Dún Laoghaire votes for controversial BID scheme

Council told 138 business unit are vacant in the town and businesses continue to close

A view of Carlisle Pier in Dún Laoghaire. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

A view of Carlisle Pier in Dún Laoghaire. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 08:53

Dún Laoghaire’s controversial business plan to rejuvenate the town with a mandatory levy charge from ratepayers was voted in by councillors last night.

The strongly-debated Business Improvement District (BID) scheme was passed as 24 voted in favour and three against during the meeting at Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown County Council chambers.

The scheme, which aims to boost trade through the struggling main street, will operate from April 1st for five years.

At the centre of the debate was an extra compulsory levy for traders calculated at 3 per cent of their current rates, which would bring in about €250,000 per year to be used on projects.

The proposal would see local businesses form a limited company that would be self- funded to manage the town’s commercial affairs.

When the deadline for the ratepayers vote on the proposal closed last month, 51 per cent of the 805 ballot papers issued were returned to be counted.

The scheme was passed with 215 votes (55 per cent) to 178 against.

Independent councillor Victor Boyhan said he voted against the proposal because the turnout of the plebiscite vote reflected a lack of certainty among businesses.

“I, like everyone else, want this proposal to succeed.”

“But I don’t believe this is the answer for Dun Laoghaire problems at this time.”

Mr Boyhan said 138 business units were vacant in the town and businesses continued to close.

“There are traders that are saying they can’t pay and won’t pay,” he said.

“This is a tax and why are council becoming the tax collector?”

Mr Boynan said he was the target of abuse because he spoke out against the scheme.

“If someone stands up and questions something are you suddenly a bad person?” he said.

Martin O’Byrne, vice-chairman of Dún Laoghaire Business Association who submitted the proposal, said he was relieved the proposal had been passed.

“We’re very happy that it could be a new start for Dún Laoghaire,” he said.

Mr O’Byrne said the group did not expect the proposal to divide the business community.

“I’m amazed at the division it caused. But we intend to work at getting us all working together,” he said.

“Without a shadow of a doubt we need this. The town is not sustainable at the moment.”

Mr O’Byrne said “it was yet to be sorted” who would deal with rate payers who refused to be the levy and what would be done to encourage payment.

The council would impose and collect the levy but then transfer the money to the BID company as income.

A council spokesman said they would not take legal action against those who would not pay the levy and it would be a matter for the BID company.

The board would have one member selected by elected council and another by the county manager.

Labour councillor Jane Dillon Byrne was nominated and accepted to be an elected representative.

Dúnlaoghaire- Rathdown Ratepayers Association chairman Peter Kerrigan, who strongly opposed the proposal, said he was unhappy with the result and did not believe the scheme would help ratepayers.

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