“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.