Byron-based property owner/developer, Josh Thompson, has created a shitstorm within the community after trying to evict customers renting 160 units at his ACE storage facility within a week, to make way for 26 warehouses.
The sheds are located on the corner of Centennial Circuit and Tasman Way in the Byron Arts and Industry Estate.
Long-time local business woman, Lesley Berry, told The Echo she had rented three sheds for years, and the eviction affects many people, some of whom are possibly flood-affected, or aren’t able to move their possessions straight away.
‘There are no storage sheds anywhere close by’, she said. ‘This is heartbreaking – I know of a single mum leaving for London this week with one of the storage sheds. It’s a disgrace’.
When The Echo asked Mr Thompson why he wouldn’t extend the eviction notice, Thompson replied via a public relations (PR)consultant.
Titled Local firm announces work start for high-demand business warehouses, the press release framed the evicition in a positive light, and explained that customers had been advised since March, via his property managers, that ‘the current facility will be shut down in the middle of this year’.
Yet that statement is at odds with accounts from customers who contacted The Echo. They said signage for the DA was located at the back of the property, which was rarely used.
And while the seven-day eviction demand was initially issued to his customers, Mr Thompson said via his PR consultant: ‘We are working with individual tenants who make contact and need assistance or additional time to vacate’.
In the same statement, Mr Thompson’s PR advisor said his demolition contractor was only available from the beginning of August, and as such, ‘it was critical to agree to this schedule and notify the storage tenants immediately’.
When asked why Mr Thompson withdraw his DA (10.2021.735.1), he replied via his PR consultant it was at the request of Council, ‘who were under-resourced and had a 12-month backlog of applications’.
It’s a claim that has appears to have surprised Shannon Burt, Director Sustainable Environment and Economy.
Ms Burt told The Echo, ‘It is highly unlikely (and not usual) a staff member would tell an applicant to withdraw a DA because Council is under-resourced and there is a backlog of DAs’.
Mr Thompson’s media advisor also said the DA for the 26 warehouses was applied for as a ‘Complying Development Approval’, which ‘is an independent privately certified approval equivalent to a council approved DA’.
Lawyer and councillor, Mark Swivel, says his law firm Barefoot Law has filed an application with NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) ‘to try to get the owner to be more reasonable’.
He says, ‘Obviously many people will move on if they can, but if you need a hand with this, get in touch. It costs $54 to file the application in NCAT and we would handle the applications as a group and charge no more than $100 each’.
Mr Thompson’s PR also claimed, ‘This is an exciting project. Stage one sold-out quickly, after installing sales signage outside the existing storage facility more than four months ago’.
‘Although we are required to give seven days’ notice under the agreement signed by tenants and the previous owner, we have given tenants as much notice as possible and provided them with a list of storage facilities in the surrounding areas’.
‘We have also confirmed availability of approximately 130 vacant storage units in a facility 45 minutes’ drive away in Southport to assist tenants with short-term storage space’.
Meanwhile, local MP Tamara Smith (Greens) says she is willing to assist ACE storage customers who are finding it difficult to move in the short timeframe.
She said, ‘The developer is following the law, and the law sucks. If you are caught up in this, reach out to my office: Phone 6686 7522 or email [email protected]’.