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Gary Reasoner Letter to City Harbor Commissioner

From: Gary Reasoner
Date: Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 11:43 PM
Subject: Mooring Issues
To: Don Lawrenz

Dear Commissioner Lawrenz

I apologize in advance for the length of this message and realize that you might not have any input on the proposed fee structure as was mentioned during the last meeting, but did want to copy you on this message which I have already sent to the City Council members. I have lived in Newport since 1981 and have been a mooring holder since 1984. I'm getting involved in this battle a little late, but better late than never.

The more I dig into the mooring fee issue the greater I am disappointed in the appraisal data that was provided by James Netzer. If the city makes fee changes based on that limited and poorly justified data, mooring holders will be paying a disproportionate amount. While I found the balance of the appraisal report to be quite detailed with a great deal of research conducted at other facilities outside of NB, nothing was done on the mooring appraisal outside of some basic math and conjecture. For example he could have contacted the City of Avalon to see how their mooring fees are set and the transfer mechanism. Avalon probably has more experience than any other municipality, at least on the West coast in this area. Santa Barbara and I believe San Diego also have similar mooring systems.

Just for comparison the following is provided and can be easily found by going to the Avalon website or phoning the harbor masters office.

A 40" mooring holder in Avalon pays $400 a year in fees and pays for inspection of tackle and repair cost annually. The maintenance cost can be quite high in their situation as the depth of chain required is much greater. When a mooring holder transfers his mooring the City gets 5% of the total sales price. Only one mooring is allowed per person and the vessel must be seaworthy. The city keeps the revenue from renting the moorings and the holder bares all maintenance cost. A copy of their mooring regulations is available on line at the city website.

The monthly fee appraisal recommendation of $7.25 per foot is based on Yacht Club data? The Yacht club is a unique situation and does not represent the general public as there are additional benefits of being a club member to consider i.e. use of the facilities, restrooms, restaurant, parking, water taxi etc that makes a mooring situation quite a bit more attractive. The $7.25 rate represents an increase of four times my current rate of $820 to $3480 per year. While I am willing to pay my fair share it is a bit ridiculous to make the smallest guy on the totem pole swallow the largest percentage increase in the recommended fee structure.

This is a huge impact for me as a retiree and will only serve to keep the middle class boater out of the harbor. The wealthy are not going to put a boat on a mooring, no electricity, no water, limited access. With fees this high, in this economic climate you are going to end up with fewer active boaters, fewer purchases of gas, food, bait etc. in the harbor and surrounding areas, a revenue stream that the city is counting on to offset some of the use cost. The vitality of the harbor is based on active boaters, the amount of money paid for bait, food, gas, maintenance etc and the city's share of the tax revenue there of, is potentially much greater than the increased fee. I don't see any of that revenue offset data information in the appraisal report.

The transfer fee recommendation is even more ridiculous. All of the transactions listed are quite different, the value of the boat involved is a huge factor and there is not enough data to justify the numbers. The city should keep it simple as in Avalon and make the transfer fee simply a percentage of the transaction and let the free market determine the value. I have seen these values go up and down over the years, I don't think the city is going to be able to find a fair number. If the plan is to change so drastically it would be more fair to grandfather in current holders and set the rules for the next permittee. To change the rules in mid stream is really unfair as recent mooring transfer holders will never be able to recover their investment. The only problem with the current system is that people are being allowed to keep multiple moorings, held with junk boats purely for speculation. Free those moorings up and more people will be able to use the harbor.

Another factor I do not see taken into consideration is the county tax I pay each year on my vessel. I have paid non-secured property tax of about $400 per year each year for the last 20 years. I'm sure some part of that goes to the Harbor Patrol and other miscellaneous services provided in the city.

Also I know some of the mooring holders don't even live in California let alone Newport Beach. When I live here and already pay property taxes here in this city, do all my shopping and business in the city why is that not a consideration? Shouldn't a Newport Beach resident get some additional consideration in the fee structure?

Thank You for Your Service on The Commission

Gary Reasoner
<Address, phone withheld for privacy in posting here>