Mooring Permits Revisions Return

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

Harbor Commissioners discussed and decided on their final revisions for mooring permits during a meeting this week and will forward their recommendations to the Newport Beach City Council.

The hot topic items were the transfer fee and an online centralized listing of moorings sold and for sale.

They voted 3-1 Wednesday to recommend to Council to enact the mooring permit revisions as suggested by staff, except the transfer fee, which commissioners changed to 75 percent of the annual fee. The amended item also included a commitment from the Newport Mooring Association to help maintain an online list of moorings sold and for sale.

Chair Paul Blank and Commissioner Dave Girling recused themselves from the discussion. Commissioner Doug West and Secretary Bill Kenney also recused themselves, but were brought back in by a fair drawing so the Commission could have a quorum. Blank is a mooring permit holder and Girling, West and Kenney are members of the Balboa Yacht Club, which is a mooring permit holder.  

The crowd applauded after the decision.

“We’re optimistic that the City Council will accept the recommendations,” said Bill Moses, a member of the board of directors for the Newport Mooring Association.

The comments from commissioners and residents at the meeting “make a lot of sense” said Carter Ford, another NMA director.

Most of the discussion was centered around the mooring transfer fee, which the majority of audience members and commissioners agreed should be a percentage of the annual mooring fee. Although there was some disagreement on what that percentage should be.

Vice Chair Joe Stapleton, who was the dissenting vote, thought the transfer fee should be 100 percent of the annual fee, where it was previously. It would to help pay to monitor and implement the changes, while still being a reasonable rate, he noted.

Others suggested the rate be set at 50 percent.

The suggestion of 100 percent of the annual fee for the transfer fee is “a little bit steep,” Commissioner Duncan McIntosh said.

Ultimately, West suggested an amount in between at 75 percent.

“That’s a compromise,” said West, who made the motion. Several audience members nodded their heads in agreement.

The option the City Council had previously directed staff to incorporate, was to set the mooring transfer fee at 10 percent of fair market value. This presented a number of challenges, both residents and commissioners agreed on Wednesday.

“The ‘fair market value’ (language) is making me a little nervous,” said mooring permit holder and an NMA director Mark Sites.

It would be nearly impossible to determine and track, commissioners agreed.

“This market value is really tough and very subjective,” McIntosh noted.

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

It could change depending on the number available, season, year, economy, among other factors.

Mooring permit holders in the audience seemed to agree.

“The changes can be substantial,” resident and an NMA director Chuck South said.

It would be hard to keep up with all the changes, South added.

Everyone seemed to agree the better solution would be to make it a percentage of the annual fee. It can be “documented and precisely tied to” a mooring, Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller noted.

The other main point of discussion for this item was the online listing of moorings for sale and sold.  

“The main concept is to get everything out to the public so we know what the value is,” Miller said.

In a “collaborative spirit,” the NMA offered to help publish the listing, he explained.

Ford confirmed the NMA’s commitment to help maintain the online listing. It will increase transparency and create a simple way to provide helpful information, he said.

“I personally think that the more information there is about moorings that are for sale, the better,” West said.

The listing should also be on the city’s website, Kenney pointed out.

A few mooring permit holders in the audience asked the commissioners to “keep it simple.” People have been buying and selling moorings for years and years, noted one commenter.

Other changes approved include: Unlimited transfers between private parties with a maximum of one transfer per year; no fee for a mooring transfer between family or a trust; abolishing the wait list; and, going forward, setting the maximum number of moorings allowed at two.

Commissioners were reviewing the item because at a special meeting on June 16, 2015, Council “directed staff to return with a resolution setting the fair market value rent for onshore and offshore moorings (completed in January 2016), and also return with various municipal code amendments and administrative changes as recommended by the Harbor Commission.”

City Council directed staff on a number of points and as they worked on it, staff also had a lot of dialog with the Newport Mooring Association which helped shape it.

“We’ve captured everything that we were told to do,” Miller said. “I’m proud of this document. I feel it accurately reflects the needs of the Mooring Association and the public.”

The document now heads to City Council, likely in February or March.

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