COMMERCIAL ratepayers in the Nowra CBD have issued a challenge to Shoalhaven City Council to equalise rates with businesses at South Nowra and Flinders Estate.
Property owner James Caldwell and Real Estate agent Scott Baxter are leading the charge to reduce the CBD commercial rates and have the money raised by those rates spent on improvements to the business district.
Mr Caldwell said the 384 tenants in the Nowra CBD were paying an average of $5000 per year in rates, compared to commercial ratepayers outside the CBD who pay $1600 per year.
“This is encouraging business people to leave the CBD,” he said.
“If council charged other commercial ratepayers $600 per year more each the rates in the CBD could drop by $1600.
“The biggest businesses in the city are at South Nowra and Flinders Estate so why don’t they pay bigger rates. Or at least closer rates to the CBD?
“Areas outside the CBD have more car parking and better access. It is time for a reality check.”
Mr Caldwell said he had challenged council to revise all commercial rates and look at extending to the CBD rates to include other areas.
“We are also calling on council to spend all the Nowra CBD rates in the CBD,” he said.
“Finally, we would like a five-year trial of a CBD management committee to allocate and manage those funds.”
The businessmen said they were only referring to the commercial rate, not residential, and acknowledged rates had been a legacy of past councils not the current one.
They suggested council trial the model used by Port Macquarie where a committee manages the rates money and allocates it to the CBD.
Arnold and Annie Aldous own Aquatique Surf Store in Junction Street and pay almost $10,000 per year in rates.
“We are paying about five times what the businesses pay at South Nowra and it’s not just bulky goods out there anymore.
“We just want to be on an equal footing,” he said.
Mr Aldous said in the immediate-term he would like council to least put some signage on the highway directing people to the CBD,” he said.
Mr Baxter’s main issue was he could not see where the money was being spent in the CBD.
“Council collects more than $1.6 million from the CBD each year. Imagine if that money was spent in the CBD,” he said.
“What is the mayor doing about these high rates and the empty shopfronts.
“She says this town is open for business but the high rates are smashing the local business centre.
“Council spends $180,000 per year on promotions for the CBD. I think we should stop putting that toward promotions and put it toward the CBD. Spend it improving the park area at the top of Egans Lane car park – make that area nice so people can sit there and enjoy it.”