City Council Votes to Slash Mooring Fees

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The sun rises over moorings in Newport Harbor on Thursday. — Photo by Sara Hall ©
Boats sit in Newport Harbor early Thursday morning following a vote this week by City Council to reduce mooring fees.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

By Daniel Langhorne | NB Indy

Newport Beach mooring permit holders will see relief in the fees they pay to the city to park their boats offshore, ending years of debate at city hall over the appraisal for a fair market rent.

The Newport Beach City Council voted 5-2 to reduce the annual rental rate for off-shore moorings from $55.43 to $35 per linear foot. Likewise, onshore moorings were reduced from $27.21 to $17.50 per linear foot.

“I’m feeling that it is a significant step in the right direction,” said Carter Ford, communications and community relations chair for the Newport Mooring Association, which represents mooring permit holders in the city. “[T]his group is fair-minded and pleased to contribute their fair share suitably to the harbor.”

Dozens of mooring permit holders packed the council chambers on Tuesday to urge the council to follow the advice of its appraisal consultant, Netzer and Associates, and the Harbor Commission to slash the fees. The association originally lobbied for a $25 per foot fee for off-shore mooring but was content with the latest appraisal.

Carter and his fellow mooring permit holders believe that the city erroneously depended on an analysis conducted by city staff in 2010 to support rate hikes over five years.

The council’s decision to lower the fees was opposed by Councilmen Keith Curry and Ed Selich because of their concerns about a letter sent to the city by the State Lands Commission the day before the council meeting. The commission determined that that the appraisal lacked “important supporting discussion and analysis in a number of areas.”

As a trustee for Newport’s tidelands, which include Newport Bay, the city is charged with manage the harbor in a way that benefits all Californians.

“We’re now at risk of the [commission] coming in, taking control and setting fees that people in this room won’t agree with,” Curry said.

Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield struck back at Curry by comparing the city’s past fee structure to that of landlord by offering a poor product to boaters but extracting unreasonable fees. He highlighted that the boaters using the offshore moorings have no access to parking, restrooms or work docks.

Curry also noted that it was unwise for the city to cut this revenue source while it faces a major seawall replacement project costing between $35 million and $68 million.

The argument for charging mooring permit holders more than fair market value did not go over well with Carter.

“It is patently inappropriate for a government entity, which is here to serve fairly the needs of all of its citizens, to decide to charge more than estimated by fair market value to meet other financial needs of the community,” he said.

The next issue on the horizon for mooring permit holders is a proposed overhaul of the city’s policies for the transfer or gifting of moorings from one permit holder to another. A hearing date has not been scheduled.

The sun rises over the moorings in Newport Harbor on Thursday.  — Photo by Sara Hall ©
The sun rises over the moorings in Newport Harbor on Thursday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
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