EVERETT — Going to the Everett Farmers Market on Sunday got a little bit more expensive this year after the Port of Everett started charging for parking, a move that isn’t sitting well with at least one member of the City Council.
“It seems to be a poke in the eye, that’s how the neighbors and the people in the community are viewing it,” Councilmember Brenda Stonecipher told The Herald Tuesday.
In a strongly written July 1 letter, she urged the port to drop the charge, which was also imposed for other events at the port. She said the fee discourages public access to the property.
Stonecipher said the fee didn’t make financial sense, after accounting for the cost of collecting the money.
“Your message is being received loud and clear by our mutual taxpayers: STAY AWAY,” Stonecipher wrote to port officials.
In a response Tuesday, Les Reardanz, CEO of the port, said the $2 charge is needed to manage parking as the number of visitors to the site has grown. Using the market as an example, he said each Sunday about 5,000 people pass through, and the 300 spaces nearby fill quickly.
Reardanz said that limits access to other waterfront amenities and can create long backups along West Marine View Drive.
“We know parking management is not popular, but we have reached a point with the level of activity on the waterfront that it has become necessary,” he wrote.
The port hopes the fee encourages attendees to carpool, take an Uber or Lyft, or use public transportation to get to the market. Funds from parking are used to offset the cost of collecting the fee and other expenses such as signage and maintenance, according to port officials.
“At some point in the future, as demand necessitates, a pay-to-park concept may be implemented sitewide,” said Lisa Lefeber, the port’s deputy executive director, in an email.
The port is not alone. Providence Regional Medical Center Everett has plans to start charging for parking this fall at both of its campuses in the city.
Since the fee at the port was implemented earlier this year, on Sundays there is less and less conversation about the parking charge, said Gary Purves, who co-owns and manages the Everett Farmers Market.
“Just like customers, vendors are taking it in stride,” he said.
Paid parking at the port is not new. In 2010, a $3 seasonal fee was put in place at the 10th Street Boat Launch. The site, maintained by the port, is also owned by Everett and Snohomish County.
This year, the port also started collecting parking fees during Music at the Marina and will do so at the Fresh Paint arts festival next month.
“Generally people are not happy about it,” said Andrea Tucker, leader of the Port Gardner Neighborhood Association.
People who live in the port district are already paying taxes to the port, she said. One solution is to waive the fee for Everett residents.
Connections to the waterfront are important for many residents, Stonecipher said. And for those paying property taxes to the port, public access should be provided in return.
Much of Everett, along with smaller portions of Mukilteo and unincorporated parts of the county, are within the port’s taxing district. In total, about 100,000 people live in that area, according to Lefeber.
In 2019, the port estimates about $5 million will be collected in property taxes — about 5 percent of the budget.
The property tax is used to fund public access and environmental restoration, according to the port.
This story has been modified to reflect the fact only one Everett councilmember signed the letter to the Port of Everett.