A contentious application to build a four-storey residential/commercial development at the southern end of Jonson Street has been refused by the Joint Regional Planning Panel, with one panelist branding it ‘disrespectful’.
There was a burst of applause from the public gallery as the panel unanimously rejected the $21.1m development at a meeting in Mullumbimby on Wednesday afternoon.
In doing so the panel went against a recommendation from Byron Council staff that the development be approved.
Instead, the panel accepted one of the main objections from locals, namely, that the proposed development was to be two-and-a-half metres above the current 9-metre height limit for that part of Byron.
This would have allowed the developer to squeeze a fourth storey into the building, going against resident’s long-held desire to maintain a three-storey CBD height limit.
In arguing that its proposal should be approved, the developer relied heavily on the fact that Byron Council has proposed to increase building height limits in this part of town to 11.5m.
But the panel found that until the proposed increase had gone through the appropriate community consultation processes and become law, the development could not be approved.
‘I’m concerned that we’re being asked to vary a height limit based on a proposal that hasn’t been subject to community consultation,’ panel member Pamela Westing said.
‘I find it disrespectful quite frankly, not to go through that process before making the application.’
Panel Chair Garry West agreed.
‘Who’s to say that, after the community consultation process, it [the new height limit] won’t come back to 10.5 metres or 10 meters?’ Mr West asked.
‘If we were to approve that at the moment we would be disrespecting the process.’
Earlier, the meeting heard from around a dozen residents and resident group representatives, all of whom objected to the proposal development.
The co-chair of the Byron Bay Masterplan team, Donald Maughan, said the proposed development was a ‘Trojan horse being marched into our community’.
‘If this development is approved Byron Bay will effectively become a four-storey development site,’ Mr Maughan said.
He asked the panel to ‘please help us defend what we hold dear – a three-storey, low-rise development centre.
Mayor Simon Richardson said that unlike the Mercato shopping centre development which had been allowed to exceed height limits, the proponents of the Jonson St development ‘are simply seeking more height so they can fit in more apartments’.
‘This won’t destroy out community or our town, but it won’t add anything to it either,’ Cr Richardson said.
The applicants, JGD Developments, disagreed.
They argued that there was a ‘desperate need’ for medium density housing in the shire, a lack of commercial space, and a shortage of child care vacancies.
They also said that the proposed change to height limits in this part of Byron had informed the ‘core vision’ for the development.