Newport Beach reaches settlement over dock fee suit
By NICOLE SHINE
NEWPORT BEACH Bayfront homeowners can hold dock permits for 10 years and transfer them when they sell waterfront property under a settlement announced Wednesday.
The settlement, dated Feb. 21, puts to rest a 2013 suit filed by the Newport Beach Dock Owners Association and its volunteer chairman Robert McCaffrey. The suit alleged the city violated open-meeting laws when council members voted to hike the cost of dock permits.
Officials countered that state and federal laws require charging fair market rents for tidelands uses. In late 2012, they voted to boost fees from a flat $100 a year to 52.5 cents per square foot.
The settlement lengthens from one year to 10 years the term of a residential dock permit, which is issued to owners of private docks in public tidelands, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Newport Beach Dock Owners Association. The 10-year permit can be transferred to a buyer and permits can be held a total term of 50 years under the settlement, the statement said.
City Attorney Aaron Harp said Wednesday that the city is not paying the Newport Beach Dock Owners Association to settle, and he described the agreement as an “amiable resolution.” The settlement agreement calls for both parties to pay their own legal fees.
McCaffrey said in the statement that the dock fees were an attempt to strip waterfront owners of their property rights. He and other opponents had earlier derided the fees, calling them “dock taxes.” They took out ads in newspapers and threatened to boycott the 2012 annual Boat Parade.
“It is unfortunate that we had to sue our own city to restore the equity in our docks that they stole in passing the dock tax,” McCaffrey said.
Here recently, the City Council agreed to update the way the dock fee is calculated. The update counts only the actual footprint of the dock that extends over tideland waters in the fee calculation, said Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller. Before, a buffer zone around the dock was counted, a controversial policy.
The settlement requires an amendment of city code that Harp said could come before the City Council at itsMarch 25 meeting. If passed, the amendment would take effect 30 days after a required second reading, which could take place in April, Harp said.
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