Group urges residents to ignore dock bills
By Bradley Zint
3:48 PM PDT, April 15, 2013
Opponents of the increased Newport Harbor dock fee announced Monday that they intend to send out nearly 1,100 mailers this week urging residents not to pay the dock fee portion of their city utility bills.
The Newport Beach Dock Owners Assn.-produced mailers advocate not paying the “pier residential” fee within the bills that also include water, sewer and recycling charges.
The City Council approved the fee increase last year that changed the amount from $100 annually to 52.5 cents per square foot per year for residential docks over public tidelands. The increase is scheduled to be phased in over five years.
The Dock Owners Assn. filed an injunction last week that attempts to prevent the city from collecting the fee until the association’s lawsuit goes through the court system.
The lawsuit alleges that the city of Newport Beach violated state open-meeting laws as it proceeded to institute the tax. However, city officials have denied wrongdoing and said the meetings were properly noticed and conducted.
Newport has filed a motion asking that the Dock Owners Assn. lawsuit be dismissed. The city’s motion states that the association is incorrect in its assumption that a city ad hoc committee — charged with examining commercial dock rents — and a working group that looked at residential dock rents were “magically combined” into a new committee subject to the Brown Act.
The working group and committee had different members, separate topics and were exempt from the Brown Act, according to the motion.
Assistant City Attorney Michael Torres said that he didn’t anticipate the association’s temporary restraining order having merit in the courtroom Wednesday morning, when it’s scheduled to be heard at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. It was originally slated to be heard Tuesday.
“Absent a court order, people are required to pay their residential pier fees,” Torres said. “We didn’t the violate the law; we didn’t violate the Brown Act … we’re hoping that the court will agree with us.”
Bob McCaffrey, chairman of the Dock Owners Assn. and an outspoken critic of the fee, in the mailer called the dock fee an “illegal tax” that’s “the largest property tax increase in our city’s history.”
The mailer also alleges that if the fee were paid, “you have agreed to the terms and conditions of the Dock Tax. It’s the city’s sneaky way of triggering the Dock Tax and taking away your rights.”