$34M hotel rejected: 'City style trying to impose itself'
A PROPOSAL for a major hotel and event space in Byron Bay has been knocked back.
The Northern Regional Planning Panel met via teleconference this evening to determine the fate of the $33.93 million development proposed by Mercato on Byron Pty Ltd for the old Woolworths premises at 98-106 Jonson St.
That property neighbours the existing Mercato shopping centre.
Through the DA, Mercato was seeking approval for the demolition of the old Woolworths building and construction of a 146-room hotel, function centre and retail premises.
Before considering the DA itself, the planning panel was required to decide whether it would allow variations to height restrictions and floor space ratio rules.
After a brief adjournment, the panel's chairman Paul Mitchell returned to the meeting at 7.15pm to confirm they would not proceed to the next stage.
Mr Mitchell said the maximum height variation was allowed in a 4-1 vote, but the request to alter floor space ratios was unanimously declined.
The panel found the latter request was "inconsistent" with several planning objectives, that there were "insufficient environmental planning grounds" and it would "not be in the public interest".
Speaking for Community Alliance Byron Shire, Jan Barham had told the panel the variations sought were "absolutely unacceptable".
Byron councillor Cate Coorey, who spoke on behalf of Byron Residents Group, argued the requests were "unjustified".
"I feel this is a thin end of the wedge with regard to using a concession for one building to then leverage that," she said.
"These things are in fact precedent-setting.
"The precedent goes against virtually every planning control and the will of the community."
One resident, who spoke on behalf of Mary Gardner, said the proposal would "bring an end to Byron's appeal".
"It's unfortunate city style trying to impose itself on country towns," he said.
"They talk about sustainability in their glossy brochures but it's a white wash of something far from being sustainable and being sustaining of Byron Bay.
"They've had greater aspirations than square metres."
Another speaker said the town had seen a "gradual erosion of standards in planning" over the years.
"If the developer can't make money on his site within the rules, that's the developer's problem," he said.
Liam Campbell from planning firm Urbis addressed the panel on behalf of Mercato.
He argued the proposed departure from planning rules was "minor in nature".
"We acknowledge it is a low rise environment and we seek to maintain that," Mr Campbell said.
Mr Campbell said the precinct of Jonson and Lawson Sts was "a very active and very vibrant urban environment", one the proponent argued would be enhanced by the proposal.
As the second variation was not supported by the panel, they did not consider the DA.