After years of debate Don Pedro Reservoir houseboaters will now pay higher dock rental rates, following a compromise reached Friday between the Don Pedro Recreation Agency and marina concessionaire Forever Resorts.
The new rates, up 31 percent at most, will increase far less than the 85 percent rate hike Forever Resorts requested in December. The DPRA Board of Governors rejected that request as unreasonable, ultimately leading to the compromise agreement.
But the new rates could rise – or fall – further pending an independent review of Forever Resorts' houseboat dock rate structure, mandated by the compromise.
Forever Resorts expects the rates to rise further, as the concessionaire has long argued that the rental fees paid by house owners don't cover true costs, such as building a new, $2.2 million pier.
“Forever (Resorts) feels like the current rates are much too low, and the houseboat community feels like the current rates are much too high,” said Turlock Irrigation District Director and DPRA Governor Micheal Frantz.
In January, after the DPRA Board of Governors rejected the 85 percent rate increase, Forever Resorts formally requested legal arbitration of the dispute. Though arbitration is allowed in Forever Resorts' contract with the DPRA, Governors sought to avoid it.
“It was going to be expensive, and it was going to be completely out of our control,” Frantz said.
Instead, members of the DPRA Board of Governors met with Forever Resorts representatives four times over the span of the next two months, drafting a compromise agreement in closed session.
The compromise will immediately raise rates for houseboat owners. Those who dock at buoys will see rates rise 14 percent, while those renting slips at Moccassin Point or Lake Don Pedro marinas will see 20 and 31 percent rate increases respectively.
Additionally, the compromise will require Forever Resorts and the DPRA to jointly hire an independent expert to determine what rental rates should be. Beginning in January 2014, rates would begin to be adjusted either up or down annually to match the consultant's recommendation.
“It could come back low, or it could come back high,” Frantz said.
Rates would be adjusted no more than 10 percent each year, until the recommendation and actual rents match.
The DPRA board approved the compromise agreement by a 3-0 vote on Friday. Houseboaters in attendance for Friday's board meeting were split on supporting either the compromise agreement, or going to arbitration, Frantz said.