It pays to question council charges
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