City Council approved amendments to the municipal code related to hikes residential pier fees during Tuesday’s meeting.
The action was the final approval needed to allow owners to rent out their piers at the small marina rate of $1.26 per square foot. The change was included in the resolution raising residential dock fees approved last month.
Tuesday’s item also removed the $100 inspection fee and set up an appeals process, along with a $100 appeals fee.
The item passed 5-1, with councilwoman Leslie Daigle dissenting and councilman Ed Selich recusing himself.
This week’s action did not generate the storm of fee-protesting boaters as in the previous two months, but some residents continued to raise questions.
Councilman Rush Hill and councilwoman Nancy Gardner said they have been “wrestling” with the idea. This issue is not very “clear cut,” councilman Mike Henn added.
Henn estimated that roughly 20 percent of the residential piers in the harbor have been rented in some fashion or another in the past.
“It seems like it hasn’t been a problem,” in the past, said Henn, whose district covers the peninsula.
A large percentage of the residential piers are unsuited for rental because of access and privacy issues, he added.
It’s within the realm of property rights and it ought to be allowed, Henn argued.
“And also now, because of the increases in fees that we’ve got, it does provide an opportunity for people to shelter themselves from that increase in fees in those instances, and I doubt there are a lot of them, but there may be some, where people have a hardship,” Henn said.
Curry said he also wrestled with it, but came down on the same side as Henn, that ultimately the property owners should have the right to rent their piers.
“I think it is fundamentally unfair for us to adjust these rents and then not allow people to have full use of their property,” Curry said.
He recognizes the issue could potentially create problems, but thinks there will be few going forward.
Daigle questioned the removal of the inspection fee, and asked Assistant City Attorney Michael Torres about the inspection process and how many times a particular property could have been inspected over the years since the fee was implemented.
Resident Jim Mosher also questioned the removal of this fee in his written comments to the council.
Since this fee will no longer be charged, “does this mean we have been charging for a service that was unnecessary or not actually provided?” he asked in his written comments.
During public comment on Tuesday, Mosher noted that, according to city code, the inspection fee was being charged as something necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of the community.
“By rescinding it we seem to be saying that it actually was not necessary or is not necessary in the future and I share [Daigle’s] confusion about that,” Mosher said.
Mosher also mentioned that the flat $100 appeals fee seems “completely at odds” with the section it’s listed under in the municipal code, “Cost Recovery Percentages.”
It would make more sense for the fee to be a percentage, so it would be automatically adjusted as fees go up in the future, he said.
“It seems ironic that you would be falling back here to a fixed dollar amount when much of the motivation for the harbor charge exercise was your belief that past councils had been sticking with outdated fixed dollar amounts that could not adjust as costs and values went up,” Mosher added.
Also during public comment, Bonnie McClellan asked for the item to be pulled from the agenda and suggested conducting a study to propose solutions to the possible problems that she feels would come with renting out private docks. Problems like water pollution, trash, parking, noise, more people, which could lead to increased petty crimes, and privacy.
Her husband, Barry, reiterated what she said, adding that council members may have not heard of problems in the past because they were reported to the police, as the McClellans did, and not directly to council.
On a related note, in a closed session earlier on Tuesday, the council unanimously rejected the contention by Steven Baric, the lawyer who represented the Stop the Dock Tax group, that the Brown Act was violated during the process that let to the Dec. 11 decision to adopt residential dock fee increases.
Selich again recused himself.