Docks — Fun Facts to Know and Tell

Posted May 11, 2017 at 5:44 am by

Merri Ann Simonson - Contributed photo

Mer­ri Ann Simon­son shares this inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion on docks…

Dur­ing the real estate boom years of 2005 through 2007, water­front homes on San Juan Island appre­ci­at­ed around 8–10% per year and homes with docks appre­ci­at­ed around 13%. Docks have always been a cov­et­ed prop­er­ty ameni­ty as they tru­ly allow easy access to boat­ing; the rea­son many want to live on an island.

Many, many years ago, docks were easy to obtain and were often used for mak­ing a liv­ing such as fish­ing, crab­bing, com­mer­cial boat use and mari­nas. In today’s envi­ron­ment, docks are very dif­fi­cult to obtain. The last few res­i­den­tial docks that were con­struct­ed were shared and took 2+ years with most of the delays with­in the Corps of Engineer’s var­i­ous depart­ments.   Total costs for the legal fees, hard and oth­er soft costs were in the range of $200,000-$400,000. Report­ed­ly, the legal fees were in the range of 25%-40% of the total but this var­ied based on the amount of oppo­si­tion and delays.

Even if you have the fund­ing, there is no guar­an­tee that your dock appli­ca­tion will be approved. It is pos­si­ble, but you must have a strong desire, be stress resis­tant and have deep pockets.

I pret­ty much tell my clients that pro­cess­ing a dock per­mit is a dif­fi­cult option; they need to buy a home or lot with an exist­ing dock, if hav­ing one is in their cri­te­ria. Fur­ther, con­sid­er­ing one of the pub­lic mari­na facil­i­ties is anoth­er sol­id solution.

The prop­er­ty own­ers on the non-fer­ry ser­viced islands with­out com­mu­ni­ty moor­age have a less dif­fi­cult time obtain­ing per­mits as the Coun­ty can’t argue they have a fea­si­ble alter­na­tive, how­ev­er, they may view a moor­ing buoy as an alter­na­tive. The process for an out­er island dock is the same and their cost of con­struc­tion is sim­i­lar but their attorney’s fees may be less due to less opposition.

We have many dif­fer­ent sizes and types of docks in the islands as all are cus­tom-built. The old­er docks are most­ly wood with cre­osote pil­ings. New­er docks include grat­ed plas­tic mate­r­i­al on the piers, floats and alu­minum ramps to let in the light. The pil­ings are all concrete/metal.   These new docks are all envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly based on cur­rent technology.

Docks that were installed pri­or to the cre­ation of our per­mit­ting depart­ment in the mid 1970 (s) are con­sid­ered grand-fathered-in and per­mit­ted repairs can be made. Any struc­ture repairs such as pil­ing and float replace­ment must be per­mit­ted. Small­er repairs such as replac­ing a few boards also requires a permit.

Under the Shore­line Man­age­ment Pro­gram, if you are replac­ing 33% or more of the struc­ture, or 200 square feet, it is nec­es­sary to bring the replace­ment sec­tion of the struc­ture up to cur­rent code; i.e. g. using func­tion­al grat­ed materials. 

Over the years there has been con­cern over the por­cu­pine effect of docks on our shore­line; we didn’t want to become Lake Wash­ing­ton.   As per the assessor’s records, we cur­rent­ly have 460 piers in the Coun­ty, locat­ed on our 2,489,800 lin­eal feet of shore­line. Oth­er than man­u­al­ly count­ing, I was unable to deter­mine how many of the 460 piers are pub­lic or mari­na facil­i­ties, such as Roche Har­bor, Port of Fri­day Har­bor and oth­er Coun­ty piers. The asses­sor con­duct­ed their sur­vey by count­ing the piers; not floats ramps or slips.

The major­i­ty of the pri­vate, shared or com­mu­ni­ty docks are locat­ed in the pro­tect­ed bays, how­ev­er; there are some sea­son­al docks in the chan­nels. The sea­son­al docks have their floats removed dur­ing the win­ter sea­son and their ramps ele­vat­ed to pro­tect them from the win­ter storms.

It was esti­mat­ed that 10% per­cent of the total are deep water docks. In the real estate indus­try and at the assessor’s office, we con­sid­er 6 feet at zero tide to be a deep water dock; and that typ­i­cal­ly can han­dle most pow­er and sail boats, except at the minus tides that we have dur­ing the year in the sum­mer. Dur­ing those tides, some own­ers must move their boat to a moor­ing buoy locat­ed in deep­er water, or go to Roche Har­bor for lunch dur­ing the tide change.

The rest of the docks vary in depth and many go dry dur­ing the low tides. It is com­mon prac­tice with those docks to just trim up the motors and let the boat nes­tle in the mud.   You fish around the tides any­way, so the impact to the own­er isn’t a major event.

When the tax assessor’s office revised how they val­ued docks from cost approach to mar­ket approach, they mea­sured the approx­i­mate depths and record­ed the infor­ma­tion in the Coun­ty assess­ment records. Now they have a sophis­ti­cat­ed for­mu­la to assign mar­ket val­ue to each dock based on size and type of mate­ri­als used. In my opin­ion they are still behind mar­ket val­ue, but I am con­fi­dent that any­one under­val­ued, will report them­selves to the assessor’s office.

If you are buy­ing or list­ing prop­er­ty and need to know the dock depth, you can now con­tact the assessor’s office for that information.

The Coun­ty asses­sor web­site records also reflect the size of your piers, ramps and floats. Fur­ther, I have been told that the Friends of the San Juans also record­ed dock sizes through­out the Coun­ty to aid in mon­i­tor­ing changes made with­out permits.

As an agent, when we val­ue a dock for mar­ket­ing pur­pos­es, we con­sid­er the amount of list­ings with docks cur­rent­ly on the mar­ket and for­mu­late that into the equa­tion. Fur­ther we know that it is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to obtain a dock, so the exist­ing docks are very valu­able, even if they are in poor con­di­tion. I typ­i­cal­ly assign a val­ue of $300,000 to a pri­vate dock with pil­ings, even if it has deferred main­te­nance. If it is in good con­di­tion and has a boat house, the val­ue goes up. If it is shared, the val­ue is divid­ed by the num­ber of users.

If the dock lacks pil­ings and has just an anchor­age sys­tem, it is of less value.

If the prop­er­ty is assigned a slip on a shared dock, I val­ue that sim­i­lar to one of the con­do­mini­um boat slips at the Can­nery or War­bass; about $1250 per foot in length, sub­ject to mar­ket con­di­tions and the loca­tion of the slip. This is based on the aver­age price per foot of the last few slip sales.

If the prop­er­ty has a com­mu­ni­ty moor­age such as Brown Island or Cape San Juan, addi­tion­al val­ue is assigned as well.

Cur­rent­ly there are wait­ing lines at many of the resort mari­na facil­i­ties as boat­ing is tru­ly a pop­u­lar passtime of islanders.

Moor­ing buoys are a good alter­na­tive although it can be dif­fi­cult to make the tran­si­tion from your dingy to the larg­er boat on the buoy. Age and flex­i­bil­i­ty must fac­tor into the process for some of the boat own­ers. The Coun­ty favors buoys over anchor­age due to the lack of destruc­tion to aquat­ic veg­e­ta­tion from pulling the anchor.

You can install a reg­is­tered moor­ing buoy for around $1500-$2000 that meets the Corps of Engi­neers and Coun­ty stan­dards.    New reg­is­tered buoys must be in 16 feet of water.

Anoth­er viable option, when the beach is suit­able, is installing per­mit­ted beach access stairs with a plat­form to store your dingy or kayak. As long as the plat­form is above the ordi­nary high water, this struc­ture is not con­sid­ered a dock. Beach stairs are also more favor­able to the envi­ron­ment as they con­sol­i­date the peo­ple traf­fic on the stairs ver­sus hav­ing numer­ous trails down the beach that can con­tribute to erosion. 

Docks will always be in demand and will ele­vate the price of homes that already have them by at least the cost to install one, if not more. In years past, I only assigned $100,000 to the val­ue of a dock but times have changed.

I am one of the for­tu­nate prop­er­ty own­ers that have a dock; of course it is shared and my fees to attor­ney Stephanie O’Day were only $6000 and the cost to con­struct was only $30,000. This was in 1992, so a lot of changes have hap­pened in the last 25 years.

We have attor­neys and con­sul­tants in our Coun­ty that have been suc­cess­ful in pro­cess­ing dock per­mits and those indi­vid­u­als are ref­er­enced below.

I have not­ed that the Cana­di­an Geese deem the eel grass one of their favorite foods and are a cause of deple­tion. In review­ing dock appli­ca­tions, that infor­ma­tion isn’t rec­og­nized in the process of whether a dock should be approved. It makes sense that docks are viewed as the source of harm to the envi­ron­ment not nature as the gov­ern­ment can do some­thing about the docks but not nature. The reg­u­la­tions have func­tioned as designed; the con­se­quences, whether intend­ed or not, have made docks cost more, take longer and are more dif­fi­cult to obtain.

Moor­ing Buoy Installer
Chris Betch­er 360–376-4664

Stephanie O’Day   360–378-6278

Dock repair and installation:
A‑1 Marine 360–472-0701
Water­front Con­struc­tion 206–548‑9800

Jack Cory   360–378-4900
Francine Shaw 360–378-6278

Writ­ten by:
Mer­ri Ann Simonson
Cold­well Banker San Juan Islands Inc

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Categories: Real Estate

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