State Lands Commissions delays Newport decision

The California State Lands Commission has agreed to postpone its decision on whether Newport Beach can create a special harbor fund.

The city's request was on the consent agenda for the commission's April 26 meeting, but will now be heard June 21, spokeswoman Sheri Pemberton said Tuesday.

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) had asked last week for the delay.

The proposed fund would be comprised of revenue from a recent fee increase for the harbor's residential dock owners.

The fee went from $100 annually to 52.5 cents per square foot per year. The fund is planned to be used toward harbor infrastructure improvements.

Officials hope the fund will address residents' concern that revenue from the dock fee — which, for some payers, annually amounts to thousands of dollars more than before — not go toward things outside the harbor.

"I am pleased the Lands Commission agreed to postpone consideration of the Newport Beach request to create a 'harbor fund' using new fees on homeowners," Walters said in a prepared statement Tuesday. "I am committed to ensure that any new assessment is consistent with the law and fair to residents."

Mansoor and Walters asked that the commission wait until a lawsuit fighting the fee increase is settled. The Newport Beach Dock Owners Assn.'s lawsuit alleges various violations by the city during the fee's approval process, such as a failure to conform with state open-meeting laws.

Newport's city attorneys contend that the process did not break the law and that two groups involved in the fee-making process were not legally subject to open-meeting requirements. The city has filed its own motion asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

An Orange County Superior Court judge is scheduled Friday to hear the Dock Owners Assn.'s request to suspend the fee.

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