'Excessive' rates could cost Lismore its future
THE costs of doing business in Lismore are too high due to excessive business rates which are driving away potential jobs and prosperity, a real estate agent claims.
LJ Hooker agent Paul Deegan is adamant Lismore Council's decision to raise commercial rates will cost the town its business future unless changes are made.
He said the average business rates were over $8000 per commercial property.
"They are higher than anywhere in regional Australia," he said.
"We have 300 business owners paying for the $2 million council gets from Lismore business rates and this is not sustainable."
Mr Deegan said council needs a business consultant and if they want a viable CBD in Lismore, they have to "get real" about rates.
"If this was a business and you were the CEO you'd get sacked," he said.
"Government department are not staying here, they are going elsewhere as they say our rates are 25 to 30 per cent higher," he said.
Mr Deegan who is on the board for the Lismore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the LCCI has had several meetings with council, but to no avail.
"A leading commercial property owner I know said he was asked for six months free rent and a 20 per cent rent cut or the tenant would go elsewhere - and they got it," he said.
"Lismore council's main charter is roads, rates and rubbish and if they get this right then well and good, but they are not."
A former chairman of the Real Estate Institute, Northern Rivers Branch, Mr Deegan warned Lismore would continue to lose out to other towns as its commercial rates scared away potential tenants in the government and business sectors.
When he faced Lismore Council on Tuesday night, Mr Deegan strove to make the councillors understand the seriousness of the CBD situation.
Mr Deegan spoke passionately against the draft operation plan to save the CBD and asked any councillors to raise their hand if they owned a commercial property.
When no hands were raised, he nodded.
"As I thought, I'll try and give you commercial property 101," he said.
"Commercial properties have all sat still and are not worth selling as they struggle to get a tenant."
Mr Deegan said his own building on Woodlark St was a good case in point to illustrate falling commercial vales.
"The Valuer-General has dropped the value on my commercial property - land only - by 4 per cent from $212,000 in 1998 to $204,000 in 2017," he said.
"Meanwhile, the average price of a residential block has gone up 200 per cent."
An industry source suggested the Westlawn Building on corner and Molesworth and Woodlark streets paid around $65,000 in business rates annually.
Mr Deegan said he felt Lismore City Council could save money by shedding excess and unessential staff.