Have City Council Planning and Development Laws Amended for Health and Fitness Businesses

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My name is Jon Okulicz and I am the owner of Epic Win PT – a Personal Training Studio in Newmarket. I have been operating in my area for almost 10 years.  Yes – I may not be in your area – but recent events have unfolded AGAIN and it is time someone stepped up made some changes in the way local councils view and assess valuable health and fitness services within the community.

1.       If you are a Personal Training, Yoga or Crossfit Facility – you are likely not zoned for the premises you operate from.

2.       If this is the case, your public indemnity insurance may in fact be void due to this.

The current zoning/development laws for the Brisbane City Council (and others) make incredibly hard both financially and from an approval perspective for a fitness business to set up in an industrial zone. The idea is that those areas need to be available for businesses of industry, manufacturing etc etc. The issue is, times have changed and so have the needs and desires of the community. Industrial and manufacturing businesses are no longer a plentiful or in dire need of city based premises. Leasing prices and the economy in general has created a shift in demand and now there is clear need for fitness related businesses to set up in these areas however, 99% of small fitness businesses do not go through the zoning process because of the huge financial cost, the strict and often outdated formulas and requirements the planning department of BCC demand and let’s go back to the financial cost in that even if a business paid tens of thousands of dollars, there is no guarantee they would be given approval.

 The cost to set up a PT or Yoga studio is in the tens of thousands of dollars and there is no guarantee to even get the approval. Then even more costs are required.. one such cost is per metre. Did you know that the cost per square metre for a gym is $150. As per the Brisbane City Council Website the extrapolated cost for setting up a McDonalds or KFC is less than $20 per square metre. As you can agree – one is about making our community fitter, healthier and thus a long term solution for reducing the burden on our health system.. and well.. the other isn’t. I don’t think I need to tell you which one that is.

 I spoke in Council Chambers on February 13th 2018 and was given a resounding “Hear Hear” from the Councillors present – only to have a generic “We aren’t going to do anything” response from City Planning Chairman, Julian Simmonds. Rather than addressing the issue as a whole, he chose to focus on my individual zoning situation – and while that is important to me – my email to his office and my speech to Council Chambers was quite clear in that my concerns and request for change affects all fitness related businesses across all 26 wards.

 The majority of fitness businesses do their best to fly under the radar and operate without the indoor sports and recreation zoning because of these costs and restrictions.

 From an insurance point of view, fitness businesses may in fact have their insurance voided due to not adhering to their policy that states that all council permits must be in place and complied with.

 It has been brought to my attention that the creation of a City Council taskforce is in it’s infancy. While this is good news, it does not help the people who are under investigation now.

 Rather than just having a tantrum and wanting someone else to fix this problem – I have come up with a number of steps to resolving these issues and thus strengthening small business and ultimately benefiting the community.

1.  Provide a hold action to all affected businesses until this issue can be fully investigated by this task force. A temporary local planning instrument would be a suitable approach to do this.

2. An internal audit on the existing zoning application procedures – the current rules, processes and formulas are not in line with the community anymore. They need to be amended.

3. A suitable and fair amendment would be to grant permission to use industrial properties under 400sqm without requiring a zoning permit. This could be done by providing an exemption/exclusion/exception call it what you will -  which would be a somewhat easier process than changing the laws. 

 My proposed solutions are sound and realistic. They are rough around the edges.. but I think we can all agree that my focus should remain on my own business and not becoming an expert in council matters. There is definitely room for improvement and I will gladly help council where allowed.

 A car manufacturer will freeze and recall a faulty car, here we have a council law that no longer functions correctly or at all. The council’s current approach is reactive and the stance is that changing laws is really hard *Shrug*… and thus the poorly fitted wheel on this bus continues to go round and round. Council knows the vast majority of fitness businesses aren’t zoned correctly – so if that is the case, amend the zoning requirements to reflect this.

 We just saw the law be changed so that same sex couples can marry. Laws are important – but laws can and should change when it is appropriate and when it is in the best interest of the community. This is one of those times and furthermore, these laws are no longer representative of what the community wants or needs.

 If you are an owner, employee or client and member of a local small fitness business, I urge you to sign this petition and show City Councils that health and fitness related services are vital to the community and that it’s time that they recognised that it is time for them to stop making excuses and get their laws into shape (see what I did there?).

 



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