Council fees for construction and development in Byron were the equivalent of paying $160 for a coffee, making it ‘entirely unviable’ to invest here, industry representatives told the Council last week.
And it appears councillors heeded the claims, voting to significantly reduce a number of construction levies to bring the Shire’s fees schedule more closely into alignment with other surrounding Council areas.
Adopting a recommendation from Council staff, all councillors voted to significantly reduce the amount developers are charged when they need to temporarily use areas of Council land such as footpaths and road reserves during construction.
30 times more expensive than Gold Coast
Currently, Council charges $10 per square metre per day for footpath closure. This is approximately 30 times more than is charged by Gold Coast City Council, and roughly eight times more than is charged in the Ballina, Lismore and Tweed local government areas, on average.
Under the new fees schedule adopted last week as part of the 2022/2023 Delivery Program and Operational Plan, Council will charge $1 per square metre per day for low-impact use of Council land and $3 where footpath verge closure is required.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the changes and did not question whether the fees and charges had provided a disincentive for overdevelopment in the Shire.
It is unclear how significantly the changes will impact Council’s budget bottom line, which has already been affected by the recent floods and COVID-19.
Mayor Michael Lyon said Council had been looking at the fees and charges issue for some time, and that the changes had been proposed in response to more than 50 public submissions during the exhibition period.
‘It still places us as the most expensive Council in Australia, but we’re a lot closer to the pack, which seems reasonable,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘A very vocal backlash’
Speaking during the public access section of the meeting, Hannah Hopkinson from property developer MPGroup, said that if Council were to treat another industry the way it had treated builders and developers there would be ‘a very vocal backlash’.
‘It would be like charging $166.50 for a coffee,’ she said.
‘The new schedule of fees we can live with. For a 40-by-five metre area of land, this works out to be $420 compared to $2,667. This equates to $7.11 for a cup of coffee, which is still expensive but it’s manageable.’
Dominic Biancardi, representing developer, Podia, said Council policies should encourage investment and better urban design rather than discouraging them.
‘Unviable to invest’
‘Add this to Council’s levies during construction and it’s entirely unviable to invest at any level in the Byron Shire,’ Mr Biancardi said.
‘We aren’t asking for any favours, we’re just asking for Council to adjust its fees to be in line with other Councils.’
The schedule of fees and charges also includes reducing the cost of closing a local road to $13 per square metre per day.
The cost of erecting hoarding, scaffolding or other temporary structures has also been reduced, something that will benefit not only developers but also event organisers.
Councillors also made a series of changes that will affect those who are not in the business of development.
Parking fees rise
This includes deciding to increase the cost of paid parking from $4 to $5 per hour, and increasing the number of free tip drop-offs from one to two for the 2022/23 financial year.