Cheap Rent Over for Columbia River Resort Tenants?
Decades of dirt-cheap lease payments on Crescent Bar Island in the Columbia River in central Washington could soon be at an end.
Grant County PUD commissioners on Feb. 21 will discuss increasing the lease it collects from the Port of Quincy from the current $100 per year to a “fair market rent,” as soon as the port’s existing lease expires in June. An increase to the port would lead to increases to the people who hold the approximately 400 leases to island RV lots and condos, The Wenatchee World reported.
In a news release, PUD spokeswoman Sarah Morford said, “The new rent will be a significant increase” over the current payment.
The port subleases the island to Crescent Bar Inc., a property management company now controlled by the islanders. The islanders pay their lease payments to Crescent Bar Inc., which pays a percentage to the port.
Curt Morris, president of the Port of Quincy board, said the port would not accept a higher lease payment unless it could pass the increase on to the islanders. He said he has yet to be contacted by the PUD.
The holders of island leases to RV lots are paying from $33 to $100 per year under leases that date back decades. Condo owners are paying from $100 to $626 per year.
These lease fees don’t include about $1,400 that each leaseholder pays in homeowner dues for island upkeep.
The PUD paid a consultant in early 2010 to come up with estimated fair market rental prices for the prime Columbia River waterfront.
The estimated new rates would have topped existing rates by more than 1,000 percent — $1,550 to $1,850 per month for RVs and $2,500 to $3,100 per month for condos.
The estimates caused an outcry among both the islanders and PUD commissioners.
Doug Caton, a leaseholder in the island’s North RV Park, said Tuesday that islanders are willing to work with the PUD, but their current leases don’t provide for increases.
The islanders have sued the PUD in federal court for new leases or compensation if they have to leave. They contend that their leases expire in 2023. The PUD says they expire in April and have ordered them off the island.
“It’s not like we don’t know it’s inexpensive,” said Caton, an East Wenatchee resident who owns two RV homes that he rents to island tourists. “We want to be fair with them and with the ratepayers of Grant County. We continue to want to work with them. That’s been our position all the time.”
Island conditions can’t be compared to a typical RV park, he said, because leaseholders pay for most island upkeep, including maintence to water and sewer systems.
On Tuesday, commissioners are expected to vote on negotiating a new lease payment from the Quincy port and hiring an appraiser to come up with a fair-market value.
Morford said that the appraiser’s findings and a final commission vote would come in the following weeks.
The Grant PUD owns Crescent Bar Island as part of the lands around its federally licensed Columbia River dams, Wanapum and Priest Rapids.
The utility seeks to redevelop the island for public recreation and wildlife protection, including the approximate third now occupied by private leaseholder RV homes and condos. About 60 island residences are occupied year round, according to PUD figures from 2009, the most recent.
The PUD’s effort for higher rent comes as islanders appear close to getting an injunction that would allow them to remain on the island until their legal case is settled. The ruling on the injunction is expected next month.
In the news release, PUD Commission President Tom Flint acknowledged that the pending court case could delay the PUD’s regaining control of the island for redevelopment.
Speaking for the commission, he said, “We strongly believe that Crescent Bar Island should be returned to full public use.”