California city votes to increase dock fees

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Protests over rising dock fees in Newport Harbor, Calif., that had residents saying they planned to boycott the holiday boat parade ended as council members voted 5-1 to pass the fee hike anyway.

Hundreds of waterfront homeowners with docks in Newport Beach came to protest the increase, which moved the annual $100 residential pier fee to a charge of 52.5 cents a square foot — leading to a new annual charge for most piers in the $300 to $700 range, with larger piers reaching a fee upwards of $3,000, according to The Log newspaper.

The decision was made during a special meeting Tuesday before the council’s first scheduled meeting in the new city hall across from Fashion Island later that evening, the newspaper reported.

Council members heard from nearly 30 speakers during the nearly three-hour meeting. Nearly every one agreed that a fee increase was acceptable, but argued that the city’s proposal was exorbitant. Some speakers, such as Stop the Dock Tax organizer Pete Pallette, continued to threaten a boycott of the annual Christmas Boat Parade in the harbor and urged others to do the same.

Many spoke out for more time, hoping a delay of the vote would lead to a better compromise.

“Most residents believe a reasonable adjustment to the dock fee is right, but this dock tax is outrageous,” Pallette said. “Postpone your vote and we will agree to cancel the parade boycott; otherwise, game on.”

Gary Sherwin, president of VisitNewportBeach, which is in charge of marketing the boat parade, said the residential pier owners are only hurting the local economy by boycotting the parade.

“The parade didn’t do anything about the dock issue, it just brings a lot of happiness and a lot of money to businesses,” Sherwin said. “Let’s not confuse what separates us from what brings us together, and this parade truly does bring us together.”

In a press release issued after the fee increases were approved, Sherwin said the parade is going on as planned, with more than 60 boats signed up and more expected to enter. Whether homes along the parade route will be lit up or stay dark remains to be seen.

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