The case for re-introducing fees to build secondary dwellings has been made by Council staff, with those predicted funds pegged for a new central Byron Shire library, halls, public toilets, bike paths, and open spaces such as playgrounds.
The 180-page draft document, available for comment on Council’s website, also suggests removing ‘the waiver for the payment of water and sewer contributions for secondary dwellings’.
Yet the report provided by staff omits data that are essential to understanding the context and history of secondary-dwelling fees.
Additionally, staff assumptions of infrastructure projects are not underpinned by any evidence of community consultation.
A detail of proposed new costings is broken down by towns, rural areas north and south, and includes contributions for a standard dwelling unit, one and two bedroom dwelling and ‘area per person’.
‘Area per person’ is not clearly defined within the report.
Fees for secondary dwellings are pegged more for Mullumbimby than for other areas across all dwelling types.
For example, the proposed cost for a one-bedroom unit DA in Mullum is $10,661.60, while a Mullum two-unit DA would be $14,538.54. In Ocean Shores, a one-bedroom unit DA would be $3,853.19 and a two-bedroom unit $5,254.35.
High-growth areas pegged by staff include Byron Bay/Suffolk Park, Mullumbimby, Brunswick Heads, and Bangalow. Low-growth catchments, according to the report, are Rural North Rural South and Ocean Shores/South Golden Beach.
Remarkably, staff suggest building a new central Byron Shire library (page 64), claiming the current Byron Bay one ‘is too small to meet the current demand’.
Despite only opening in 2013, staff did not refer to any evidence of why a centralised library was needed, nor provide any evidence of consultation with Friends of the Library or other stakeholders within the report.
A Friends of the Library spokesperson told Echonetdaily they were not consulted, yet added the 2012 document predates the 2013 library.
Additionally, there is no reference as to when the developer contribution amendment was reported to Council, the year the fees were withdrawn and why. Echonetdaily asked staff to explain, and they replied it was reported to Council on February 22, 2018. ‘Agenda item 13.24, p215’.
Perhaps the most remarkable omission regarding transparency and accountability by staff is that the plan does not include any deletions/amendements of the existing document with a ‘strike through’, which is commonly used by bureaucrats to reference what details are being amended and deleted.
Staff replied on that matter: ‘The sections being amended are made clear in the public notice. The proposed amended document is available to download on the public notices page. The original document is also on Council’s website. Put “developer contributions” into the search bar on the website.’
Aimed at easing rental stress
While the withdrawal of secondary-dwelling fees in 2011 was aimed at easing rental stress (under the Affordable Rental Housing SEPP), staff reported in February 22, 2018 that their review found it had ‘no impact’ while rents have instead increased.
Yet that February 22, 2018 staff report does not include any further historical information, such as what the the previous secondary fees were before they were withdrawn.
Echonetdaily understands it was around $20,000.
Another justification by staff for re-introducing secondary-dwelling fees is based on ‘continued population and employment growth’ as well as an ageing population.
‘The resident population of the LGA is forecast to grow by approximately 6,940 between 2011 and 2026’, staff write.
Public submissions for the draft close August 21 at 4pm. For more information visit the public notices tab at the Byron Shire council website.