Lismore residents watch avidly last night as the drama of a development application for 135 Union Street South Lismore, played out on their little screens.
The report was about the proposed erection of a service station and associated works on what is currently a block that includes Lismore landmark – Skimmo’s.
Skimmo’s Corner Store has been a takeaway food and drink outlet for many decades with the business operating since approximately 1957.
During public access, the current proprietor of Skimmo’s Kevin Handcock asked Council to knock back the DA.
‘I’m not the landowner or the property in question,’ said Mr Handcock. ‘I’m not opposed to development that enriches or benefits or beautifies our local community, but in this case, I believe that this does not do that.
Mr Handcock said he felt Skimmo’s was iconic for being one of the last local corner shops. ‘It has been part of the South Lismore community for over 70 years now.
‘The shop was first established in the late 40s – over time there have been big changes of ownership, but the identity of the corner shop hasn’t changed because of the support of the community.’
Mr Handcock presented Council with a petition with over 1,800 signatures asking that the DA not be approved.
Mr Handcock said he felt she could speak on behalf of some, but not all, of the community. ‘My customers and I oppose the development.
Mr Handcock said that though Skimmo’s was no heritage listed, in the eyes of the South Lismore community, it is an iconic meeting place with a place that’s been around for a long time and for future generations, he hoped.
‘In my time we have been through many challenges just in my five years, but I’m just passing through, like everybody else. I’m hoping lots more people own it after me.
Mr Handcock said Skommos was in the flood in 2017. ‘The water entered the shop came up waist-deep – we had people we knew and people we didn’t even know, come to help us clean up. We opened for business in a matter of days after the water receded with generous and kind support.
Mr Handcock also mentioned the issues of traffic and noise pollution.
So many reasons the site is inappropriate
South Lismore resident Becky Davies also wanted to add her voice to the opposition. ‘There are so many reasons I believe that this site is inappropriate for the proposed development. Firstly from an environmental standpoint, the proposed petrol station seems a bad decision in a flood-prone residential area.
‘After the 2017 flood, the whole of South Lismore was slick with diesel oil and petrol pollution from the existing stations and fuel depots itself as more. I can clearly recall the coating that stuck to our garden and lawn as the water subsided and the smell of diesel that lingered for days after. South Lismore doesn’t need another petrol station, least of all the 24 hour one
Ms Davies said the proposed development also backs on to neighbouring residential properties. ‘Imagine for a moment the constant noise pollution, braking, an idling of cars, exhaust fumes and light pollution 24 hours day and night, right next door – it’s certainly not somewhere that I would want to call home.’
Ms Davies said that according to Google Maps, Lismore has 25 existing petrol stations already. ’Twenty-five! Why do we need to tear down an iconic and heritage building to add another?
‘Councillors when you vote on this DA, I ask each of you to consider your part in this town’s history. Is your vote is making our home better for everybody – the future generations – environmentally and economically? Is supporting existing local small business? Is itthinking of residents and their families whose homes will be impacted by this development? Will you be voting for people over profit? Or for industry over community and heritage?
Private developer who is very community-minded
Hopeful developer Youil Adam from Spectrum Retail Group spoke for the DA. ‘By way of background, Spectrum Retail Group is a young private developer who is very community-minded and conscious when it comes to its developments. We specialise and have extensive experience in the main road retail space, and develop large format retail drive-thru restaurants service stations and childcare tenants.
Mr Adam said the Union Street site would be home to the fourth 711 he had built with a further three in the pipeline. ‘We chose Lismore specifically as we have a very good business relationship with 711, and they asked us to locate a property in the Lismore area for them, they will become our tenant and sign a 12-year lease with us for this property.’
Mr Adam said that the business would allow the south Lismore residents to stay on the western side of the river for their daily needs.
‘We work closely with Council and transport for New South Wales to ensure the development’s impacts on the area’s amenity is within the relevant controls mandated by Council. These being landscape setbacks with special attention being placed on the Union and Elliott road corner to soften the appearance of the convenience store from the road. We will also install a three to four-metre high acoustic wall on the southwestern boundary to attenuate any noise and light with the residential neighbours
Mr Adam said that vehicle there is a common misunderstanding that service stations generate new traffic. ‘They predominately capture the existing traffic on the road, as they are a convenient base to use, unlike a supermarket or a fast food outlet which can draw people from many kilometres away.’
Flooding at the top of their thoughts
Mr Adam said flooding had been at the top of their mind from the onset. ‘Environmental systems of new service stations are heavily regulated. Double-hulled underground fibreglass tanks are installed with leaking petrol alarms that notify for any trace amount of fuels unaccounted for.’
In a flood event, for example, the tanks are installed and during construction, dead man anchors bolt the tanks down to the ground and the fuel system can be shut off immediately. The tanks are also encased in 20 centimetres of reinforced concrete to prevent the tanks from moving in a flood event.
Mr Adam said that his last point was that the developers were cognizant that the development will form part of the fabric of the community. ‘It will benefit the local community over the long term from job creation, and also these more locals are quality alternative to what is presently available.’
Councillors for and against
Cr Neil Marks was first to his feet to speak for the application.
‘We’ve had looked at this on numerous occasions, here in the chamber and many workshops. We’ve had plenty of information. Most of us were concerned about the traffic side of things. The mayor was considering the sound wall and I had concerns about that roundabout – the traffic trying to get out – but I guess the Traffic New South Wales or whatever it’s called this week, they don’t.
’It is a doable project. It is an allowable project. And I guess in this great, wonderful world of ours, of capitalism that we, it’s a service station – it’s another service station is offering something that other service stations don’t. It’s their business plan. And I guess, we need accept that.
‘I know there are great concerns about losing an iconic building. It has a lot of history for a lot of people, and maybe the building can be taken and put somewhere else and be reused.
Times move on
‘Times do move on. The options have been there to probably purchase this land, the landowner who is no longer with us. He set these plans in place in place, obviously, many years ago. Those opportunities have been, and probably have gone by.
‘So, we are asked to deal with something that is a doable project and allowable project, and all of the concerns that have been thrown to us in recent times, have been addressed, including asking questions tonight about the fuel tanks and the potential leakage and all those sorts of things during flood periods, so hopefully for all other councillors questions have been answered. And we can vote in a positive manner on this particular item.’
Cr Adam Guise had very definite idea in opposition to the DA. ‘I’d like to speak against and foreshadow an amendment to refuse this development.
Social, economic and environmental impacts
‘I have heard from both speakers, for and against tonight, and I’ve read the staff report and I’ve read the submissions, and I’m clearly of the view that we should be refusing this development under section 415 of the EP&A act, in that with its impacts on the environment, and the social and economic impacts cannot be adequately mitigated.
The site is unsuitable for a development such as this, being near a very busy traffic congested intersection, near residences and near Hollingsworth Creek, and it’s certainly not in the public interest.
It’s a service station in a town that already has numerous service stations, you’ve heard that from speakers tonight. There’s already a service station north across from Elliott Road and further along the Bruxner Highway and others in close proximity.
Profound traffic impacts
You’ve heard from speakers tonight and the staff report makes it very clear: there will be profound traffic impacts, increasing from something like 48 car movements in peak hour to 121. A significant increase for an already congested intersection.
‘The conditions to change traffic movements there do not address this aspect they do not address the increase of traffic that we’ll be using this development.
Further to that, we’ve got a, the very fact that you’re putting a fuel depo a service station on the floodplain in close proximity to Hollingsworth Creek, that, In my mind, is reason alone to refuse it. It’s a development completely unsuited to the floodplain and despite the assurances about the technology involved, things go wrong. These places leak and it should not be in close proximity to a creek.
Beyond this, they talked about it being ‘flood friendly’ does not satisfy chapter eight of our DCP. It’s meant to be built above flood level, but it is not, and so the solution is to hardstand a whole lot of the area in order to be able to shed off any water, and there’s no actual design, or there’s no design detail on how that water is to be treated or prevent any impact on Hollingsworth Creek.
Hard surfacing is an anathema
Fundamentally, hard surfacing 90 per cent of this development site area is to me, an anathema. We shouldn’t be doing this in this day and age dying age. It leaves no area for deep ground penetration of waters, leaves no room for vegetation or planting, it’s another hard concrete surface that we don’t need.
The noise impacts will be profound from the number of vehicles entering and exiting the site 24/7 – let’s not forget this.
Skimmo’s, is not that sort of operation. It operates in the daytime, but it does not operate at night. This place is cheek and jowl with residents who will either be walled out to supposedly mitigate their concerns, or they’ll just have to put up with the noise, light, and fugitive emissions from the browsers.
They talk about imposing some sort of vapour emissions on the fuel tanks, but this doesn’t apply to the fuel bowser itself, which is the real concern with those residents living cheek and jowl with this development.
There will be light pollution, and there will be considerable traffic impacts.
Public is overwhelmingly opposed to this development
Now you’ve heard from the public tonight you’ve seen it in the submissions, the public is overwhelmingly opposed to this development. I find it disingenuous in the staff report that we can’t take this into account as a public interest consideration under the act.
It certainly isn’t in the public interest, we’ve heard that from the public tonight, and therefore I asked my fellow councillors to refuse this development.’
Councillors voted on the motion to approve the DA and it was declared, lost.
Those in favour of the DA were Councillors Morehouse, Marks and Cook. Those against were Councillors Ekins, Lloyd, Bird and Guise.