City Settles With Dock Owners Group

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A settlement has been reached between the city and a group of dock owners, who sued the city about a year ago after council voted to increase residential dock fees.

Newport Beach Dock Owners Association, the group behind the “Stop the Dock Tax” campaign, filed the lawsuit against the city in February 2013, alleging council members violated the Ralph M. Brown Act.

The lawsuit claimed that council members had been meeting privately about harbor fees and posting no legal notice since 2010.

“It is unfortunate that we had to sue our own city to restore the equity in our docks that they stole in passing the dock tax,” said Bob McCaffrey, volunteer chairman of the Newport Beach Dock Owners Association and Stop the Dock Tax, in a prepared statement. “The dock tax was an unnecessary money grab that while distasteful, paled in comparison to the city stripping us of the property right to our residential pier,”

The agreement provides for a 10 year permit that can be extended up to 50 years, explained city attorney Aaron Harp.

The City Council will consider the change to the ordinance that will provide for the 10 year term and extension at the second council meeting in March.

“Overall, the longer term and extension is something the city had discussed with the residents before and which the residents initially didn’t appear to want,” Harp said in an email. “In the end though, this was an important point for them and allowed for resolution of the case in an amiable manner.“

“We agreed to not initiate discovery, including depositions of councilmembers and key staff in return for: The 1-year permit has been replaced with a 10 year permit that renews for an additional 10 years. Upon sale or transfer of the upland homeowner, the pier permit must transfer to the new owner. 50 year total term, similar to the leases in Beacon Bay,” explained McCaffrey in the announcement.

The settlement does not provide for payment by either party, Harp added.

The Stop the Dock Tax political action committee will conclude its affairs shortly, while the association will remain active, McCaffrey said.

“We will make an announcement in the next few weeks about our plans to make sure tax paying residents are never again forced to sue our city to protect our property from an overbearing government,” he said.

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