2019-01-10 / Front Page

Boaters Float Concerns Over Mooring Changes

By James Merolla

There was a great deal of opposition to the proposed harbor mooring changes set to be enacted into law later this month at the Waterfront Commission’s public workshop on Jan.7 at the Newport Public Library.

The discussion drew a standing room-only crowd of more than 120 sailors and boaters who wanted to know if the permits that were already difficult to obtain would become more problematic.

The City Council, in conjunction with the Waterfront Commission, will be voting on the changes that will limit who can transfer moorings and impose penalties on those who abuse the privilege. The changes are designed to ensure a safe and orderly harbor, and prevent fraud. But they certainly generated debate.

“We don’t change or enact anything, we advise,” commission Chair Fred Roy told those in attendance. “If it’s unsatisfactory to you, I urge you to take it to City Council [on Jan. 9], have your three minutes and state your case.”

The workshop came on the heels of an October workshop that first aired the proposed revisions.

“There was a lot of thought that went into this. This is the result of two-and-a-half years of work and study,” commission member Chris McNally said.

Under the proposed changes, mooring permits could be transferred to a spouse or domestic partner on a one-time basis over the next five years, starting in 2019, with no further transfers to children. In the case of a deceased mooring permit holder, the permit could be transferred to a spouse or domestic partner. In addition, new Newport mooring permit holders must remain a resident for five years or surrender the mooring.

“We are criticized by Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC) for having an unbalanced [resident/nonresident] harbor,” said Roy. “This is designed to correct that. They recommended a 75 percent resident ratio. Right now, it’s about 52 percent resident to 48 percent nonresident.”

Permits issued after Jan. 1 could only be transferred to a spouse or domestic partner, while holders of multiple mooring permits would only be allowed to transfer one permit. Remaining permits could not be transferred.

There are currently more than 600 people waiting for a mooring space in Newport, Roy said.

“We had to draw a line in the sand,” he said.

Other proposed revisions include fines up to $1,000 and suspensions for the falsification of a mooring permit application. The right to apply for a permit would be suspended for five years, with removal from the mooring waiting list.

There would be a limit of one mooring permit per person, and the voluntary surrender of a mooring permit for one season will be allowed.

Other changes are being considered, including giving the harbormaster the power to remove people from the waiting list or revoke the permit if the person submits false or misleading information.

In addition, failure to use a mooring for at least 30 consecutive days between June 15 and Sept. 1 may result in forfeiture of the permit, unless the non-use is approved by the harbormaster, and no anchored vessel could be left unattended. Finally, those applying for a mooring or to be placed on a waiting list would need to be at least 18, and a dinghy would be defined as a vessel no longer than 12 feet, attached to the moored vessel, instead of the currently defined 14 feet.

A one-hour Q&A period was held to clarify concerns. Many people opposed the one-time transfer that did not include children.

“It’s shocking to me that I only have a year-and-a-half to get my son to move here,” said Paul Fleming, who previously served on the commission. “I think that anyone who has an existing permit and is abiding by the rules should be grandfathered in, and should be able to give it to their child once.”

Bill Steele said he wanted to also be allowed to bequeath his permit to his grandchildren, and a widower complained the ordinance was not equitable because he did not have a spouse.

Several other people complained about the provision that could revoke a mooring permit if a boat is not in the water for 30 consecutive days. “The rationale for that is that mooring permits don’t sit idle. It’s a forfeiture for non-use of the permit,” McNally said.

Ed Fay, a commercial fisherman, wanted a special fee for veterans and asked that dinghies remain at 14 feet.

“I have a 14-foot skiff. You are talking two lousy feet,” he said.

Another boater requested that the definition of nonresidents be changed to people who own property in Newport and spend summers here. He said this would increase the percentage of residents having moorings.

“I really don’t think this is ready for council approval,” said a member of the audience to applause. “I think it’s well-intentioned, incomplete, and short-sighted. But not ready for prime time.”

The new ordinances were given their first official reading at the Jan. 9 City Council meeting.

Return to top