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Newport council to discuss dock-fee deal

March 21, 2014|By Bradley Zint

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday will examine a settlement agreement reached in the wake of a contentious lawsuit over payments for use of public tidelands.

The proposed ordinance would change the issuing of permits for residential piers in Newport Harbor from annually to up to 10 years.

"The proposed amendment maintains city control over the tidelands, while giving abutting upland property owners' greater assurances in the residential piers located in front of their properties," according to city staff.

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The proposed ordinance faces its first reading Tuesday, with a second reading scheduled for April 8 before final adoption.

It also states that the city formally disagrees with the lawsuit's allegation that a city committee violated the state's open-meetings laws when it discussed changes to the pier fee system.

According to the staff report, "The city has consistently maintained the litigation lacks merit and the city has fully complied with the open-meeting rules" of the Ralph M. Brown Act.

The Newport Beach Dock Owners Assn., a political action committee, filed the lawsuit in February 2013, after the council approved changes a few months earlier that instituted a rate increase from $100 annually to 52.5 cents per square foot.

The proposed ordinance would not change the fee structure, and the lawsuit awards no money to either party.

Earlier this month, upon news of the settlement, the association said it would drop the lawsuit.

"It is unfortunate that we had to sue our own city to restore the equity in our docks that [the city stole] in passing the dock tax," the group's chairman, Bob McCaffrey, said in a prepared statement March 5.

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Proposed station changes

The council will also examine turning over management of Newport Beach TV to an outside firm, Newport Beach and Co., which operates Visit Newport Beach, the city's marketing agency.

If approved, the two-year agreement would cost $150,000 annually — slightly more than the approximately $126,000 a year the city currently spends on the station, which airs council meetings, news and other community programming.

"We hope that [Newport Beach and Co.] will make the station even better and more interesting to the community than it is now," City Manager Dave Kiff wrote in his council preview email, "Insider's Guide."

"We are hopeful that our good editing and recording staff will stay on board to assist in the new venture," he added.

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, 100 Civic Center Drive, Newport Beach. No study session will be held beforehand.

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