The developer behind Byron’s Mercato shopping mall is planning to build a sprawling $40m mixed-use development on the old Woolies site next door that significantly exceeds both height and floor space limits.
In a development application that was quietly lodged just before Christmas, Mercato is proposing to build a 146-room hotel, function centre, and retail premises on the Jonson Street site.
Floor space and height exceedance
Named Essence of Byron, the three-storey development is topped with a private rooftop pool and bar that takes it more than 20 per cent above the 11.5m height limit for central Byron.
The development’s 7,515 square metres of floor space also represents a 36 per cent exceedance of the floor-space ratio limit for this part of town.
Central to the developer’s justification for seeking to build higher than the rules allow is the fact that Council gave it permission to do so on its shopping plaza next door.
‘The proposed scale and form of the development is compatible with the adjacent Mercato on Byron shopping centre,’ the application states.
The variation to height limits for the shopping centre was granted in return for a pledge by the developer to include cutting-edge environmental features.
The pledge for a five-green-star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia has been downgraded to an aim.
With no such promises being made in relation to Essence of Byron, the wisdom of Council’s decision to allow the height limit exceedance is now being questioned.
Cr Cate Coorey told The Echo, ‘This is a game changer for Byron because we don’t have any really big hotels like this in town’.
‘Council recently consulted with the community about increasing height limits in the centre of town and the feedback was clear – people don’t want it.
‘They’re using the fact that we allowed the Mercato shopping centre to go over the height limit to justify going over it again here.
‘I opposed that decision at the time and I think this shows that it was a mistake because it set a precedent.’
But acting mayor Michael Lyon told The Echo he did not believe a precedent had been set.
‘That exceedence was only allowed in very specific circumstances which don’t apply here,’ Cr Lyon said. He added he opposed the proposal in its current form.
Planning panel decision
It appears Council will have no say as to whether Essence of Byron goes ahead, because with a price tag of $39,897,000 it will automatically come before the Northern Regional Planning Panel (formerly the Joint Regional Planning Panel) for determination.
The developer sought to justify its floorspace ratio exceedance by referring to the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan, which identified that there was a need to amend or remove floorspace ratio limits across the town centre.
While the Masterplan has been adopted by Council, it carries no legal weight.
A spokesperson for the developer said that only five per cent of the building’s footprint was above the height limit.
They said that those components that did exceed the limit were set back from the road and would not be easily visible.
He also said that the proposed floor area was ‘necessary to support a viable hotel of this character’.
‘A comprehensive assessment has been undertaken, which demonstrates the proposal will not result in adverse built amenity impacts and will provide positive social and economic impacts for the Shire.’
While the development application has been with Council for more than four months, it is yet to go on public exhibition because the developer is yet to complete the application by submitting a social impact assessment (SIA).
The developer’s spokesperson said the assessment would be submitted this week.