Council sounds air raid alert
CHARGING for the airspace above the footpath is Byron Shire Council's latest revenue-raising plan.
In a bid to boost its empty coffers, the council is considering charging businesses in the Byron Shire up to $300 per annum per square metre for the lease of balconies that overhang the footpath.
The idea has been around for almost a decade, but is back on the agenda as the council struggles to keep its budget in the black.
A report to yesterday's council meeting justified the charge by saying premises with balcony dining have an unfair advantage over their competitors who have footpath dining and pay $688 per square metre per annum.
“One prominent premise in Jonson St pays $16,000 per annum to council for footpath dining based on this rate, whereas its three competitors in this area of Jonson St who have restaurants on balconies pay no lease charges at all.”
The airspace charge would add up to more than $20,000 a year for the general manager of the Balcony Bar and Restaurant and Byron United Chamber of Commerce vice-president Paul Waters, who said it was “a grab for cash from businesses that can sorely afford to pay it”.
“You can't make retrospective decisions that effect people's lives and businesses like that,” he said.
“On new developments, maybe – if that was the case you know what you're getting into. But a game-changing event like this applied retrospectively is wrong and will be challenged at the highest level.”
Bangalow Chamber of Commerce president Michael Malloy said the idea was just another “greedy money-grubbing exercise”, and that most business owners with balconies were more likely to retreat from their balconies than pay the proposed fees.
In the Ballina Shire, an airspace fee is charged for the balcony of the Lennox Point Hotel. The Lismore and Richmond Valley council's do not currently charge airspace fees.