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Byron Shire
March 20, 2023

Byron Shire Councillors vote to raise CBD height

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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).

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  1. Absolutely appalling ✔️

    Councillor ‘such rooftop thingies as this were not a problem to _me_ where I used to live Spooner’ needs the hugest kick up the bum for being exactly that, a lousy bum!

    Take it upon yourselves readers to give him and the irresponsible others the absolute boot if they stand for council again otherwise get ready for more of the same ✔️

  2. Councillors. take note of the cartoon. There is so much truth in it.
    To increase the building height means you increase the population density.
    The population density increases the number of cars on the road directly in front and at the back and sides of the building that has increased in height.
    As for why Byron Council put in the Byron Bypass was because of the density of cars in the Byron CBD. Now the Byron Council is going to increase the number fo cars on the road in the CBC, so we will need a new Bypass to bypass the new bypass that has been built to decrease the density of traffic.
    Therefore to do a proper job in increasing the building height, the Town Plan needs to be looked at. The road in front and at the sides of the building needs to be widened for all the cars that will be going to the high-density building and an increase in car parking spaces onsite and on the roads and neighbouring roads needs to be increased. That means demolishing other buildings and re-making the road alignments. And why should not the developer pay for that cost to road realignment?
    None of that facilitating of cars has ever been increased anywhere in Australia. So we have an mess of traffic that is Australia. All we get is BAD town planning. On the Gold Coast the GCCC is increasing the height of buildings at Palm Beach on the Gold Coast Highway.
    What has already happened is an increase in traffic on the Gold Coast Highway in Palm Beach and the slowing, slowing of traffic, sometimes to walking speed? The increased number of cars has caused a bottleneck. The Light Rail has to be fitted in yet and that will mean no parking on the Gold Coast Highway. New Multi-storey car parks will have to be built so local business can do business. Palm Beach has become a bottleneck because population density has increased from increased building height.. That is BAD Town Planning? Every Council has a Town Planner. What do they do other than make towns messy and unliveable?
    The building height in Byron will increase the traffic and the number of car spaces needed, maybe as high as 500 percent. The amount of rates coming into council will be a pittance to the cost of maintaining the conglomerate of traffic and congestion it causes.
    Has council thought about a Bed Tax as Council will need more money than what is coming in.
    We already know that the rate money coming in cannot keep up with the increased cost of growth that it causes. That is why we now have so many parking meters when once we did not have that pollution on the pristine, clean streets of Byron. The streets are now polluted with parking meters. It comes all back to that developers are not paying their way. That point seems to be Ok with Byron Council. Council picks up the bill, and they pass it onto ratepayers. At the rich ratepayers stay and the poorer ones leave the town, leaving the town poorer than in money. Diversity makes a town great. That was once Byron Bay.

    • LOL! You for real? Eve – Are you actually implying that any councillor gets some kind of kick back in this situation? I’ve got to say, this is rubbish reporting if people finish reading the article and think that’s what happened. I didn’t even vote for it and apparently I led it (according to the sub heading). Even though I didn’t vote for it, if you only read the article you leave with a very skewed picture of what went on. The height increase is minuscule when you compare it to the building next door and the one behind it. There are a lot of buildings in town that are above 9m. The Orient, The Northern, The old Buttery just to start but the building height plane is not maintained in the sloped areas between Lawson St and Main Beach particularly. There are a lot of reasons for that but if we can keep it to 3 storeys we should be alright. Given the ruling on 4 Marvel St regarding the rooftop pool, it would be very hard to argue in court so that was actually a vey valid point from the mayor. We tried to stop that last one and it cost us close to 200k from memory and we lost – and they got more than they would have had we said yes when it was before us. It was a test. I led it with Cr Coorey. The pool times and patron numbers were brought in line with most other similar venues. Where councillors messed up in my mind was on the parking contributions for the restaurant. The developer should not have received so much and contributed so little for it but the height plain on this one is a storm in a tea cup in my mind. I guess we’ll see.

  3. The next election can’t come quickly enough… more traitorous actions by several Councillors who ran in the last election on a platform of protecting Byron Shire from over development. Please note the ones who voted for this. Ex-Greens again voting for hyper-development and Labor no better. We deserve better.

  4. The excuse that Council had to approve this development because to have not done so would have led to a case in the Land and Environment Court that Council would “almost certainly lose” is a cop-out.
    Every successful rapacious developer damages the amenity of the community and encourages more rapacious developers to try their luck. Byron Bay is very quickly becoming a high-rise wasteland of concrete and tarmac.
    It is Council’s duty to protect the amenity of the community. The councillors who voted cravenly to approve this development have failed in that duty, should be utterly ashamed of themselves and should be rejected at the next council election.

  5. The community Council ‘Experts’ are out in force today with lots of hot air and little understanding of actual DA application and approval procedures .

    It sounds more like The Green’s desire to live in a tent in the bush.

    We are so lucky to have these Luddites and Fossils in our midst .

  6. Ah Byron, so beautiful in the ’70s and even ’80s.

    Then the sharks started displacing the dolphins, as it were.

    Then this sort of stuff took over 20 years ago, the rest is history, and a clear lesson, if one was needed, of the power and the evil of money.

    Bye bye, Byron, bye bye.

  7. Totally agree with Ross….X Greens sanctioning more big high rise & more development in a once beautiful & unique Byron. Talk about strangle the golden goose that lays those endangered golden eggs. Who does this benefit ? Oh ! Derrr not the local community. Hopefully we get rid of ‘temporary’ Mayor Lyons and make him temporary forever. We must keep up the fight to preserve what remains in a once groovy & special town that was subject to much criticism (I’m old enough to remember) from conservative/conventional society , now those same people visit here in their hordes ….how ironic. Comment from Serena so apt….They took paradise & put up a parking lot. Does this shit ever change ?

  8. I supposed if we burn another bucket of legal fees and lose ( as predicted ) we may as well keep the cash and spend it ASAP on affordable housing !!!!

  9. How I would like to see those surfers holding hands on the water drone passing by protesting against this as they protest the destruction of our town due to filming movies in the shire


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