24.2 C
Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Mercato developer denied special treatment over balconies

Latest News

Sally Flannery discovers dark side of ‘Lovemore’

Since declaring her interest in running for Lismore Council, local woman Sally Flannery has been subjected to sustained attack, both online and upon her property.

Other News

Essential businesses recognised

A sticker initiative, to say ‘Thank you’ and support local retailers’ doing it tough is adorning Mullum shops, owing in part to efforts by resident Angela Bambach.

Inspector condemns prisoner health services

In the forward to the Inspector of Custodial Services Report published last month, Fiona Rafter Inspector of Custodial Services says that the provision of health services to inmates in New South Wales custodial facilities is a complex and challenging responsibility.

Red Cross offers additional bushfire grants

Australian Red Cross is opening a final round of support grants for people affected by the bushfires who are suffering extreme financial hardship.

A man dead after boat capsizes on Ballina Bar

Police have confirmed that a man has died after a boat capsized at Ballina earlier today.

Northern Rivers Food Harvest food trail will return in 2021!

The Northern Rivers Food Harvest Food Trail, to be held on the weekend of 1–2 May 2021, is guaranteed to be a very Northern Rivers experience, reflecting and celebrating the distinctive provenance of our region’s food. The Trail will offer lots of wonderful eating and drinking experiences; being jam-packed with our most-acclaimed restaurants, producers, farmers and growers.

Methane: the breakfast of champion trees

A research study lead by Southern Cross University scientists has discovered an unlikely microscopic ally in the battle to reduce the amount of methane gas in the atmosphere.

Hans Lovejoy

Who was telling the truth?

Was it the uber-wealthy Gold Coast developer behind the new Mercato shopping centre on Jonson Street, or was it Council’s chief planner, Shannon Burt?

Let’s get to that, but first, the context, which was acted out in varying degrees of competency by councillors at Council’s planning meeting last Thursday. 

A lawyer representing Mercato developer Robert Badalotti asked councillors during morning access to waive a considerable fee for their airspace lease, which is a Council tax for building a balcony over a street. 

The Mercato Shopping Centre in Byron Bay has been denied special treatment over its balconies.

Badalotti’s lawyer Ross Fox said that Badalotti had an understanding with staff that he would receive a peppercorn lease for the balconies, which now tower over Jonson Street. 

He then went on to explain that the developer went ‘above what was required,’ in the DA, with around $750,000 of extra spending in art and associated works.

Later in the debate, mayor Simon Richardson said that while the airspace policy was in place when the DA was first submitted, the cost ‘doubled since it was opened’. 

Therefore, argued the mayor, the developer should be given a fee reduction. 

There was a lack of consistency about how it is applied, he added.

Yet what followed was remarkable. The Greens mayor lavished the Gold Coast developer with praise. 

‘This is a far better outcome than what could have happened,’ said the mayor. 

‘We got better ventilation – which is not a bad outcome – that was a commercial cost for developer’.

Okay – there’s a lot at stake here, dear reader. The mayor pinned his reputation early on as a negotiator with this development, and supported the developer’s wish to fast-track its completion. 

He defended meeting with the developer with staff over that wish, without any other councillor present. 

At the time, he was criticised on the basis that other councillors should have been informed about that, and been present at meetings with developers.

So what we have ended up with? 

A large shopping mall that is much larger than anything that surrounds it (a precedent perhaps), and the much-touted Green five-star rating, we learn later, was non-binding and just an ‘aspiration’. 

It was a pity the mayor left the room after his speech, as Cr Cameron made some interesting points. 

‘A policy exists’, Cr Cameron said. ‘It allows for an equitable outcome for all’. 

‘If we change it on the run and do ad hoc decisions, we are asking for trouble’.

Cr Cameron described the height argument as ‘disingenuous’. 

Landscaping loss 

‘The developer wanted to add to the height, so it was a benefit. We suffered landscaping loss. I see concrete edges instead of what was proposed. We shouldn’t make decisions on informal conversations. 

‘This is about raising revenue in a shire with a low ratebase’. 

Cr Cameron added, ‘This is not a one off’. 

‘This same developer wants a concession for height extension for the nextdoor DA and are using the Mercato as the precedent’.

Indeed – Badalotti is now seeking to capitalise on his precedent, with a massive $40m 146-room hotel on the old Woolies site next door.  

Were there any negotiations on what Badalotti would do there when the Mercato deal was being made? 

Private meeting?

So when Council’s planner Shannon Burt was eventually asked if, in a private meeting with staff, the developer Badalotti secured an agreement for a peppercorn airspace lease, she replied, ‘No’. 

Moving on, Greens Cr Sarah Ndiaye supported the mayor’s courageous position that Council were at fault and that we are all lucky to get what we got. 

She said, ‘We are not appeasing developers; our policy hasn’t been clear’. 

‘We’ve done pretty well. It all came from ongoing discussions with the developer’.

To prove her point that we could have ended up with a much worse development, she showed an illustration of the second Mercato proposal on the overhead projector. 

‘This is a visual eyesore and not in keeping with who we are. We could have had fast food and Dan Murphys’.

Was there legal advice tabled as to whether the original DA could have been refused owing to its not fitting in with the character of the street? 

That seems a reasonable position, given the law allows that, and is especially relevant if a clear policy outlining the town’s character is in place. 

It’s all unknown because it wasn’t mentioned during the debate. 

Do wealthy developers mostly get their way in Byron Shire? 

At one point, Cr Alan Hunter said the developer was ‘a pretty formidable fella’.

Motion passed

A motion by Cr Cate Coorey was eventually supported, which refused the request for a peppercorn lease under Byron Shire Council’s Airspace Policy as recommended by the staff in the Council agenda. 

Additionally the ‘fees and charges for road airspace usage (commercial occupation) be reviewed as part of the annual fees and charges process’.

Crs Coorey, Lyon, Cameron, Hackett, and Spooner voted in favour of the motion; Crs Ndiaye and Hunter voted against. 

Both the Greens mayor and Cr Jeannette Martin were absent for the vote.

Cr Ndiaye’s amendment was voted down, which sought to apply the airspace fee ‘at a rate of 50 per cent of the footpath dining adopted fees and charges per square metre rental rates for DA2013.587.6, applicable at the time of the application for a period of five years’.


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thankyou Mr Lovejoy for the great reporting
    The long list of comments by Councillors read as if they see that ‘the Developer owns the site, is free to use it as they wish, and Council now have to be fair and stand aside, and just be grateful the developer was nice and not mean, and that we should be grateful the developer didn’t do bad things, only halfway decent things – aren’t we so lucky, I mean look, they didn’t burn the entire town down?’

  2. Perhaps Tom Tate would be happy to provide Simon with some advice regarding the best way to negotiate effectively with Mr Badalotti.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

SCU named as partner in two national drought hubs

Southern Cross University has been announced as playing a crucial partnership role in two new Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs.

ALP puts war power reform on the agenda

The Australian Labor Party will hold a public inquiry into how Australia goes to war if elected to government next year.

Help from Red Cross for flood-affected communities in NSW

With disasters coming thick and fast as the climate emergency worsens, Australian Red Cross this morning launched financial help for flood-affected communities in NSW.

Rocky Creek Field Day coming in July

As part of the Rural Landholder Initiative, rural landholders in the Rocky Creek area are invited to an Off-stream Watering and Riparian Habitat Field Day.