Following weeks of contentious debates, the threat of a Christmas boat parade boycott and a two-hour meeting, the Newport Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to approve hikes to residential dock fees.
The City Council voted 5-1, with Councilwoman Leslie Daigle dissenting and Councilman Ed Selich abstaining, to increase residential dock rents from a flat $100 yearly fee to 52.5 cents per square foot. The vote included changes to the original proposal, including no longer requiring a separate liability insurance policy and allowing owners to rent out their docks.
Although city officials continued to maintain the hikes are not a tax, but instead rent needed to establish a fair market charge for the residential piers located over tidelands which will help pay for improvements to the harbor, the majority of residents at the meeting spoke in opposition of the dock fee hikes.
"I don't want to be crammed with a new tax if it goes through I will be paying well in excess of $50,000 a year in just taxes and permits," Bayfront homeowner Jamie Woodworth said.
The resident group Stop the Dock Tax has been urging homeowners who line the route of the upcoming 104th annual boat parade in Newport Harbor to pull their boats out of the parade in protest of the hikes.
Pete Pallette, who is part of the Stop the Dock Tax group, told the council a vote postponement could stop the boycott, but if the fee hikes were approved boats would be pulled from the parade.
It remains to be seen if the group will move forward with the threatened parade boycott in the aftermath of the council's decision.
"The parade didn’t do anything about the dock issue. It brings joy and happiness to a lot of folks and yes it brings a lot of money to a lot of businesses large and small," said Gary Sherwin, president and CEO of Visit Newport Beach Inc., the city’s destination marketing group. "It doesn't make sense to penalize people who have not played a role in this with something they cannot control."
Councilman Steve Rosansky said although he sympathizes with the handful of residents who will have to pay thousands of dollars more in rent, the fact that most residents are rocking the boat and will only be paying a couple hundred dollars more is "absurd."
"It's a check back to the market, what are people paying for the harbor, what is fair for this asset you are using," Rosanksy said.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS
Did the council make the right decision? Should the resident group go through with the boycott?