2014-02-21 / Front Page

Mooring Fee Hike Approved

By Tom Shevlin

The cost to lease one of the city’s prime mooring spots in Newport Harbor just got more expensive.

Following up on a recommendation by the city’s harbormaster to better account for the costs associated with mooring maintenance, council members on Feb. 12 voted 6-1 to approve a proposal to increase the minimum mooring fee by 30 percent for boats under 25 feet.

Under the plan, the minimum annual charge for Newport residents will rise from $100 to $130 per year, while the cost to a non-resident mooring holder will increase a proportionate $60, bringing the annual minimum fee to $260 from $200 last year.

The change applies to both residents and non-resident boat owners and takes effect immediately.

Councilor Michael T. Farley was the lone vote against the ordinance change.

During brief remarks, he argued that the amendment was regressive in nature, raising mooring fees on the smallest boat owners while making no increase on medium and large boat owners. The city’s commercial rate also remains unchanged.

With over 300 people waiting an average of 10-15 years for a spot to open up across the city’s four mooring fields, any change to the city’s mooring rules are closely-watched affairs.

The latest move follows a council decision earlier this year to refer disputed mooring violations to municipal court. Previously, disputes were brought before the city’s volunteer Waterfront Commission, which had acknowledged having a difficult time grappling with its quasi-judicial role.

According to the harbormaster’s office, there are still over a dozen Newporters who have been waiting for one of the city-held moorings to open up since 1998 or 1999.

Arguably one of the most popular ports on the Eastern Seaboard, Newport Harbor boasts 943 publicly owned moorings. About onethird of those are classified as commercial and thereby controlled and managed by private companies and individuals who are free to rent those moorings to the public.

The remaining 600 or so are designated as private, held by individuals or families who have gone through the proper application process with the city and have extended leaseholder status.

Under the terms of the city’s harbor ordinance, private moorings are intended solely for recreational use by the lessee, and may not be rented out, sold, or transferred to non-family members.

Boats over 25 feet are met with a variable mooring fee tied to the size of the mooring ball of $.52 per pound for Newport residents, and $1.04 per pound for non-residents, with escalating costs up to $780 per year for the largest non-resident boats.

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