Parking laws 'stymie new businesses'
A BUILDING which was once the pride and joy of Murwillumbah is now partially empty and in danger of becoming a white elephant, according to some businesspeople in the town. They say the Post Office a part two-storey, part three-storey building is largely under-utilised because of strict council regulations on the provision of car parking if its use changes. Despite their assertion of vacant space being rejected by the building's owners, Australia Post, others who have been inside the rear of the building have confirmed the claims. When the building was opened in 1953 by then-Post Master General and federal Minister for Civil Aviation, Richmond MP H.R.L. Anthony, it had%minimal car parking and today's council regulations did not exist. The building provided a huge area for mail sorting which is now mostly done in the Murwillumbah industrial estate, and for telecommunications equipment which has been replaced by far-smaller computerised and digitalised technology. According to one businessman, that has left well over 1000 square metres of space which the nearby TAFE College had investigated using for classrooms. But the plan was quickly dropped when it was realised council regulations meant TAFE would be up for a small fortune in payments because a change of use required either the provision of car parking or payment to Tweed Shire Council for each missing parking space. "It's stupidity," said Murwillumbah and District Business Chamber chief Phil Youngblutt, speaking in place of business people who don't want to%endanger any future negotiations with council bureaucrats. "This can happen to any building in town. For instance if someone wants to change a shop to a restaurant they can be up for nearly $100,000 if they can't provide parking. "Rather than encouraging business into the town, they are making it impossible through idiotic regulation." Asked about the vacant space in the Post Office building, an Australia Post spokesperson said "all of the floor space in the Murwillumbah Post Office building is currently being utilised by Australia Post or is leased to external clients." A council spokesperson said when- ever the use of a building changed a%development application was required. "If more parking is required, the%applicant either provides the parking, or if they can't, pays a parking contribution. That contribution goes into the parking fund, where it is used by council to provide parking." While the council could not easily find an application on file regarding a proposal for use of the Post Office building by TAFE she said "a tertiary institution needs one car park per five students and 0.5 car parks per staff member."