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Decision on whether to revoke Wild Wave’s mooring permit expected next week

Decision on whether to revoke Wild Wave’s mooring permit expected next week
The starboard side of Wild Wave is seen from the interior of Newport Harbor. The attached osprey roost is to the left. (Photo by Hillary Davis)

The Wild Wave’s future in Newport Harbor is now in a hearing officer’s hands.

While the distinctive blue and white cabin cruiser — moored not far from Newport Harbor Yacht Club — is recognizable for the homemade osprey roost tethered to its stern, it’s also well-known to city officials and neighbors who consider the boat a nuisance and code violation.

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The Newport Beach Harbor Commission has agreed with that assessment, voting in September to revoke the vessel’s mooring permit and evict it from its patch of municipally managed water. But owner John Panek appealed, taking his staunch disagreement with the city’s allegations to a hearing lasting nearly three hours Tuesday.

Hearing officer Edward Johnson said he expects to issue a written decision next week.

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During the hearing, Panek, his lawyer, Johnson, and city officials tussled over issues, including chain size, overall versus waterline length, when city staff took the photos presented as evidence of the boat’s condition and whether a blanket homeowners insurance policy also covers the vessel.

All those details are germane to the bundle of code violations the Harbor Commission cited as justification for revoking the mooring permit— including visible accumulation of debris, being too long for the mooring space, the unpermitted roost, not having satisfactory proof of insurance on record with the city, and misrepresenting a material fact, referring to the length Panek wrote on his mooring permit application.

Deputy City Attorney Armeen Komeili reminded Johnson that he only needs to agree with one of the commission’s findings to uphold the revocation.

Panek, who lives in Long Beach and describes himself as a marine biologist and mechanical contractor, has said everything aboard the boat has a purpose and is therefore not debris. At any rate, he further argued, Wild Wave is a commercial fishing support vessel and thus is exempt from Newport’s rules.

Neighbors have complained to the city about the craft’s “derelict” appearance and accused Panek of being inconsiderate and defiant as he allegedly used noisy power tools on the boat into the night and dumped construction debris overboard.

Mooring permit revocations are uncommon in Newport. Since taking over mooring administration from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Harbor Patrol in July 2017, the Harbor Commission has voted to yank only two permits, including Panek’s.

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