Mullumbimby residents are outraged and puzzled that Byron shire planners have recommended approving a controversial block of five flats in the town’s Station Street after the developer made some minor amendments to address bulk, scale and privacy.
In September last year, councillors, at their first meeting after being elected, rejected the staff’s recommended refusal and instead voted to allow them to negotiate with the developer to address those issues.
But residents say the revised plan, which councillors will vote on this Thursday, is still ‘ugly’, with minor ‘tinkering’ of the plan failing to allay their fears of creeping overdevelopment in their street.
More than 320 people have signed a petition in protest against the plan.
Originally, the staff report on the plan was scathing of the design quality of the proposed building for 27–29 Station Street, 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.
Planners at the time said the views from each of the elevated balconies looked straight down into neighbours’ homes and yards, which amounted to ‘a severe loss of privacy’ for neighbours.
Chief planner Ray Darney in his report says the privacy issue had now been addressed by the developer introducing ‘privacy screens’ along the length of the northern side of the balconies.
But Mr Darney said the revised design was ‘still bulky in appearance’ which would be ‘comparatively larger scale’ to existing residential development on the western side of Station Street.
‘Notwithstanding the above the revised plans have improved the design quality of the building via the inclusion of a number architectural features, a minor reduction to the bulk and variations to the proposed building materials,’ Mr Darney said.
But residents are not happy and have lobbied councillors to reject the plan. They say it’s still far too bulky in appearance and larger in scale than surrounding houses, does not respect the heritage of the town, is totally unsympathetic to the streetscape and inconsistent with a number of planning policies.
Neighbours claim the ‘highly obtrusive and extremely dominating’ building would spoil their street, and was the ‘sort of development one would expect in a crowded central location of a major city, not a small rural town such as Mullumbimby’.
Immediate neighbour Simone Ormsby fears approval of the block of flats will set a precedent and that ‘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’.
It’s been over a year since the controversial Woolworths supermarket was built in Station Street opposite the two lots of land, one of them vacant, where the block of units is proposed to be built.
The latest plan will involve demolition of an old house, and has many thinking a domino effect of over development will destroy the quiet, single home character of their street.
A number of properties along the street are heritage listed, such as No 33, and residents say that even Woolworths had attempted to blend in with the ‘heritage’ theme of the street.
Town planner Paul De Fina said not all the plans were exhibited, therefore the project was unable to be properly assessed.
Mr De Fina said the plan did not even consider the town’s development control plan’s (DCP) specific objective to ensure new development complied with the town’s character.
In September, Cr Basil Cameron led the charge to keep the unpopular development alive, backed by mayor Simon Richardson and Crs Sol Ibrahim, Rose Wanchap and Paul Spooner.
Mullumbimby businesswoman Elenor Bartz is the person behind the proposal.