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Battle Over Boat Parade Continues to Brew

The Newport Beach City Council will vote today on the proposed dock fee hikes which has resulted in an independent group taking a strong stance against the annual Christmas boat parade.

While residents threaten to boycott Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade over a proposed dock fee hike, officials say the holiday tradition will continue to light up the harbor despite the boycott.

“We should all have an open discussion about civic issues, but no one can hijack an iconic event like the Boat Parade to further their own agenda - and I think our community knows that,” Councilman Mike Henn said.

Today at 4 p.m., the Newport Beach City Council will once again try and tackle the proposed increase to tidelands fees for residential docks. At a November meeting, the council postponed the vote for further consideration. The council is expected to vote today on changes to increase residential dock rents from a flat $100 yearly fee to 52.5 cents per square foot per year, according to a staff report.

The group Stop the Dock Tax has been urging homeowners who line the route of the upcoming 104th annual boat parade in Newport Harbor to keep their boats from participating and to turn off Christmas decorations during the parade. On Friday the group also alleged the city violated the Brown Act because council members have been secretly meeting to discuss the rent hikes without notifying the public.

Newport Beach City Attorney Aaron Harp says the three council members are allowed to work together because the three council members are a working group and not a committee.

Officials say despite the boycott tactics, the boat parade will go on.

“We are on par to have the same, if not more, boats featured in this year’s parade as in previous years,” added Gary Sherwin, president and CEO of Visit Newport Beach Inc., the city’s destination marketing group.

According to a staff report, the hikes are rents rather than taxes and are needed to establish a fair market charge for the for residential piers located over tidelands. The money collected will pay for improvements to the harbor, city officials say. Some residents in opposition of the tax hike have called it "appalling."

Under the proposal, the fee hikes will be phased in over five years through 2017 as opposed to the previous recommendation to have them phased in through 2015. The rent will apply to the float area, waters of the internal slip and dockable or useable waters around the float, according to the staff report.

The Christmas boat parade is scheduled every night from Dec. 19 - Dec. 23.

Ava December 11, 2012 at 09:32 PM
What do they say? Timing is everything! It may be wishful thinking, but usually this time of year we have seen the preliminary boat parade 6 times already because of where we live. The bay is DARK, except for some commercial charters! GD Newport is the theme our party... Going Dark-Newport Party! Everyone is wearing black!
Ava December 11, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Plus...I hate to break the news Chanel 7 Eye Witness news did a piece saying that the boat parade was in the drink...people ALREADY think its cancelled :-(
Barton Mac Leod December 12, 2012 at 06:20 AM
Turn the boat lights off ..... and dine in Oceanside or Dana Point Harbors
sue senescu December 12, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I truly love DP and O'side, and we have all suffered in taxes, I think NB is awesome too (born and raised there) and I'm not sure this is the avenue for protest. Take a cue from DP and try to make the system work, We have had some success, and we didn't do it without supporting local businesses and tourism

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