Council says 'air tax' is nothing new
UPDATE 1.30pm: AN AIR tax has been in the works for a while, Byron Shire Council have said in response to outrage over tax on pubs and restaurants who serve customers on a balcony.
In a meeting on December 15 2015, Byron Shire Council resolved to progress amendments to the 'Road Airspace Policy' to accord with a 'Roads Act approval' process, for road airspace used commercially.
Byron Shire Council's Director of Sustainable Economy & Environment, Shannon Burt, said the policy has been in place since 2012 and is in line with what other Council's in NSW currently require.
"These amendments seek to change the current methodology in the policy used of acquiring a lease for airspace use to a Roads Act approval process. The latter being a less expensive and simpler process for property owners," Ms Burt said.
Ms Burt said letters which "advised of the proposed amendments" were sent to property owners listed in the December report, prior to placing the amendments to the policy on public exhibition.
She said the letters also "invited the property owners to meet with Council to discuss the changes and Council's resolution".
Council were reported to have again written to business owners advising them the amended policy and the Draft for 2017-18 Fees and Charges were on public exhibition.
Ms Burt said the exhibition allowed owners to consider the impact on their business.
Road airspace was stated as "the encroachment that occurs where any part of a building projects beyond the lot boundaries onto the Council road reserve", including but not limited to balconies and awnings.
Council have stated the purpose of the Policy "is to ensure that road airspace that is controlled by Council is managed effectively" and mentioned the specific concerns:
- Ensuring structures over Council footpaths are safe and properly constructed
- Ensuring structures over Council footpaths are properly maintained and remain aesthetically pleasing
- Minimising Council's public liability risk
- Ensuring that those who wish to profit from the use of public space, pay for that privilege
- Providing guidance to property owners considering erecting structures over footpath
- Ensuring consistency in approvals
A report is to be presented to Council on the exhibition of the amendments to the Road Airspace Policy at the meeting on June 22.
The amended policy is on exhibition from 18 May to 15 June 2017.
All information is available on Council's web site.
FRIDAY 12pm: SMALL business owners could be slugged for thousands of dollars a year to have a balcony under the Byron Shire Council's proposed 'air tax'.
Owner of The Middle Pub in Mullumbimby, Brenden Lawless, said the proposed tax came as a complete shock.
"It (the letter) was completely out of the blue and now I'm looking at more than $20,000 a year to hold this beautiful balcony in place which has been here since 1904," Mr Lawless said.
Mr Lawless is just one business owner in the wider Byron Shire Council area who faces paying the new 'air tax'.
Under the proposal, the council will tax pubs, restaurants and cafe owners if their building has a verandah or deck.
Mr Lawless said he would be charged $166 per sq metre, but that's the "lower end" of the charges.
The Balcony Bar are set to cop a tax of $552 per sq metre.
Mr Lawless said he was "devastated" the council has come up with this concept, adding a substantial fee on top of the "incredible" cost paid each year to maintain the pub.
"The area is so beautiful because of these old buildings... I pay $100,000 a year to maintain the workings and aesthetics of the pub, as well as a liability tax," he said.
Mr Lawless disagreed it was a safety issue and said, "I pay the public liability insurance, not them, so what are they worried about."
Mr Lawless obtained ownership four years ago but this is the first time he's ever heard of a 'leasing of airspace' tax for the pub.
Byron Shire Council's initial letter stating the concept was received by the business mid March, and a second was received in May stating the tax was going ahead, reportedly with no consultation to business owners.
Mr Lawless said Byron Bay Mayor had previously agreed to meet with him over the issue, but they have yet to meet.
And with the public submission date looming, there is a week left for them to discuss the issue.
Abandoning the use of the verandah(s) isn't an option: the pub is heritage listed.
"I've thought about this logically...they are talking about a tax that is void," Mr Lawless said.
He noted while he thinks the council are great at what they do, he is baffled by this concept and thinks "there are better ways to create revenue".
"I am hoping council will drop the issue... if they pursue this, it will end up in court," he said.
The Middle Pub Licensee Greg Buckman said the tax will hurt the community.
"We'll have to put our prices up to cover the costs... they should be charging the tourists, for example bed tax...(but instead) for us, all of a sudden it's a huge slug," Mr Buckman said.