Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens volunteers have welcomed a council decision that will save $85,000 in fees.
Council interim administrator Viv May has determined not-for-profit and community organisations will no longer pay development application (DA) fees for projects on council land.
At a meeting on June 9, the Wingecarribee Shire Council adopted the formal position that all DA fees for activities requiring development consent on council owned or controlled land for not-for-profit and community organisations be waived.
Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens director Chris Webb said the decision would save them $85,000 in fees for a proposed visitors' centre.
Mr Webb explained the council had previously offered a 50 per cent refund, but "it was always a challenge to get the money back".
He said it sometimes took more than 12 months for the refund to be processed.
In addition, the fees had to be paid upfront which made it difficult for the organisation to apply for government grants.
Mr Webb said the new policy was brought into motion when the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens approached the council to discuss the fees.
The proposed visitors' centre will contain a cafe, conference area, gallery, break-out rooms, and a shop.
Mr Webb said the building would be a "centrepiece" for the garden.
"It's a lovely building, designed with the idea of a conservatory which has enough room to generate ongoing income," he said.
"The visitors' centre will become a hub for East Bowral."
Mr May said DA fees for community focused organisations were "a huge issue" and "something that we are now going to fix".
"The council has to make it easier, not harder for residents in preparing those documents," he said.
"That's no reflection on the staff, it's just the reality of the place we find ourselves in.
"Unfortunately, we cant do much about the necessity for development applications, they're state government matters.
"The botanic gardens in Bowral were up for huge fees, I don't understand why a council would charge fees to a community based organisations when in reality the assets will become the council's assets."
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