Has a long-held desire by residents to maintain a three-storey CBD height limit in Byron Bay been ignored by councillors?
At the September 20 meeting, a bloc of Greens and Labor councillors overturned a previous 2010 Greens policy of limiting development in the southern area of Jonson Street to 9m.
A motion by Cr Paul Spooner was supported to standardise the town’s height limit at 11.5m, which The Echo understands can accommodate four storeys.
Other parts of Byron’s CBD had 9m limits.
Crs Richardson, Spooner, Hunter, Martin, Ndiaye and Hackett voted in favour of the motion, while Cr Cameron voted against.
Crs Lyon and Coorey were not present for the vote.
Council’s request to the state government is yet to be determined, say staff, with exhibition of the planning proposal to follow if approved.
Yet Greens mayor Simon Richardson and Cr Paul Spooner (Labor) have defended their vote on raising height limits in Byron’s CBD, which could see 11.5m high developments down to the end of Jonson Street.
Speaking about the contentious development planned for the corner of Jonson and Browning streets, Cr Richardson told The Echo, ‘11.5m is the current [height restriction] for the overwhelming amount of the CBD [other areas are 9m], and hasn’t allowed for four storeys, thus it is not the height limit that has done so, but the unique lay of the land in this instance.’
And the mayor dismissed claims by the Byron Residents Group as ‘simply scaremongering and untrue,’ that the massive proposal will set a precedent of ‘allowing an increase to four storeys all along Jonson Street.’
The mixed residential/commercial proposal, headed by Graham Dunn, was set to be determined Wednesday (November 14) by the JRPP and came with requests to exceed height limits and floorspace ratios.
Mayor plays down massive development
The mayor said of the development, ‘This is unique for the CBD and won’t lead to any rush on four storeys.’
‘If four storeys were possible or easy, they would have occurred over the last 20 or more years of 11.5m height limits.’
But remarkably he agreed that his support to increase the height limit ‘may well result in an increased yield and profit’ for the developer. The mayor and Cr Spooner deny meeting Dunn or his associates prior to the motion being voted upon.
Yet the mayor defended the large-scale development, saying that ‘The building is also not 12.5m [as claimed by the residents group], but rather the overwhelming majority is on or under 11.5m, with only two lift shafts being higher – to a highest point of 12.2m.’
The mayor added, ‘I will be speaking at the JRPP against the proposal and its height exceedance.’
Cr Spooner replies
Meanwhile Cr Spooner told The Echo the proposed changes to CBD height limits ‘Were not about an individual DA’, when asked whether he agreed that it would benefit Dunn’s large-scale proposal.
‘The completion of the bypass will be a game changer for that end of Jonson Street.
‘Without this new height limit, we will not be enabling shop-top residential as an economic possibility in this section of Jonson Street. And that’s built into this proposal for the rest of this zone. By limiting it to 9m we will be getting rid of residential housing while encouraging more hotel-style accommodation. That’s not a brilliant outcome for the town centre.’
When asked if Cr Spooner believed the Jonson/Browning Street proposal an appropriate development, he replied, ‘I have no particular opinion on this development as it has not come before Council for determination.’
Underpinning councillors’ decision to standardise the height limit at 11.5m appears to be a ‘community engagement panel’, where zoning, building heights, design excellence and parking were all discussed by around 60 attendees.
Councillors resolved to conduct the meetings on November 17 last year.
Yet there ‘was no real consensus around’ the 11.5m limit by attendees, staff said in their report.
According to staff, those attendees included, ‘Business owners and managers, land owners, real estate agents, architects, urban designers, residents, solicitors, developers and councillors from both Byron Shire and Tweed Heads… The Arakwal staff and board and the Byron Bay Guidance group were also engaged via individual meetings.’
Staff said, ‘The Town Centre Masterplan showed strong support for maintaining a three-storey height limit in the town centre.’
‘Councils are not able to establish building height limits within an LEP based on the number of storeys.’ So given that, ‘participants were asked to consider what the maximum building height in metres should be… There was no real consensus around this,’ they concluded.
Council’s Shannon Burt told The Echo, ‘Council resolution differs from staff report recommendation for southern end of Jonson Street.’
‘The height of buildings is specifically defined in the LEP and pertains to natural ground level and maximum height above. As a result, the design of a building in response to a site’s topography can result in a storey variation. The number of storeys and ceiling heights within a building are not able to be mandated within an Local Environment Plan.