Property owners on Crescent Bar Island in southern Washington state got the news Monday: Their monthly payments could increase more than 1,000% if Grant County PUD commissioners agree to extend their leases by 11 years, according to The Wenatchee World.

The news hit them like an unexpected winter dip in the Columbia River, which surrounds their island paradise.

“We knew that there would be adjustments, but we had no idea they’d be this high,” said Heather Trautmann of Kirkland, member of the Crescent Bar Condominium Master Association’s Committee, after Monday’s meeting. “If we’re talking about a limited lease, it’s not fair to me that we are paying for all the improvements.”

Trautmann and nearly 100 others crowded the Grant County PUD boardroom Monday to hear utility staffers’ recommendations for the island’s future.

Commissioners didn’t take public comment at the meeting, but are accepting comment in writing through April 12.

They may approve staff’s recommendation or come up with one of their own. Federal dam authorities expect to receive a plan for the island by April 30.

Staff laid out their preferred option for commissioners Monday:

  • Extend leases, which expire in 2012, for up to 11 years.
  • Increase lease payments to market value and include fees to offset the estimated costs — in excess of $5 million to $8 million — to upgrade the island’s aged sewer system.
  • Holders of leases to RV lots would have to remove all the patios, decks and other add-ons before 2012 that extend beyond their RVs’ intended footprints and currently make their RVs block fire access.
  • After the 11 years, lease holders have to vacate the island to make way for full public recreational use and wildlife conservation.

According to preliminary estimates, leaseholders of RV sites would see their monthly payments increase from the current $120 per month, including homeowners association dues, to between $1,550 and $1,850.

Condo owners monthly payments could increase from the current $100 to $626 per month to $2,500 to $3,100 per month. Condo association president Dick Peterson of Bothell said island leaseholders are already paying extra money each month for sewer system improvements. He couldn’t immediately say how much.

“It’s unclear what all the numbers mean and where they came from,” he said. “We’d like to see fair market value. The numbers in the report are very high.”

Crescent Bar resident Florena Rumpf said simply, “Tell them to take it easy, because I want to stay.”

Larry Cain, another island resident, also questioned staff claims that RVs had overflowed their footprints, blocking fire lanes. “We do have fire lanes,” he said. “I’m surprised that they didn’t have their ducks lined up. Even the commissioners are questioning the people they’ve got working for them.”

Many Grant County residents approve of a plan to evict the island residents and return the island to full public access.

“I’m glad they have to move,” said Jim Manly, a retired ag worker from Quincy. “They’ve had a good thing there for a long time. Seems like when they moved in, we were crowded out.”

Manly didn’t attend Monday’s commission meeting, but was at the PUD on other business. Christine Hooyer, an Ephrata real estate agent who was also conducting other business at the PUD, agreed.

“I do want them to leave. The time has come,” she said. “I think they’ve had a sweet deal, but as a Quincy kid who used to play at Crescent Bar, we have been shut out. There’s no question.”

Hooyer said she’d favor giving the residents more time to leave. “Should they have read their leases? Yes… but I don’t want you to think I’m saying, ‘Get out, get out, get out,’” she said.

Crescent Bar resident Cain added that people sitting next to him at Monday’s meeting seemed happy at the notion of island residents leaving.

“They were gloating,” Cain said. “But we’re going to lose our homes.”