Decision Time

How would you vote?

That’s the question I’ve been asked dozens of times about tomorrow’s referendum on the design for a new marina in Egg Harbor. I’m glad I don’t have to.

I don’t pay property taxes in Egg Harbor. In fact, I don’t pay property taxes anywhere. I’m a renter, and have been for most of the last 12 years in Door County. But as one resident pointed out, if we keep embarking on costly public projects, people in my age and income bracket will never be able to experience the, um, joys of paying a property tax bill. It will be another step in driving us even further out of the housing market here.

When this marina idea was first broached several years ago, I threw my hands in the air. Unaware that the pier was in disrepair, I thought this was just another expensive, unnecessary project that would benefit the few at the expense of the many. Another project steered by outside consultants manipulating local government into spending where it wasn’t needed.

But after reading, listening, and digging I’ve come to a different conclusion. The pier in Egg Harbor is in need of a major overhaul, and the engineers are not making that up. That overhaul is going to be expensive, whether done as a repair or a complete reconstruct. There is certainly merit to the idea that if you are going to rebuid it, you might as well make it better and bigger to generate more revenue. It may not be what all residents want, but the village would be remiss not to at least consider that option.

I also changed my view on the definition of “user” when it comes to a marina. Like most, I’ve long considered boat owners as the beneficiaries of our marinas. I don’t own a boat and rarely get out on the water, and I’ve long thought that folks like me shouldn’t pay for someone else’s recreation.

But I grew up in Egg Harbor. My buddies and I rode our dirt bikes over and off every inch of that marina. We fished there, searched for craw-dads there, and poked at the occasional bloated, dead fish there. As you can see in the image above, I fed geese, and our family picnicked as the sunset. In my teenage years, I delivered a ton of pizzas to boats floating in those waters.

For me to say that boaters are the only beneficiaries was selfish, and I now realize I belong to that user group as well, boat-owner or not (though I’d still like to see them stuck with most of the bill, I’m not entirely unselfish).

I’m impressed by the plan as it is painted now, with better access, safety, and much more green space. I like the grass incorporated to catch runoff and break up the concrete shoreline, and lowering the breakwall was a wise decision. For a pedestrian user, it’s much better than the existing pier.

I hope village officials realize that they are now presenting a much better plan to voters because a few vocal citizens stood up and pushed back, and hard. The process could have moved along quicker had their voices been given more weight earlier in the process. Concerns about cost, size, and breakwall height didn’t come out of nowhere at the last second.

As far as marina plans go, this one seems pretty reasonable. But I’m not paying the tab, and this is not cheap. I can’t tell anyone else how to spend their dollars, especially when they come as hard as they do today.

But last week my older sister was back in town for the first time in six years. Like me, she grew up here. Like me, she didn’t spend much time on the water. But she spent countless nights at the marina watching the sun go down.

Her first day back, this time with husband and kids in tow, she went to the marina. When I saw her later, the first thing she said to me was “How can Egg Harbor not have a marina?” I refrained from using the rest of her vacation trying to explain it to her.