Local businesses and the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce are at loggerheads with Byron Shire Council over the Mullumbimby Greenspine project, in particular its consultation processes, despite significant general community support for the project in principle.
The proposed Mullumbimby Greenspine would run from the Mullumbimby Community Gardens along Stuart Street to Heritage Park and the Brunswick River. However, the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce and a group of local businesses and landowners have raised a range of issues over the implementation and management of the project by Byron Shire Council.
‘The management of this project has been a mess from the beginning and our perception is that poor management and the community distrust it has engendered is now in danger of putting the whole project in jeopardy, which would be a tragedy,’ the Chamber president, Jenelle Stanford, said in a letter to the Council’s General Manager Mark Arnold, and councillors, last Thursday.
The issue was brought to a head when a range of local businesses and landholders belatedly decided that the Greenspine, as laid out by consultants, would have a negative impact on their properties and businesses. The group includes key businesses owners such as Mitre 10, Bridglands, IGA Mullumbimby, Santos, Chris Mallam, John Waterhouse, and a number of real estate agents.
Key issues raised were the removal of car parking from the central business area, and the impact of a bike path between parked cars and the footpath on truck deliveries as well as vehicle and pedestrian access to businesses. They also raised the issue of trees and plantings removing parking spaces and reducing business visibility from the street.
‘Current CBD infrastructure and car parking is already under stress as the population continues to grow. Inhibiting patronage to local businesses by reducing car spaces at the shopfront will further exacerbate the demise of current patronage,’ said the group in a letter to Council.
‘Mullumbimby has always been and needs to continue to be a working town. Mullumbimby has a dynamic business community which is vibrant, proactive, and community focused. The town is full of unique family-run businesses, some of which are generations old – they are independently owned and employ hundreds of locals.’
While Council have said that there is ‘no net loss of parking’, it is the failure of the documentation and accompanying surveys that have left many people confused about what is being proposed in the Greenspine project. According to the business and landowners’ group a significant quantity of parking, approximately 200m², has been removed from the central area, which they say is a ‘net loss of parking’.
One of the issues confronting the process is that spending of the first $660,000 allocated to the project by the state government must be started by May or it will be lost. This has left the council in a bind as the businesses seek further consultation on how the project is to be rolled out.
‘The last consultation process, while late, is welcome, but because of the poor quality of visual communication presented and the misleading website survey it has succeeded in creating confusion about what is proposed and outright anger from some sections of the Chamber and community,’ said Ms Stanford.
‘We note that this has occurred because Council has actively tried to avoid consulting, engaging or partnering with the community, showing both mistrust and disrespect. This has to change. We note the original brief for consultants stated there would be only two hours of consultation – this is disgraceful.’
Speaking to The Echo Ms Stanford said the Council has been in contact with the Chamber following the receipt of their letter letting them know that the ‘issues raised have been provided to the Project Team for consideration, along with the willingness of the Chamber to work with the Project Team’.
Council told The Echo that while the survey is now closed ‘Council will be continuing to work with the businesses and residents. The consultation was on a draft concept plan – which is just initial ideas for the project that Council needs feedback on to move to [a] more detailed design.’
‘Residents are welcome to contact the project manager [Kirk Weallens on 6626 7164 or [email protected]] at any stage with concerns or if they want to talk through any aspect of the draft concept plan as outlined on the yoursay page [which] is still live with all the documentation.’