It’s a high-end dining restaurant that will now be built in one of the most beautiful, tranquil spots that is beloved by local people and visitors to the Byron Shire. A tragedy made real by the greed of developers, and the failure of councillors and Council staff to protect the public interest in the face of these endless development challenges.
Right now, it is the quiet, serene lookout that the Scarrabelotti family, who donated the land to the community, wanted it to be – a joy for the community to experience. But as Joni Mitchell would say, the Byron Shire Council have agreed to ‘pave paradise… to put up a parking lot’.
I spoke against the proposed development, as it is currently detailed, at last Thursday’s Council planning meeting, on the grounds of road safety but, as usual, it did not matter in the end. We didn’t bother bringing up other issues like amenity, impact on the escarpment, noise, additional traffic in a koala corridor; as these seem to have no impact on our Councillors opinions.
Not for locals
The development application was approved – for a restaurant (with a wonderful view) that very few residents will likely ever be able to afford to enjoy.
A planning condition covering road safety was not even considered important enough to be formulated. That is what Council thinks about your safety, despite having a duty of care, and moral obligation, to ensure safe roads are provided for ratepayers to travel on. Only Cr Cate Coorey objected to the development.
Our family lives just down from the lookout, and we use this road every day. We have serious road safety concerns with the development, because only 15 parking spots have been provided by the developer. The restaurant will be a 40-seat fine-dining restaurant, and blind Freddy can see a functional requirement of 20 to 25 parking spots for a venue with 40 diners plus staff and with no public transport access in the hinterland of Byron Shire.
The lookout already has limited parking, Coolamon Scenic Drive has a narrow road shoulder, and the resulting uncontrolled vehicle and pedestrian movements will cause safety issues. This is an 80km/h zone, where speeding is common, and with poor sight distance in both directions. As a result, the precinct must now have a 60km/h safety zone approved.
Why, when the Mayor noted at the previous meeting that he believed at least 20 plus standalone parking spots would be required for both staff and patrons, did he allow the approval?
The development needs at least ten additional parking spots on the developers land. However, the developer told me outside the Council meeting that he is unable to fit more parking on the site due to the steep terrain and the competing need for space for effluent treatment so that 40 seats can be accommodated. How can effluent needs be driving the parking and road safety outcomes? Crazy stuff.
The previous voluntary agreement, providing for some overflow parking in the lookout was torn up, yet we still have overflow parking, with councillors choosing not to pursue a formal agreement to protect the ratepayers. Faulty Towers stuff – but only the developer is laughing it seems.
Detriment of locals
Councillors openly acknowledged that this development would cost the ratepayers significant sums in regards to future management of the site owing to the restaurant being approved.
They also recognised that it is likely that an extension for opening hours will be requested, following the initial approval that limits it to breakfast and lunch only. This will most likely be based on the claim that the business is struggling. Councillors have approved it, knowing that the business model being proposed is likely to fail; and that they will ultimately approve the extension of trading that will come with significant associated nighttime noise impacts on adjacent residents.
As the approval decision was coming to its inevitable conclusion, Cr Basil Cameron noted that, sadly, he believed Council did not have the power to reject the proposal. This was based on the fact that the lookout was designated a road reserve for access to adjacent properties, and because the Council had never designated it as community open space.
He also observed that the access situation in the lookout itself and adjacent Coolamon Scenic Drive will likely get very ugly owing to multiple competing needs.
As locals, unfortunately we will need to wait for safety incidents, serious injuries or worse, then kick up a stink and hope that finally someone will do something about our safety, which Council has a duty of care to provide.
I am not 100 per cent sure how we got to this situation, but it’s ended in farce. It will certainly be an ongoing issue with no upside for the local community who made 20 plus formal objections to the development – which were largely ignored.