Tree of Heaven - a straggly plant that fills the air with the most gorgeous perfume during hot summer nights. It is a self-seeding weed & the birds continue the spread of this plant when they eat the berries

This post has nothing to do with trees, but I believe it is of interest in light of the fact that Marrickville LGA is about to undergo quite substantial high-rise development.

In 2002 Council decided to create a new rate of ‘rates’ to apply to large shopping centres like Marrickville Metro.  It charged Marrickville Metro the new ‘rate,’ higher than the rate that applies to homes & smaller businesses.

The company paid the new rate each year, but in 2008 objected & took the case to the Land & Environment Court. The court ruled in Marrickville Council’s favour.  The company appealed to the NSW Court of Appeal.  It argued the new rate should be overruled on a raft of grounds such as: Council had failed to comply with various sections of the Local Government Act, the rate was unfair, the rate was targeting only one site (Marrickville Metro), the 2002 & subsequent decisions about the new rate were manifestly unreasonable, the rate was imposed for improper purpose, the rate was discriminatory, some Councillors who voted in favour of the rate were biased.

On 24th June 2010, the 3 judges of the NSW Court of Appeal dismissed every ground of the company’s appeal. At paragraph 198 of the judgment Justice John Basten put it beautifully & succinctly, where he wrote:  In many respects the company’s submissions “were simply untenable” & its arguments “were largely misconceived.”

The General Manager’s report in 2002 that examined the rationale for the higher ‘rate’ said:

Council may wish to consider the following factors:

  • Larger shopping centres may attract additional traffic to the LGA & may concentrate traffic emanating from within the LGA placing a proportionately greater pressure on existing road & footpath infrastructure than other shopping configurations.
  • Larger shopping centres attract larger retailers who are more likely to draw from a wider employment pool than that available within the LGA. Small shops along shopping strips & local businesses may be more likely to employ local staff enhancing local employment & local economic prosperity.
  • Council may determine that the rate to be applied to shopping strips should be proportionately less than that applying to larger shopping areas to promote the survival of shopping strips. Apart from the more obvious issue of maintaining the economic vitality of local businesses, this action would support the following Council initiatives:

– Mainstreet strategies to promote local business

– Streetscape works designed to enhance the look & feel of shopping areas

– Community Safety objectives which are enhanced when people are attracted to prosperous, pleasant, well lit, local shopping areas

– Access for the elderly to shopping facilities particularly where car transport is not available.

  • Enhancing the economic viability of suburban businesses may assist in maintaining the individual character of shopping & business zones within the Marrickville LGA. This would reflect the cultural, social & economic needs of the diverse range of residents within these areas & may help promote the unique characteristics of the Marrickville Council area from a tourist perspective.”

This is a landmark decision. Well done Marrickville Council.  Businesses & developments are getting bigger & bigger, bringing increasing pressure on public infrastructure & impacts on the community that Council ultimately needs to pay for. It would be nice if the JRPP keep the above points in the General Manager’s report  at the forefront of their mind when considering applications for new large developments.

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