THE owner of a building on the Airlie Beach main street is seeking advice from planning lawyers about a dispute with Whitsunday Regional Council over the use of his first floor deck.
Graham Stewart and his partner Peggie Cordner have owned the ‘Fusion’ building for about 12 years and recently decided to upgrade it, including the addition of a first floor deck, with additional seating for customers from the ground floor burger bar.
Mr Stewart said due to a dispute over parking fees about 10 years ago he was careful to approach Whitsunday Regional Council prior to committing to the re-build.
He claims he was promised all was ‘ok’.
“[But] then the thing was built and Council said we’ll give you approval for downstairs but not to open up the deck,” he said.
“I’ve been told [by Council] ‘if you have people up here with a burger we will close you down’.”
Mr Stewart said he had now been told to lodge an application for material change of use.
“But this deck was a new build – there was no change of use – it didn’t exist before,” he said.
He also said Council wanted $160,000 “before they’ll let us have people bring a hamburger upstairs”.
“And we have to pay $3000 just for Council to tell us yes or no.”
Mayor Jennifer Whitney claims Council’s planning department informed Mr Stewart in August, “prior to the redevelopment commencing, that the upstairs use of the deck would be limited to use by the adjoining hotel/motel rooms” and that it was now up to him whether to apply for a change of use or not.
Mr Stewart says he feels “conned”. “I got the impression when I first spoke to [Council] that because we were the first people to improve a building in the main street for quite some time, they were hoping other people would follow suit – well now I’d say you’d be mad to. We wish we’d spent our money somewhere else.”
Cr Whitney reitereated that Mr Stewart had been given guidance by Council’s planning department but said he was welcome to put his concerns in a formal letter to be considered by Council if he so wished.