While ‘absolutely opposed’ to rezoning Saddle Road to village or residential, Saddle Road resident Matthew ‘Cleva’ O’Reilly has lodged his own expression of interest (EOI) with Council for a seniors’ affordable housing project on the five-hectare property he manages.
It comes in response to an invitation by Council for landowners to submit EOIs for affordable-housing projects.
As previously reported, five other landowners lodged a large planning proposal with Council – which has an affordable-housing component – on the picturesque ridgeline between Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads.
Twenty two-bedroom self-contained villa-style seniors’ dwelling are proposed by Mr O’Reilly, along with a seniors hostel with 40 one-bedrooms. Additional buildings are also proposed, including 12 farmstay cabins for temporary visitor accommodation and ancillary workers’ dwellings.
Mr O’Reilly lodged the proposal along with ten other landowners, and acknowledged that ‘it is somewhat a conflicting position,’ given his opposition to rezoning the area.
Mr O’Reilly believes his proposal can be achieved through existing legislation and without the need for a Council-led rezoning.
He said, ‘All we have proposed is a better way for Council to manage secondary dwellings, dual occupancies, rural visitors’ cabins and group homes in rural areas to ensure they are really used for affordable housing and not for high rents and holiday accommodation.’
‘I still think the ideas in the report are well worth Council’s implementing Shire-wide. In many ways, it is entirely an academic exercise… but I do hope changes in Council affordable-housing policies may flow from our submissions.’
He said, ‘As conditions of approval, we propose to cap rents at an average of 36 per cent of the average Byron Shire weekly income and will agree to provide an annual report to Council showing the leases, rental rates and lease terms during the previous financial year.
‘We also agree to limit short-term rental of 30 days or less of the farmstay cabins to less than 50 per cent of the total lease nights. The remainder of over 50 per cent will be for temporary lease of between three and 12 months, targeting single-parent families who are homeless or between homes.’
He says that in the last year, his group have been open to negotiating ‘other development outcomes on Saddle Road that maintain its rural, agricultural, scenic, cultural and environmental values.’
‘We even put an alternative proposal to Bruns Eco Village (BEV) and the Borrodales back over a year ago.
‘We proposed rural residential development in clusters around the three existing housing sites on Saddle Road. This would have maintained the bulk of the road in its current state.’ Mr O’Reilly says after his compromise was ‘flatly refused’ by those neighbours, ‘we had no choice but to argue against their all-out urbanisation of Saddle Road.’
Meanwhile, staff have accused Mr O’Reilly of pollution on the property he manages, an allegation he strongly denies.
As reported last week, Mr O’Reilly lodged two code of conduct complaints against mayor Simon Richardson, one of which relates to what he says is a vexatious pursuit of his approved earthworks by compliance staff.
Council’s legal services co-ordinator Ralph James outlined in a statement the reasoning for a prevention order on works being carried out.
A ‘major pollution event’ was a result of works carried out on the property on December 27, 2017, claimed Mr James, which would ‘likely impact on the environmental values of Simpsons Creek.’
Mr O’Reilly replied, ‘We commissioned a Waterways Assessment, which determined that there were no creeks or waterways on the property.
‘[Staff] are referring to some mud on Gulgan Road, which came off wheel tracks of a truck exiting our property. I was notified of this incident, and can clarify that the mud on the road was a direct result of Byron Council’s prevention notice.’
‘Council have ordered us to seal all of our roads and undertake additional sediment and erosion control works and we are legally obliged to comply, despite our appeal. Consequently, we are undertaking further sediment and erosion control works to seal the roads starting early January in compliance with Council’s prevention notice.
Mr O’Reilly said Mr James’s statement makes ‘no assertion that I have undertaken any “unauthorised activities”,’ nor is there any mention ‘of any illegal vegetation removal which the mayor keeps referring to.’
He added he will be defending Council’s claims and has ‘retained six separate consultants who are producing reports that contradict Council’s position.’