The developers of 33 Lawson Street, Byron Bay, came to last week’s Council meeting asking for permission to breach the building height limit in Central Byron by 38 per cent.
They walked out of the chamber not only with permission to do that, but with a series of other concessions that went well beyond what Council’s own planning staff had recommended.
In a decision which is likely to be used as a precedent for future developments in the Byron CBD, a majority of councillors voted to approve a variation application by the developers of the luxury motel.
They already had permission to build a three-storey, 46-room hotel with two levels of basement parking.
38 per cent exceedance
That proposal involved an 11 per cent exceedance of height limits, drawing the ire of neighbours and those who oppose the creeping height increases taking place across the Byron CBD.
Now, the same owners have been granted permission to build a roof-top bar, pool, and bathroom, which will see the building’s height blow out to 12.5 metres – a 38 per cent exceedance of the 9m limit.
But the concessions didn’t end there.
The same group of councillors who voted in favour of the height variation also voted to extend the roof top pool’s hours of operation beyond those recommended by Council staff and requested by nearby neighbours.
They further disregarded a staff recommendation to restrict the number of people who are allowed to use the pool at any one time to 30.
Led by Labor and former Greens
A staff suggestion that the cafe and bar on the ground floor of the building should be open to motel guests only also went by the wayside, with it now effectively becoming a new public venue on the busy strip.
‘This is an establishment that will meet the huge market demand from tourists for this area’, said councillor Paul Spooner (Labor) who moved the amendment to disregard the staff recommendations.
‘We’ve got establishments directly across the road from there that are open till 10pm with live music every night,’
‘The owners need to be able to advertise this motel as having its own pool and having a bar and café and that people can actually use and enjoy those facilities.
‘To go beyond that is moving beyond planning to social engineering.’
But Deputy Mayor, Sarah Ndiaye (Greens) said Council was pushing itself into ‘another predicament by bending the rules.’
‘The people putting in this application must be thinking that all their Christmases have come at once,’ she said.
‘Not only are we giving them their rooftop extension, but we’re giving them extended hours for their pool…’.
‘We’re becoming a golden ticket for developers, and that’s not who we are.’
Interim Mayor, Michael Lyon (former Green, now independent), who voted in favour of the motion, said that if Council didn’t approve the height variation, it would leave itself open to a costly legal challenge that it would almost certainly lose.
‘We do need to apply the letter off the law, but if they took this to court, I think they would win’, Cr Lyon said.
‘We have community expectations to uphold when it comes to our budget. The Court doesn’t share the same approach as we do.’
Supported without legal advice
When questioned by Cr Basil Cameron (independent), Cr Lyon said that he had not obtained any legal advice in relation to the variation application.
Councillors Lyon and Spooner were joined in their support for the motion by Cr Jan Hackett (Labor), Cr Jeanette Martin (former Green, now independent) and Cr Alan Hunter (independent).
Those voting against the motion were Cr Ndiaye, Cr Cameron, and Cr Cate Coorey (independent).