Newport Harbor residents raised concerns about having to pay for a 10-foot buffer around their docks during a meeting Thursday on how to implement a multiyear plan to increase dock fees.
The workshop at the OASIS Senior Center was not meant to challenge the fees but to gather input for the Newport Beach City Council.
The council in December approved increasing docking fees for residential piers on state-owned, city-administered tidelands from a flat $100 annually to 52.5 cents per square foot of usable dock space.
But the issue on the minds of many in the audience Thursday was the buffer.
In addition to paying by the square foot for dock space, residents also have to pay for the 10-foot buffer zone around their docks, unless the property line is less than 10 feet from the dock.
Some of the roughly 30 residents in attendance questioned the size of the buffer, while others suggested the zone be removed. Most had concerns about liability and regulation.
"We have fisherman coming up, boaters coming up, getting off their boat, tying it up to my dock. What if they hurt themselves? Who's going to be liable for that?" asked Newport Harbor resident Gail Rosenstein. "The city should be because we're renting it from them."
Dock owners wanted to know how the regulations will be enforced and if they can restrict access to the buffer.
"Am I going to take my kayaks and put them out there so the boats don't come in and bang into my dock, intruding on that 10 feet that I'm paying rent for?" Rosenstein asked.
Dock owners also questioned why they would pay for the buffer zone if they do not have any boats to dock and why they would pay for a buffer zone on all three sides if they only use one side.
Harbor resident Bob Hall asked how the dock space was determined.
"These lines that define the square footage that you are paying rent on need to be refined," he said.
Others questioned how fees for moorings are calculated and said that mooring fees are too high compared to residential dock fees. Mooring holders also asked why they cannot charge rent while residential docks can.
Harbor Resource Manager Chris Miller, who led the meeting, said the comments and questions would be submitted to the council for consideration.
A second workshop on the changes will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the event center at the OASIS Senior Center.