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A James City County-owned marina that is the former home of Eco Discovery Park will stay in the county’s hands for the foreseeable future after an unsuccessful attempt by several groups to buy the site.
The county’s board of supervisors decided Tuesday to hang on to the property instead of putting it back on the market. James City County Parks and Recreation took control of the marina when Eco Discovery Park closed at the end of May, and it will continue to operate the site as a marina and a business renting bicycles and kayaks.
The supervisors told Assistant County Administrator Adam Kinsman to have the county’s economic development authority to explore how the 38-acre site could be monetized. They also instructed him to see if there are any projects that can be done at the site to help meet state requirements for dealing with runoff from storms and to come up with an updated cost figure for conducting extensive repairs needed at the marina.
The discussion of the Jamestown Yacht Basin — a site across the street from Jamestown Settlement and featuring more than 80 boat slips, a handful of buildings and a parking lot — came about a month after the supervisors voted not to sell the property to several interested groups, including Eco Discovery Park.
The supervisors focused their discussion on the state of the marina. Its infrastructure is aged and in need of repairs.
Estimates for that work currently range between $2 million and $5 million, though those figures may change when the county receives updated cost figures.
Kinsman said the marina is set to be able to cover its operating expenses this year with the revenue it generates.
Supervisor Michael Hipple (Powhatan) was vocal in his support of the county keeping the marina.
“There’s always a waiting list on the covered slips,” he said. “As soon as I left [after storing a boat there for several years], another boat was pulling in taking over the slip. I’d like to see it kept so the citizens can enjoy it. I’d like to see another business in there, or several businesses using the building.”
He said he did not want to see housing built on the land, a point supervisors John McGlennon (Roberts) and Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) echoed.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for that area to have residential development at all,” he said. “We need to think of it as a hybrid between a standalone profitable entity and a parks and recreation facility.”
Supervisor Mary Jones (Berkeley) said she wants the county to sell the property. She said she is not opposed to seeing some housing developed on the site.
“I don’t think it was marketed correctly to describe what it was and what the potential was,” she said.
The county received five offers for the marina and its lands, including a $500,000 offer from Eco Discovery Park. Two of the other offers called for the construction of housing, while another was from someone who wanted to purchase the land as an investment. The highest of the offers was $1,025,000, while the county assesses the land to be worth $3.54 million.
No timetable was provided for when county staff will return to the supervisors with any developments, though Parks and Recreation Director John Carnifax noted there are parties interested in using at least part of the site and if one of those groups were to craft a proposal, it could be brought before the board in short order.
The county bought the marina in a package with nearby land along the James River in 2006 for $12.5 million, though grant funding accounted for $2.9 million of that sum. Some of the land was later sold to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the Virginia Department of Transportation for $4.5 million.
The land by the river became Jamestown Beach Park, while the county turned to private companies to operate the marina. The county entered into a contract with Master Marine, which operated the marina until Eco Discovery Park took over at the beginning of 2012.
The nonprofit park, which offered bicycle and kayak rentals, sought to convert the land around the marina into a large park with exhibits detailing sustainability and environmental concepts.
That vision did not come to fruition, and when the board voted last month to not sell the land to the park for $500,000, the park suspended operations and vacated the site.