It pays to ques­tion coun­cil charges

Townsville Bulletin - - Investor - with Tony Rag­gatt

WHEN it comes to pay­ing coun­cil in­fra­struc­ture charges, it pays to hag­gle.

This is the moral of the story of one Townsville cou­ple who set up a bed and break­fast busi­ness at their home at Al­li­ga­tor Creek.

Home owner He­len Holmes wrote to the Bul­letin this week, telling of their ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter this news­pa­per high­lighted the case of gym­na­sium op­er­a­tor Snap Fit­ness, be­ing quoted an in­fra­struc­ture charges bill of about $ 240,000 to es­tab­lish a 24-hour gym at a Thuringowa Cen­tral build­ing – charges which have since been ne­go­ti­ated down to about $ 30,000.

Ms Holmes said the whole process ap­peared ar­bi­trary.

‘‘ We ap­plied to coun­cil to open a bed and break­fast in our own home, sim­ply us­ing two of our four bed­rooms and re­quir­ing no changes or con­struc­tion at all,’’ she said.

They paid $ 1500 for a ma­te­rial change of use ap­pli­ca­tion and about $ 500 for a food han­dlers’ li­cence.

Their ap­pli­ca­tion, which pre­dates the cur­rent full user pays sys­tem, was ap­proved but they were asked to pay about $ 8000 as a con­tri­bu­tion for guests’ use of roads and wa­ter.

Much of it was for wa­ter head­works but it in­cluded a Break­wa­ter road net­work con­tri­bu­tion for use of roads in the Break­wa­ter precinct.

Ms Holmes was told they could pay about $ 500 for a re­view through a ne­go­ti­ated de­ci­sion no­tice.

‘‘ There was no way we could af­ford to pay the full ($ 8000) levy so we re­luc­tantly paid for an ap­peal in the hope that the levy would be re­duced,’’ she said.

They were gob­s­macked to find the levy waived in full.

‘‘ How many peo­ple have been com­pletely put off by these levies and, more im­por­tantly, how many have just paid these ex­or­bi­tant and to­tally un­jus­ti­fied charges?’’ she said.

She had since heard set­ting up B& Bs in Bris­bane was done through self-as­sess­ment with no charges and that there were many op­er­at­ing in that area but very few in Townsville.

A coun­cil spokesman said the ne­go­ti­a­tion over the charges was part of the process and that it was im­pos­si­ble to have a pre­scribed charge for ev­ery­thing.

‘‘ There are no two ap­pli­ca­tions which are the same,’’ the spokesman said.

‘‘ The size, im­pact, lo­ca­tion – there are so many dif­fer­ent vari­ables, it can’t be chis­elled in stone.’’

In the Holmes’ case, the coun­cil ac­knowl­edged the points they made and no charges were levied.

WAIVED: Bed and break­fast op­er­a­tor He­len Holmes bat­tled coun­cil and won

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