DEVELOPERS could be in line for huge cuts to the fees they pay Limerick council, the Limerick Leader can reveal.
Limerick City and County councillors are planning to cut the developer levy by up to 76% in some cases, in a move described by Cllr Cian Prendiville as "Donald Trump-style tax cuts".
But the council says the existing schemes do not reflect the current economic situation.
Its aim is to “strike a balance” between the funding of public infrastructure and a need to “encourage economic activity and promote sustainable job creation in the city centre”.
Under local authority law, developers must pay a set amount to the council upon receipt of planning permission.
The fees, governed by the size, scale and location of the development, normally go to support public services.
And early in 2017, members will be asked to renew this scheme and create a new plan to take in developments in both Limerick City and County, with the local authority saying: “From a review of both schemes, there were areas where great divergence and complexity was evident.”
”Examples include the way in which residential developments were charged, how extensions were treated, how the City and County schemes dealt with grant of permissions dealing with protected structures and the rates for apartment developments,” the council spokesperson said.
However, figures obtained by Cllr Prendiville show the cost of a developer for some projects may fall up to 75% from the existing fees.
The Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) member criticised councillors for adopting a "fawning" attitude to developers.
But Labour councillor Joe Leddin said the cuts are necessary to tackle he housing crisis, and ensure Limerick remains competitive.
Under the new scheme, a developer of an office block in the city centre would see their fees fall to less than a quarter of what they currently pay - from €1.05m to €350,000 if it gets the go-ahead.
Cllr Prendiville referenced Rudi Butler's proposed riverside development to illustrate this point.
A developer building an block of 100 fifty square-metre apartments would see their levy drop from €150,000 to €35,000.
The northside councillor, who sits on the economic committee which discussed the development contribution scheme, said: "The officials did not propose any cut in the levies for offices. It was only after right-wing councillors campaigned for it that it was cut. This cut alone would cost €4.5m."
He added: "The justification for these cuts does not stand up to scrutiny and the reality is they will only add to the profits of big developers increasing wealth inequality as well as meaning there is less money available to invest in important infrastructure in the city in particular."
These pieces of infrastructure, he said, include the proposed enhancement of Nicholas Street, the upgrade of Glentworth Street, improvements to Arthur's Quay and development of community centres.
He urged the council to "draw a line in the sand" and maintain the levies at the current rates.
But Cllr Leddin, a fellow member of the economic committee, said: "Limerick has a huge opportunity here to benefit from increased economic activity. We are strategically positioned as a city. We still have reasonably competitively priced housing, and we still have reasonably competitively priced office availability.
"What we need to do is continue we have an adequate supply. If we can incentivise investors to build more offices and more houses, we can hopefully create more employment opportunity and stimulate even greater activity in Limerick and the region.
A council spokesperson also pointed out that this new scheme reflects national policies on tackling the country’s housing crisis.
The closing date for submissions on the scheme has just passed, with these now being considered.