By Roger Bloom | NB Indy
The cost of mooring a boat in Newport Harbor could triple in five years under a proposal going before the City Council on Tuesday night.
The proposed increase in charges at the nearly 1,200 onshore and offshore moorings in the Harbor was recommended by an ad hoc council committee after hearings involving Harbor stakeholders and the public.
The committee also reviewed charges at several harbors from San Diego to Monterey to attempt to identify a market value for the Newport Harbor moorings. Charging significantly less than fair market value is considered a gift of public funds – illegal under the state constitution.
The proposed increase would be the first in Newport mooring fees since 1996. It would increase the cost of mooring from about 5 percent of the cost of berthing in Newport Harbor to about 14 percent of the berthing cost. This would still be an affordable alternative to berthing, as required by the City Charter, said the city staff in a report to the council.
Mooring charges are based on the length of the boat being moored. Offshore moorings cost $20 per foot and onshore moorings $10 per foot. The staff report said someone paying $800 annually this year for a mooring would see that increase $300-$340 each year starting in 2011, until it topped out at $2,449 in 2015.
City revenues from the charges would go from about $700,000 annually under the current charges to $2.07 million annually in 2015 and beyond. That money goes into the city’s Tidelands Fund, dedicated to paying for maintenance and operations in public tidelands areas under the city’s stewardship, which includes most of the Harbor and bayside beaches.
The Newport Mooring Association has proposed an alternative structure for mooring charges that it says would generate even more money for the city. The NMA plan would hold the increase in charges for the onshore and offshore moorings to 50 percent, but create a new charge of $30 per foot for boats tied to private piers. The city staff report questioned whether the city has the power to levy a charge on private piers.
In addition to upping the charges, the City Council will consider a plan to limit the transfer of mooring permits, which reportedly have been sold for up to $60,000. This practice was the target of a scathing Grand Jury report in 2007, and is cited by the city staff as evidence that the mooring charges are well below market value.
The committee and staff are proposing to allow only two out-of-family transfers per permit between now and 2020, and none after that. The plan would still allow unlimited transfers within an immediate family.
The City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.