The bid to open a KFC in Byron’s CBD was knocked back yesterday, during an at times rowdy Byron Shire Council meeting.
Seven of the nine councillors voted with the staff recommendation to reject the proposal over insufficient car parking (Crs Hunter and Woods against).
During morning public access, the Byron United (business chamber) president Paul Waters spoke against the application, along with another business owner.
‘It’s a bad fit with Byron, especially as this is renown as a health and wellbeing region,’ he said.
The debate was chaired by deputy mayor Di Woods after mayor Simon Richardson declared a non-pecuniary interest. Cr Richardson was a vocal campaigner against the development, which was proposed for the former Byron Music building near Byron Woolies.
Other issues that drew overwhelming public opposition included large street signage, which would have required tree removal, and lack of toilet facilities.
The proposed development sparked a petition with more than 4,000 signatures opposing it, collated and submitted by resident Simon Seven, who set up signing points on Byron’s main streets.
Of 350 individual submissions sent to Council, just two supported the KFC.
On taking the chair, Cr Woods asked councillors to defer the matter so staff and the applicant could discuss the parking issue with staff.
‘I don’t see myself going there to eat that type of food, but we need to give them the opportunity to negotiate,’ she said.
Cr Woods added that it could become another court case like Mullumbimby Woolworths: the retail giant took the council to the Land and Environment Court when they refused their application, and eventually won.
‘I don’t want to go through that again,’ she said.
But staff appeared confident. Planning chief Ray Darney said, when asked about the parking, ‘We have done our sums’. He said the applicant was ‘contesting our figures’.
‘Council have written to the applicant about the parking,’ he said, and with regard to Council’s report, ‘our control plan can be defended’.
In the middle of Cr Duncan Dey’s speech against, someone – presumably the applicant – interjected from the gallery. ‘The calculations are wrong!’ he shouted.
In an aggressive manner, the middle aged man in the back row demanded to address Council.
It was then that the usually quietly spoken council watcher Jim Beatson, also in the gallery, responded with, ‘Can we eject this yob from the gallery?’
After the interjections subsided, Cr Alan Hunter made his case for allowing the development.
‘This is like Woolies again,’ he said. ‘These guys have got the resources and experience. However, that’s not a reason to be frightened. It wouldn’t be in their interest not to have enough car parks.’ He added that it wasn’t fair to refuse a discussion.
Cr Paul Spooner also sided with Cr Woods, saying that the applicant hadn’t been provided enough of an opportunity for discussion.
‘A letter is a one way discussion,’ he said, referring to the letter of rejection that was sent.
Cr Chris Cubis, a man never afraid to speak his mind, disagreed.
‘There is a difference of opinion between staff and applicant. We shouldn’t keep deferring things. We expect staff to make correct decisions. No more talks.’
The ball finally landed back in Cr Woods’s court. She spoke of her concern that the applicant’s letter and the assessment report were removed from agenda.
‘Their [point of] difference is on parking contributions. The car park is pretty full. How can you create more parking in the area? You can’t. You make contributions for more parking elsewhere. But this looks like it’s about us not liking KFC. I want a proper process.’
When the vote was taken, the aspiring fast food chicken entrepreneur stood up and strode out in disgust.