Tweed Shire council have knocked back a controversial plan for the redevelopment of the prominent riverside Jenners Corner site at Chinderah into a mixed boating and commercial facility.
Majority councillors at their meeting last Thursday agreed with resident groups fighting to protect the future character of the historic village who say cafes and shops are welcome but industrial uses are not.
Staff planners had recommended the approval of a boat showroom, sales office, storage facility for 94 berths, two cafe or restaurant tenancies and caretakers residence for the block on Chinderah Bay Drive.
But councillors voted 4-3 (Crs Warren Polglase, Carolyn Byrne and Phil Youngblutt against) to defer the application so the developer (Mackay Ellis Group) could consult with residents about what they think is more suitable development for the site along the Tweed River.
Cr Katie Milne, who moved for deferment, said the community supported some form of commercial development such as cafes but had always opposed boat storage in Chinderah’s central business district.
Cr Milne said boat storage was an industrial use and would not be conducive to business growth in the village centre.
‘You wouldn’t plonk a boat storage facility down in the middle of Murwillumbah? Chinderah is a lovely town with a lot of potential and I don’t think allowing any sort of development is a good thing.’
She said locals, including many elderly, needed basic retail services there and a boat-storage facility would not help that.
Cr Polglase, who moved the recommendation for approval, said the development ‘will put in place something that’s been needed there for a long time’.
He said councillors should support economic growth and opportunities.
Cr Youngblutt said next to the river was an ideal place for the facility and Chinderah was a ‘continuation’ of Kingscliff where basic services and retail facilities were already available.
Deputy mayor Michael Armstrong said seeking improved development outcomes was important and rejecting the proposal was ‘not about opposing development but ‘listening to the community and looking at the long-term vision of the village’, which was ‘not industrial’.
Cr Armstrong read out a letter from the Chinderah Beautification Committee saying the village already had industrial areas and locals did not want inappropriate development along the river bank.
The residents said they wanted to ‘highlight the natural beauty’ of the area and ‘restore the vibrancy it once had’ as a busy river port.
‘What vision do we have for Chinderah?’ Cr Armstrong said.
‘Do we want to turn Chinderah into the industrial storage offshoot of Tweed Heads and Kingscliff? Or do we want to have it for the long term benefit of the people there and their families?
‘How can putting in a whole lot of storage improve boat ramps already struggling with congestion?’
Cr Armstrong said he didn’t think the central riverside site was the right area for such a facility.
Cr Byrne said she was concerned about ‘telling the developer to go back and find another use for the site, which is not up to us to do’.
Cr Byrne said the words ‘industrial use’ could be misleading as it was ‘a passive type of business’ where people parked or collected their boats and nothing was manufactured there.
‘Something needs to be done at Jenners Corner to improve the appalling current site,’ she said.
Cr Polglase said the boating storage was appropriate for the site which was floodprone and as such had limited use.
He said retailers such as bakers or butchers as Cr Milne suggested would not be allowed there because of the constraints.
‘This is a very sneaky way of saying “look we don’t want to support this whole process at all and we want you to pull out”,’ he said.
‘If he (the proponent) comes back with any issues to do with boating facilities he hasn’t got a hope in hell, we should support the recommendation.’
Mayor Barry Longland said it was common to direct developers to change or improve their plans and he commended Cr Milne’s move ‘which is essentially a consideration about desired character’.
‘Issues about economic activity are important but desired future character is a big responsibility for councillors, because what goes there stays there,’ Cr Longland said.
Meanwhile, a bid by the minority pro-development faction (Crs Polglase, Byrne and Youngblutt) to overturn a rejection last month of yet another proposal for boat-storage sheds on another site along Chinderah Bay Drive failed 3-4.
Cr Byrne said during her motion for rescission that the Chinderah Bay Drive area was under-utilised and ‘not a very visually attractive’ entry to Chinderah, which would be improved by the facility with the right landscaping and buffering in place to screen it from locals.