Large Visiting Vessel Fees Revisited, Appraisal Underway

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The mega yacht “Invictus” is just one example of a large vessel that has anchored in Newport Harbor. The city is looking into how to equitably charge these oversized visiting vessels.
— NB Indy file photo by Steve Barrett ©

After several months of a Newport Beach Harbor Commission ad hoc committee studying the issue, the city is looking further into how much large boats visiting Newport Harbor should pay to drop anchor.

Commission Chairman Bill Kenney gave an update on behalf of the ad hoc committee tasked with looking into the fee structure for transient oversized vessels mooring in the turning basin in Newport Harbor during a meeting Wednesday.

“We put a good deal of effort into…how an equitable mooring fee might be calculated,” Kenney said.

The thought for many years has been to charge these oversized boats a pro-rated mooring permit fee, which varies depending on size. For a boat like the 216-foot Invictus, a “mega yacht” that has anchored in Newport Harbor in the past, the fee would break down to – very roughly – between $17 to $21 per day.

Officials previously questioned whether a more proportionate fee would be appropriate. In July, commissioners seemed to agree that the fee should be more than what the city is currently charging, but should stay reasonable.

Committee members looked at other harbors in southern California who have the ability to handle larger vessels, Kenney explained Wednesday.

There was also a brief discussion about defining the size of what constitutes a “large vessel” (most agreed 100 feet or more) and the specific location (an outlined area in the seasonal west anchorage).

Ultimately, the presentation and rate recommendation from the ad hoc committee was tabled since the city has contracted with an outside company to conduct an appraisal of the fair market and/or an equitable rate for a transient mooring for a large vessel in Newport Harbor.

The appraisal is part of a fee study the city is undertaking not only about the large vessel anchorage fees, but the nightly vacant mooring rental rates as well, explained Assistant City Attorney Carol Jacobs in an email after the meeting. The study is relevant as Newport Beach has transitioned taking over management of the moorings from the Orange County Sheriff‘s Department Harbor Patrol earlier this year.

Costa Mesa-based Netzer and Associates is completing the appraisal at a cost of $6,500, Jacobs confirmed.

“The appraisal is not ready for prime time yet – it’s still in draft form – and once finalized, will be provided to both the Harbor Commission and City Council for their consideration,” she wrote.

Staff anticipate January or February for completion.

The professional appraisal will likely be more accurate than the data they acquired, Kenney explained.

“I’m assuming there may be some information that comes out of that that we may want to incorporate into what we forward to the city,” added Commissioner Dave Girling.

Although Kenney didn’t disclose their calculations during the meeting, he noted that the committee’s rate appears to be “fairly less” than the initial draft of the appraisal.

He did mention that in the committee’s calculation, the rate per day would be paid based upon the amount of time that the mooring tackle is actually in the harbor, not the length of time the boat is in the harbor.

It will be a comprehensive report, added Harbormaster Dennis Durgan. Although Kenney didn’t think the appraisal would be considering size or location.

“It’s strictly looking at dollars and cents,” Kenney said.

Commissioners decided to hold off the discussion on both the size and location until a meeting after the appraisal is completed.

The issue was first raised at the Commission’s July 12 meeting. For several months ad hoc committee members have been collecting information and preparing to make a recommendation to the Harbor Commission.

In a September update on the committee’s progress, findings showed that Newport is a “unique harbor in its ability and willingness” to allow large vessels to anchor in the harbor, Kenney concluded at the time.

Girling pointed out at the July meeting that they have to consider everything that goes into allowing a vessel of that size stay in Newport Harbor, including staff effort and time and the different process.

“There is some amount that, probably, is warranted over and above the amount we’re currently charging,” Girling said at the time. “We can probably come up with something that is consistent and fair for a large vessel that’s moored in our harbor.”

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