have had different boats in Warwick Cove or Apponaug, either for the summer or on the hard during the winter, on and off since 1985. That is 35 years. Sometimes I have summered my boats in Tiverton or Portsmouth. I like the Sakonnet River.

The Friday before Labor Day I received my contract for winter storage from Wharf Marina on Warwick Cove. It was reasonable as always. I have done business with Peter V and yard manager Trevor since around 1987. Jeff Baris, now the Harbormaster, has his shop there and assembled a boat I bought in pieces at a bankruptcy auction in the early 90s. I have my roots there. I paid the deposit for the winter. The contract called for winter storage at $38 a foot, including launching the following spring. There are no “HIDDEN COSTS” as the communication from Wharf proudly exclaims. My 1989 sailboat is 27 feet. That would be a little over $1,000 for the winter.

Wharf Marina has 80 slips. The Warwick Tax Assessor has valued the property at just under $1.2 million. This would mean that at the $28.10 commercial tax rate, Wharf was paying the city over $33,000 in annual taxes. That would be over $400 per slip. Those costs would have been embedded in the annual price owners paid to Wharf for slip rental. The value of the property will change at the next revaluation scheduled by state law for the end of calendar year 2021.

A couple of weeks later, I heard from Trevor and from the gossip on the docks that Peter V had sold the yard to Safe Harbor, the boat yard adjacent to Wharf Marina, Peter V has owned the yard since 1984. He has always been great to deal with and ready to offer sound advice. In his earlier years, he was the leading Northeast distributor of Irwin Yachts. But as he told me a number of times “I’ll be turning 80 soon.” The right time; the right price. Trevor will be staying on as yard manager. The sale was recorded on September 25 for just over $1.5 million or around $300,000 more than the assessed value.

Safe Harbor is a Dallas based company which acquired Brewer Marinas in 2017. The two firms were about equal in size. Safe Harbor is now the largest Marina company in the world. They own 101 marinas in 22 states with over 40,000 associated boat owners. Now I am one of them.

Within two weeks, the Wharf Marina signs had come down along with the advertisement for slips at $86 a foot. But down on the docks, we have heard nothing official. I asked one power boater on the docks what he was going to do. He pointed to the even smaller boatyard to the North (where half the slips are empty) and said, “I guess I’ll be moving there”. George in the slip next to mine, preparing to winterize his Irwin 35, said you are all set at the $38 price if you signed a contract. I guess so. Then he said, “Did you know that Safe Harbor is a Real Estate Investment Trust?” I didn’t know and didn’t really care. As I climbed in my car to head home, a lady pulled up next to me, removed her mask, and opened her window. “Do you know what is going to happen here?” she asked. Before I could respond she started telling me that they were going to tear down the two residential buildings on the property. “I grew up in that house!” she said pointing at the main marina building. “I haven’t heard anything like that.” I said.

I Googled Safe Harbor that night. According to a release dated September 29, a real estate investment trust named Sun Communities had acquired Safe Harbor Marina LLC for $2.1 Billion dollars. The release disclosed that Safe Harbor would continue operating as a separate entity with the closing taking place in the fourth quarter. George was right. Safe Harbor will be a real estate investment trust. Sun Communities is focused on 426 prefabricated home recreational vehicle communities in 33 states.

On Sunday I went for the last sail of the season with my son Henry. There are 10 boatyards in Warwick Cove. Seven on the Western shore and three on the East. My one problem with Wharf Marina is that it takes 21 minutes to get from my slip to Warwick Country Club where I can set sail. Other than Bay Marina, which is further north, you pass the other eight marinas while proceeding down Warwick Cove. It has occurred to me that there may be many non-boating residents who live nearby in Warwick who have never really seen the cove. Public access is limited, although there are many homes on the eastern shore looking out on the cove.

Part of decommissioning a vessel involves pumping out the waste holding tank before having the boat hauled. There are three pump-out stations on the Cove. The first as I motor south down Warwick Cove is at the southern end of the existing Safe Harbor properties. It is a more than 5-minute motor sail from Wharf Marina to the Safe Harbor fuel and pump out station. You pass hundreds of Safe Harbor slips before arriving at the dock. The friendly dock master Alyssa wearing an immaculate Safe Harbor sweatshirt met us as we pulled in and proceeded with the pump out. “I hear you’ve acquired Wharf Marina,” I said. “Yes, and how do you feel about that?” she replied. The question through me for a loop. I went from having my waste pumped to a therapy session. I was speechless, but the question made me think about whether this was something worth worrying about.

Peder A. Schaefer

Providence

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Richard Langseth

Peder:

Thanks for sharing your concerns. The people of Warwick have been very welcoming to the marina community over the years, from the City Council down to the rest of us including John Howell, the publisher of the Beacon. Hopefully this situation will continue for a long time to come with marina owners and the people of Warwick working together for a better community.

Richard

Thursday, November 19