One of many DAs to come before Ballina Shire Council at their last meeting was Club Lennox’s attempt to add more outdoor seating and dining during club opening hours and amplified music outside on Sunday afternoons.
The Director of Club Lennox, Lindsay Clarke, told council in a deputation, ‘We have been model citizens who play a large role in the community’.
He said the DA reflected ‘what many clubs are doing and the public are looking for.’
Mr Clarke said the club had faced a ‘vexatious series of complains from one family rather than the community,’ suggesting that as a club of 2200 members, and a ‘vital part of the community fabric, we should be congratulated and not penalised.’
Councillor Jeff Johnson moved the motion to support the DA, seconded by Cr Keith Williams.
Cr Johnson noted the DA process had been a ‘long time coming’, and said live music outside a building should not need a DA. He suggested a three year approval.
Matt Wood from council staff said 12 months would be more appropriate to balance the needs of the club and local residents.
Cr Johnson explained that ‘a small army’ of volunteers fundraised for two years to get the club re-opened and back on its feet after earlier struggles with financial viability (the building is still owned by council, and leased to Club Lennox).
‘This is well loved by Lennox,’ he said. ‘It’s great having it down there in the heart of the village.
‘Some neighbours would prefer no bowling club there or young children making noise, but this place has been there a long time and offers an important service to community.’
In terms of outdoor live music, Cr Johnson noted the club had only asked for Sunday afternoons until 7pm, with the outdoor changes designed to help them attract more people and remain viable.
‘They’re looking to cater for a different demographic than just people playing bowls.’
He said Club Lennox have spent a lot on renovations and are doing both council and the wider community a favour by improving the building.
Discussion about noise issues followed, with Matt Wood noting that if council approved the DA in spite of the applicant’s admitted failure to keep to noise guidelines (with expected patron numbers up to 150), it would become council’s responsibility to police the situation, not NSW Liquor and Gaming.
Cr Phillip Meehan said, ‘We as a council should not approve things that go against state regulations regarding noise.’ He supported the idea of a 12 month trial.
‘If I was living across the road from that site, that would frighten me,’ he said. ‘Fair dinkum, I think that would frighten most people.’
Cr Parry shared Cr Meehan’s concerns, and supported council staff’s recommendation for a 12 month trial.
‘We should support it,’ she said, ‘but many adjacent residents found it very difficult with the Sundays on the Green. One chap developed a very serious illness as a result of it.
‘Another couple sold their place and moved because they were so vilified by members of the club. People who live close to Club Lennox are very clear that the noise is offensive.
‘We want to support the club, but also encourage them to put in place steps to control the problem.’
Cr Keith Williams wondered if a 24 month trial could be a compromise, noting in a time of COVID ‘it’s much safer for us to have large gatherings outside rather than inside.’
He said that despite ‘some unfortunate interactions with neighbours’, police have made no reports of excessive noise or disturbance from the club, which he described as a well run, very loved community institution and meeting space.
‘I think we should be supporting this,’ Cr Williams said.
Mayor David Wright supported the original recommendation for a 12 month trial. ‘If something goes wrong we need to be able to do something,’ he said. ‘Our planners don’t say these things just to make life difficult for people.’
After a failed amendment, the motion for a 12 month trial for the Club Lennox DA was carried unanimously.