Newport council approves dock-fee deal

NEWPORT BEACH – The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday approved a settlement agreement that ends a year-long battle over issuing permits for residential piers in the harbor.

The settlement replaces the annual permit with a 10-year pier permit that renews for an additional 10 years; upon sale or transfer of the upland homeowner, the pier permit must transfer to the new owner and a 50 year total term allotted to pier permit holders.
“We agreed to drop our lawsuit if we could have our equity back and in essence that is what has now happened,” said Bob McCaffrey, volunteer chairman of the Newport Beach Dock Owners Association. “Before this they gave us a year to year permit and the problem there was what will they charge us next year, and when we sold our property we could not guarantee the buyer the right to the dock.”

Council members unanimously approved the agreement at an April 8 meeting. The settlement agreement was passed at its first reading in February.

“We probably should have started with the settlement when we did the thing initially,” said Councilman Keith Curry at the Feb. 14 meeting.

The agreement settles a battle between the city and the Newport Beach Dock Owners Association, a group of citizens and business owners.

According to city staff, “we have always contended it lacked merit but in an effort to conserve precious city resources, we have reached tentative settlement with the Dock Owners Association.”

Under the ordinance, a residential pier permit will be issued for up to 10 years upon permit expiration and the request of the owner or upon sale of the abutting upland property and the request of the new owner. The maximum term of any permit will be 50 years.

However, McCaffrey warns pier holders to “beware.”

“We started with nominal fees and then in five years it will increase by 350 percent,” he explained. “We do have equity back but we have strong taxes coming at us.”

The Newport Beach Dock Owners Association filed a lawsuit against the city after city officials implemented an annual pier permit fee increase that raised prices from 800 to 5,000 percent, depending on the size of the dock. The fee increases adopted at a Dec. 11, 2012 City Council meeting changed the annual $100 residential pier fee to 52.5 cents per square foot charge, leading to a new annual charge for a majority of piers that averages $300 to $700.

The lawsuit was filed after the fee increase was adopted on Feb. 21, 2013, alleging violations of California state law requiring open meetings.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after the second reading.

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