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Amid boycott threat, Newport Beach council delays vote on dock rents

November 29, 2012 |  9:31 am

The Newport Beach City Council delayed a vote to increase rents for some residential docks, as several hundred residents packed the council meeting Wednesday night.

Critics of the plan, many carrying "Stock the Dock Tax" signs, criticized the proposal, which would increase rents on for the piers from a flat $100 permit fee per year to 52.5 cents per square foot per year. According to staff reports, that amount typically tallies up to somewhere between $700 and $1,000 per year.

City Manager Dave Kiff pointed out that not all residential piers would be subject to the increases because some are on private waterways or county tidelands. He said the increases were part of an effort to comply with state law requiring the city to charge fair-market rents for the use of state-owned tidelands, the Daily Pilot reported.

Some speakers criticized the proposed increases as money grabs by the city. Others raised concerns that retired homeowners on fixed incomes would not be able to shoulder the increases, and some contended that the extra rent would bring down property values.

Residents were divided on whether the city, as proposed, should change the municipal code to allow residential pier owners to rent out their space.

Other speakers bridled against a proposed permit clause that would explicitly require affected homeowners to carry insurance that would hold the city harmless. The council largely agreed that the requirement was an overstep and that the city's legal staff should work toward a more feasible way of dealing with insurance.

Kristine Thagard, who spoke on behalf of the Newport Beach Dock Owners' Assn., encouraged the council to take more time to consider the city's options. A threatened boycott of Newport's annual Christmas Boat Parade, which the Stop the Dock Tax group announced on Tuesday, is "all we can do to get this things slowed down," she said.

"With due diligence, I think we can come up with something that works for everyone," she said. "The problem is when we rush to judgment."

The council will revisit the issue on Dec. 11.

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-- Jill Cowan, Times Community News

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