Creeping over-development of Mullumbimby’s Station Street is what residents feared when they lost the battle to stop a Woolworths supermarket from being built there.
Now just over a year since the supermarket was built, a controversial plan for a two-storey block of five flats, involving demolition of an old house, has many thinking a domino effect in development has started in earnest, putting the whole character of their street at risk.
More than 100 residents fear it will happen and have vowed to fight it, signing a petition against the development.
And Byron Shire planners agreed with residents that the proposed medium-density unit development of numbers 27–29 Station Street, opposite the new supermarket, is way too bulky and out of scale, which would destroy the street’s character and ruin neighbours’ privacy.
But the new council last week voted to reject that advice and defer considering the plan to enable further talks with the developer to resolve concerns over bulk, scale and privacy.
The move by Cr Basil Cameron was backed by mayor Simon Richardson and Crs Sol Ibrahim, Rose Wanchap and Paul Spooner.
The staff report on the plan is scathing of the design quality of the proposed building, saying it has ‘a single wall plane extending a length of 42.5 metres, which is bulky and austere in appearance’, and a height of almost nine metres.
The views from each of the elevated balconies look straight down into neighbours’ homes and yards, which staff say is ‘a severe loss of privacy’.
Resident Simone Ormsby, who lives with her family next door at No 31, couldn’t agree more, saying the development over both blocks would impact on the overall look and appeal of the street.
‘A number of properties along the street are heritage listed, such as No 33, and even the Woolworths opposite has attempted to blend in with the “heritage” theme of the street with their “heritage-style brickwork and recycled timber façade”,’ Ms Ormsby told Echonetdaily.
‘There is nothing in the street like this proposal and, as a consequence, it will be highly obtrusive and extremely dominating in appearance by comparison. This is the sort of development one would expect in a crowded central location of a major city, not a small rural town such as Mullumbimby.’
Ms Ormsby, a local acupuncturist, said an existing single-storey building of five units at No 39 Station Street ‘is by far the most unattractive dwelling in the street’.
She said it ‘spoils the overall street appeal by breaking up a continuum of original-condition or lovingly restored old Mullumbimby homes in both directions either side’.
‘The current proposed development would be much worse than this, with the same number of flats, but with the extra level adding further insult.
‘To make matters worse, new flood-level requirements mean it will be even higher than usual, making this building an eyesore and a monstrosity.’
Ms Ormsby fears approval of the block of flats will set a precedent ‘by which this style of housing may pop up all over Mullumbimby, or perhaps the entire Byron Shire, potentially adjacent to lovely heritage or older-style houses, spoiling the appeal and charm of this great town and wonderful shire’.
Ms Ormsby says the Woolies truck-loading bay opposite her home had already spoilt the appeal of her property, as well as the value, and a block of flats next door would exacerbate that, adding ‘insult to injury’.
The height of the proposed building, she said, would ‘shade my sunny garden and block out large amounts of sun all the way down the length of the block’.
She also fears too many cars from the development would add extensive noise, pollution and light disturbance at night.
Ms Ormsby said the ‘peace and serenity’ of her clinic was already often disturbed by noise from the Woolworths loading bay, and the block of flats would make it worse.
With a planner’s recommendation for refusal, why on earth are the councillors mucking about with this mamby-pamby “discussions with developers”? Almost nine metres tall? A 42.5 metre continuous wall plane next to single storey urban bungalows?
Only a major redesign could possibly lead to an acceptable solution. That means refusal, not compromise.
First hurdle…….. face full of dirt.