Last week, the Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce held an information breakfast for the council to update whats been happening inside the Tucker Box. The GM Ken Grainger went through a number of recent activities of interest to the community. It provided a good overview of some changes soon to be seen in the Bay.
1. Paid Parking
The introduction of paid parking is viewed to be a success. It has raised $2.6M in the first year for council coffers. Locals can get the exemption by paying the $50 at council chambers for a year’s pass but still have to obey the time restrictions. In this way it is deemed to be a fair way to “tax” day visitors specifically. It is estimated that Byron now attracts around two million visitors a year. Wategos Beach is the next place to get parking metres and then, currently under investigation, Bangalow.
2. Byron Bay Master Plan
The parking metre revenue is first earmarked to upgrade Byron Street, which crosses Jonson Street at the clock tower. This street is planned to continue through and over the railway line to Butler Street and be the first area to utilise the unused railway line land and create access to Butler street and used for pedestrian access.
The car park around the Railway Friendly Bar, land owned by State Rail, is to be remodelled. They have budgeted to completely rebuild this area to include a park, lighting and seating, as well as more pedestrian access to Butler Street. There is apparently enough room within the old railway track land to move the Farmers Market onto this strip of land. The old Country Link station is to be converted into a social industry/business incubator space. Rail advocates can be assured that the train tracks are not be removed and will stay in situ ready if ever a light rail option is reintroduced.
These are the first items of business for the approved Byron Bay Master Plan, which has received extensive community consultation. The other area also on the drawing board is the Main Beach Surf Lifesaving Club House. Club members and the council are in discussion with master plan committee on plans to rebuild the clubhouse, which is on crown land.
After much discussion but very little consensus, council is proceeding with raising the rates, albeit to the lowest of the three options. This means our rates will rise by 7.5% accumulative over the next four years. In 2021 our total rate increase will be 33.5%. Council is also planning to introduce rate charges on the “capital improved value”. At present, rates are charged only on the Office of State Revenue value of the land only. Their argument is that a rate valuation on the “improved” land value will be fairer. For example a long term resident in an unimproved original cottage is not paying the same rates as the next-door neighbour who has built a multi million-dollar mansion.
4. Byron Bay Arts and Industry Estate.
The popular, and almost full, Byron Bay Arts and Industry Estate is under revision. Council staff are doing an audit of all small businesses there. (You would be amazed at some of the weird and wonderful activity going on down there). The architecture department of the University of Queensland have volunteered to provide some concepts. Watch this space.
5. The Bypass
The Butler Street Bypass is currently tied up in the Land and Environment Court. A few of the Butler Street residents are fighting the decision to proceed. Council are ready to start and it is designed and costed. Many of the master plan concepts cannot be rolled out, like minimising vehicle usage along Jonson Street, until this piece of the puzzle is completed.
6. Ewingsdale Road upgrade
The main road into Byron from the Pacific Highway is planned to be a dual carriageway all the way. However, it has met with some problems. The new hospital built the roundabout to enter their hospital car park opposite The Farm. Unfortunately they decided to do a single lane roundabout and that will have to be expanded at councils expense, as well as purchasing land from the Farm.
The next roundabout under construction on Ewingsdale Road will be at the Sunrise Boulevard junction. Council’s preference would have been for it to be at the Bayshore Drive corner, which is often congested getting out of Bayshore Drive to turn right. The powers that be at state level decided to do the Sunrise Blvd entrance first as it has had a number of accidents and therefore deemed a black spot.
Also – Affordable Housing Summit
Last month council held an affordable housing summit at the Cavanbah Sports Field on Ewingsdale Road. The event was well attended and the quality of the guest speakers was very high. I attended as a cynic and was expecting yet another empty talk fest. I was wrong. There was seriously strong information provided, very well organised and was outcome focused. A big elephant stamp for Paul Spooner who spear headed it and Simon Richardson, the other councillors and staff who made it happen. Lets hope we get some good affordable housing options happening soon