Somerset Councillors have made the decision to make rates concessions based on compassionate grounds.
Somerset Councillors have made the decision to make rates concessions based on compassionate grounds.

‘Compassionate grounds’ rates cuts given to businesses

AS MANY are doing it tough due to the many disasters that have affected the region in recent months, the Somerset Regional Council has had to deal with many requests to reduce or rebate rates.

 

CEASED DEVELOPMENT

One such application was received from Face Investments, which owns three properties in Lowood, which had been the subject of a development application for a subdivision into 73 Lots.

Since 2013, the three properties have been classified as "banked development land", and rated accordingly, but the owners cancelled the DA in April this year.

However, as rates were issued on February 25 - when the development permit was still in effect - the properties were still in the higher rating category, which prompted the owner to write to council asking for a reduction.

The recommendation made to councillors was to provide no rebate, but Cr Robert Whalley argued that council had a duty to show kindness during this difficult time.

"In this period we're in, where everyone is doing it tough, we need to have sympathy," Cr Whalley said.

READ MORE: Council's rates amid lowest in region for third year running

"I know we have rules and regulations, but as councillors we can also make decisions on compassionate grounds."

Councillors unanimously voted to approve a rating reduction on hardship grounds, granting a concession of 62 per cent - the difference between the original rates levied and the rates that would have been applicable if the properties had been in the lower rating category.

Despite his approving vote, Cr Sean Choat also spoke out against the email sent by Face Investments.

"If you look at their letter, they've referred to us as the Scenic Rim Council," he said.

"If they want to communicate, they could at least get it right. It's kind of insulting, if I'm being honest."

 

ACCOMMODATION RATES CUT

A similar application was received jointly from the owners of the Esk Caravan Park and Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Motel, requesting a 100 per cent waiver on rates.

Councillors were wary of the request, noting that several comparable businesses such as the Lowood and Kilcoy caravan parks had already paid their rates in full in April, and the report's recommendation once again stated that no rebate should be given to either business.

However, councillors also noted the Esk Caravan Park was larger then the other sites, and was in a separate rating category.

Cr Robert Whalley argued consideration should be given to how much the caravan park had supported the community during the years.

READ MORE: Council reveals how it will handle rates during pandemic

"This company is very invested in economic growth, is heavily invested in our region, and involved in promoting the rail trail," he said.

"They've been heavily impacted by COVID-19, so I'd like to propose we change the recommendation."

He said he felt a 100 per cent rebate was too much, but suggested a concession of 25 per cent would be a strong show of support.

"It's not a full rebate, they would have done well over the Christmas and new years break, but in February, March and April they would have struggled," he said.

"About half of the business is permanent residents, so that wouldn't have been affected."

Cr Sean Choat agreed that a concession was necessary, but argued a greater reduction of up to 50 per cent was more appropriate.

"One thing our region struggles with is accommodation for visitors and tourists, and this business provides that," he said.

"They invest heavily in quality, and promote other businesses in town as well. This business has done everything we ask a local business to do."

He said the presence of permanent residents was part of the reason why they needed to give serious consideration to a "drastic reduction" of rates for the caravan park.

"If this business goes under, there'll be impacts on those permanent residents, and on the businesses the current owners support," he said.

"Most people in business are proud people, they're not looking for handouts. They haven't made the decision to write to us lightly."

Councillors elected to provide a class concession of 25 per cent for all property owners in rating category 37 (Land used for providing 30 to 39 Multi Residential Units) from January 1, to June 30, with one vote against.



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