Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Harbor Report: More about the moorings (and money)

Logo of the Newport Mooring Association 
By Len Bose
March 20, 2015 | 2:17 p.m.

The talk around the harbor over the last month has been all about the moorings. I can picture city staff members saying to themselves, "Just when I thought we were out, they pulled us back in," which is a little different from the "Godfather" movie quote.
At the end of January, the newly elected City Council requested that the Harbor Commission review the current fees for offshore and onshore moorings. By Feb. 11, the commission had formed an ad hoc committee to do just that.
The first of the committee's meetings took place Feb. 23 at the OASIS Senior Center and focused on the transferability of mooring permits. About 50 people attended, and they expressed concerns not just about transferability but also annual fees, transfer fees and mooring accessibility.
In November 2010, the City Council decided to triple mooring fees and stop the practice of private mooring transfers. Under this ordinance, the permit holder was given the ability to transfer the permit twice over the next 10 years. When 2020 arrived, the transfer of permits for a price would be a thing of the past. Should a permit holder want to give up a mooring permit, he or she would have to surrender it to the city.
Before November 2010, people obtained a permit for as much as $1,000 per foot or more. (Now the cost is down to about $250 a foot.) So if you received a 50-foot mooring permit, you had spent $50,000. That is a lot of money to lose.
This is the simple version; this topic is unbelievably complex when you dive into the details.
The second meeting about the moorings took place March 9, with 93 people attending. The focus was on fees and the dramatic rise in the rates over the last five years. The goal is to come up with a consensus on what will be fair for the permit holders and the city.
Again, this is a very complex issue when you start establishing fair-use fees for Newport Harbor moorings. There are a number of ways of making this argument, including using comparable mooring fees in California and establishing a ratio of mooring to slip fees. What makes sense to me is using the consumer price index (CPI) by looking at the payments from 1977 and adjusting to 2015.
Since the devil is in the details, other topics are bound to surface over the next couple of months. For example, how should the city define a vacant mooring and rental mooring, what type of entity may hold a mooring permit, how many moorings can one person have, how often can a permit holder transfer his or her permits within a year? Also, what will be a fair cost to transfer mooring permits, and has the mooring waiting list ever worked properly?
A lot of time can be saved by using a proposed amendment — drafted by the Mooring Master Plan Subcommittee of the Harbor Commission in 2009 — to the Newport Beach municipal code pertaining to mooring permits. My sources tell me this document is ready to go with the addition of a fair fee schedule.
From my armchair, the work has been completed and should not be slowed down by committee. The third meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 23 at City Hall to revisit mooring fees and transfers. Remember, this is your harbor; attend and express your concerns.
Attention mooring permit holders, especially in the D field: On April 2, the Harbor Resource Department will hold a drawing for 12 dingy racks in the parking lot of the Basin Marina. Complete your entry form before April 1 to get your name placed in the drawing.
For more details, contact Shannon Levin with the Harbor Resources Department at
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

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