Lismore City councillors last night voted to spend more than $400,000 of recent federal funding to shading a CBD car park instead of the staff-recommended redevelopment of Lismore Park.
The controversial decision was opposed only by Crs Isaac Smith and Ray Houston.
Earlier this week it was announced in local media that council staff had recommended the remodelling of Lismore Park as the preferred option.
Councillors said they were ‘deeply conflicted’ and ‘challenged’ as it came down to supporting shading for the CBD car park or continuing to see summer shoppers vacate the city centre for undercover Lismore Square.
In the end, council decided to back the CBD traders over putting the relatively modest amount towards work on the park.
Cr Neil Marks struggled not to choose Lismore Park because of his role as chair of the Sports and Recreation Advisory Group.
‘In my position I know an awful lot about the long term planning and consultation that has been put into Lismore Park, the hopes and dreams about why it will make this a destination,’ Cr Marks said.
‘I have no problems with the design and I hope it will get up.
‘However, I have said the whole way that it needs a major injection of funds to get it started and I don’t want to see a prime spot taking many years to finish. It won’t be an attractor until the work is done.’
Deputy mayor Simon Clough, a CBD shop owner, said he knows first hand how ‘anything over 30 degrees can cause CBD evacuation’.
‘A long hot summer can be bloody awful for trading, so it does make a huge impact,’ Cr Clough said.
Cr Marks said the outcome will create ‘level pegging’.
‘Lismore Square is a part of Lismore, and it should not be seen as us-and-them, however the businesses are competing for clients,’ he said.
‘Sun shading is a marking point between centres and is considered nationally to be part of any shopping centre upgrade.
‘Choosing the shaded car park option is not as glamorous or “plaque-able” for politicians who are giving us the money, as a park would be.’
The Imagine Lismore consultation is proving valuable to council debate as community needs are reflected in decision making.
Crs Grahame Meineke and Greg Bennett acknowledged the need for a CBD upgrade as one of the outcomes.
‘Covered car parking in the CBD will certainly do that, and give us the biggest bang for our buck,’ Cr Meineke said.
‘It will benefit the whole city and all users of the CBD. I don’t see why we can’t have solar voltaic cells on the roof,’ he said.
The Round 5 Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) of $436,455 will shade the Clyde Campbell car park, which backs onto Woodlark Street.
Car-boot market move?
The funding only covers around 126 car spaces which will be inadequate to house a desired move for the Lismore car boot market to come to town. The boot market can use up to 300 spaces.
Cr Gianpiero Battista told council that money spent on Lismore Park is ‘only improving access to the Square, not improving the vibrancy of the CBD, which lacks competiveness with the Square.’
Cr Battista referred to previous business models where, through paid parking, the car park can pay for itself in the short term. He also added estimated revenue from the boot market as $50,000 a year.
‘Not only should we allocate the RDAF money to the covered car parking, but we should finance the whole project because as a business model it makes sense,’ said Cr Battista.
Local CBD business owner Robert Bou-Hamdan addressed council during public access and praised the idea of shaded CBD parking and the option of the boot market coming to town.
‘Unlike the Magellan Street markets, this market is on a Sunday when the CBD is closed,’ Mr Bou-Hamdan said.
‘It is our biggest market in the region and can bring a lot of people to town. There won’t be enough car parks so people will need to park around the block so more shops will open up.’
The staff recommendation to allocate the funding to redeveloping Lismore Park included a proviso that council could consult with the community during the CBD place-based forums on the construction of a lift for the museum.
Cr Smith said ‘we have all the sports clubs on board now, we have listened to the community and removed the ponds from the plan. This park means a lot to Lismore as a destination.
‘Of all the projects we have here, they are all first stages. The car park will only be stage one,’ he said.
Lismore City Council has recently made cuts to its parks and gardens budget and continues to look for cost cutting in this area, so a vote for Lismore Park meant council would need to find future maintenance costs over and above current costs.
Without any major future funding in sight, there was concern the park would remain unfinished, much like Nesbitt Park, which has high usage and has not attracted further funding.
Cr Marks questioned why the finalisation of Nesbitt Park was not considered.