By CLARE COLLEY
ORANGE City Council could reverse a decision it made to force ratepayers to foot the bill for extra parking for new businesses, less than two weeks after the policy was changed.
Under the new policy, businesses that change the use of a building no longer have to pay anything towards providing more parking to cope with increased demand.
Cr Ron Gander has dubbed the funds lost from the change as a “black hole” for council, despite being one of the councillors who voted for the new policy on November 6.
The money collected from change-of-use parking contributions made up about 32 per cent of council funds to create new parking spaces.
It will now be taken from council’s general funds.
The situation often arises when buildings are changed from offices to shops.
Resident Robert Meers said it was unfair for ratepayers to pay for extra parking needed when new businesses open.
“It’s not the ratepayers that should be paying, it’s the people that are using the store,” he said.
“It should be costed into [the business’s] expenses.”
At Tuesday’s council meeting Cr Gander admitted he made an error in voting to scrap parking contributions for change of use.
“I may have made the situation that created difficultly for council, but the other delegates voted for it as well,” he said.
Mr Meers said he was concerned that a major retailer such as Target could purchase an existing building in the CBD and not pay any contributions towards creating more car spaces.
“It will probably encourage more people to take over existing buildings, but that means that the parking in Orange is going to be more congested,” he said.
“We need more parking, but where is the money going to come from?”
Cr Gander pushed for a review of all council’s parking policies and charges in the central business district, fringe areas and residential areas that are affected by businesses.
Mayor John Davis declared an interest at the previous meeting and did not vote on the policy change.
He said parking contributions were a complicated problem and was pleased it would be reviewed.
“I have said I will not support it coming out of ratepayers’ general funds,” he said.
Staff are now set to brief the councillors on the new policy to explain its implementation, despite the policy already being changed.
A public forum into parking will also be held.
The dates of both are yet to be decided.
In a report to council, development services director David Waddell raised concerns council could take a “potentially extreme” financial hit if businesses that had paid contributions under the previous policy demanded refunds.
On Tuesday councillors agreed to clarify the new policy to ensure only applications made after November 7 would be exempt from paying parking contributions.