The Lower Colorado River Authority lifted its 10-month moratorium on new community marinas, like this one on Lake LBJ at Lake Front Condos on Highcrest Drive in Granite Shoals. In its newly approved Highland Lakes Marina Ordinance, the LCRA Board of Directors redefined residential marinas, raised permit fees, and tweaked rules for replacing unencapsulated foam on docks. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman
The Lower Colorado River Authority Board of Directors lifted a moratorium on new community marinas in the Highland Lakes and approved a new marina ordinance at its meeting on Wednesday, May 24. The approved changes immediately went into effect.
Directors also amended the definition of a residential dock to expand the type of structures exempt from the ordinance.
This is the first significant change in the ordinance in 22 years and affects all 147 permitted marina facilities on the Highland Lakes chain.
Marina owners’ major concerns included a 65 percent increase in permit application fees and annual permit fees that were set to begin once the ordinance was approved. Several who submitted public comments said they had already billed their tenants and set their budgets for 2023. They asked to have the increase phased in over a two-year period beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, a wish the LCRA granted.
Annual fees are increasing to 14 cents per square-foot from 8 cents for the first 10,000 square-feet. Fees per square-foot over 10,000 square-feet will jump to 38 cents from 23 cents.
“The current fees (8 cents and 23 cents) were set back in 2001 and have not been adjusted since,” the LCRA said in its email response to questions from DailyTrib.com.
In the first year, 50 percent of the fee increase will go into effect. On Jan. 1, 2025, the other half of the approved increase will kick in. The increases will help pay for the cost of LCRA overseeing the marinas. That won’t be realized until 2026 with the new changes.
The fee schedule was separated from the marina ordinance to allow the LCRA board to change it more frequently without having to go through an ordinance revision process.
Marina owners also objected to new rules requiring all unencapsulated floatation to be replaced within two years, whether or not devices were deteriorating.
“We strongly believe that for existing marinas, docks should continue to be inspected on a regular basis and replaced when the level of deterioration exceeds a reasonable level or creates a safety issue,” reads a comment submitted in writing by VIP Marina on Lake Travis. “If the LCRA is committed to a complete replacement strategy, a minimum of a 15-year timeline is standard and necessary to allow for the planning, financing, and delivery of work of this scale.”
The LBJ Yacht Club on Lake LBJ agreed.
“I still have two docks with good foam and 24-inch free board that I hoped to replace under the existing rules since they have some life left in them,” reads the club’s written comment. To do it all at once would cost $1.7 million, a prohibitive cost.
Only 19 of the 147 marinas in the Highland Lakes still have unencapsulated foam. The new version of the ordinance gives marina owners the opportunity to make a case that replacing the foam in two years would result in “a grave injustice or unreasonable hardship,” giving them the option of entering into a replacement plan with the LCRA.
“Under the proposed amendments, a marina would be issued a notice of violation if it fails to replace unencapsulated foam or enter into a replacement plan with LCRA within two years,” said the river authority in a written response to public comments.
Flotation material not providing adequate buoyancy or with more than 25 percent of the float missing would be deemed in need of immediate replacement, according to a new provision in the ordinance that would supersede any existing replacement plan. Flotation material would have to be kept free of vegetation and properly maintained at all times.
CORRECTION: The original version of this story used an earlier version of the ordinance for reporting the fees. This version has the correct fees, which are increasing by 65 percent, not 85 percent. DailyTrib.com regrets the error.