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Byron Shire
August 20, 2022

Mullum car park housing plans released

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Council’s concept plans of turning the car park next to Hooper’s (formerly La Familia) restaurant in Mullum into three-storey apartments. But questions remain over how the plans got to this stage without any community discussion.

Byron Council has published its draft plans for a 29-unit development it hopes to build above a car park in central Mullumbimby.

It’s the community’s first glimpse of the Shire’s first car park housing development – an attempt to build ‘affordable housing’ above Council-owned car parks.

Located next to the Hooper’s restaurant (formerly known as Diner 55 and La Familia) at 57 Station Street, the proposed three-storey development would involve a mix of studios, and one and two-bedroom units built above existing parking spaces.

It is intended to provide affordable, long-term housing for low-to-middle income earners and to remain an affordable housing project in perpetuity.

The matter is coming before this week’s Byron Council planning meeting, where councillors will decide whether or not to sign a preliminary ‘Terms Sheet of Agreement’ with State-owned development corporation, Landcom.

The purpose of the agreement is to give Council and Landcom six months to develop and agree on a concept design for the development, confirm a community housing provider to develop and manage the project, and to investigate options for funding.

The agreement is non-binding, but would be a significant step forward in turning the project from a blueprint to bricks and mortar.

The intention is to enter binding contracts at the end of the six-month term, subject only to development consent being granted.

The Council staff report, contained in the agenda to this week’s meeting, states that the Station Street site is ‘the most suitable’ of the car park sites under discussion because of its size, central location, and the fact that it already has an appropriate zoning.

The subject site, which is close to the entrance of Mullum. Photo from Council agenda

Parking loss

However, a number of questions remain in relation to the plan, including the likely loss of parking that would result.

According to the staff report, it is intended that the ground floor would provide car spaces with a ‘dual purpose of being available to the community during the day and the tenants at night’.

Yet it seems highly unlikely that all tenants would move their cars during the day, unless this was made a condition of their leases.

When taken in combination with the loss of parking spaces that will occur as a result of the new structure, it seems likely that the site would only provide a fraction of the current 40-odd spaces.

In an effort to address this, Council planners are looking at creating a new car park, possibly using rail corridor land near the Council chambers.

‘This is to ensure that a project such as this does not decrease the current number of available car parking spaces for community use that generally exist on public and private land across the whole of the town centre area,’ the staff report states.

The report also goes into some of the nuts and bolts of how the project would actually be delivered and managed.

Planners envisage that Council would contribute the land only, with no additional burden on its coffers, and that it would retain ownership of the land.

Funding for construction would come externally and be accessed with the assistance of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation.

In terms of the contractual structure of the plan Council and Landcom are considering three possibilities – a lease model, a sale and lease back model, and a stratum subdivision model.

There is an evident desire to get the project up and running quickly.

‘We would act in good faith and use reasonable endeavours to finalise a design structure, obtain approvals, secure finance and enter into transaction documents within six-months,’ the Council report states.

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  1. Thanks Echo for the story and thanks Council for attempting to ease the housing crisis. I support the principle of affordable housing over Council carparks but not this project as it stands, or the proposed method of taking it forward shrouded in secrecy. At the Council meeting on 14 April, I will move instead That Council:

    1. Notes the overview of who Landcom is, and their experience in delivering affordable housing projects (Attachment 1 #E2022/29946);
    2. Notes the project rationale and the preliminary concept plan prepared for an affordable housing development on 57 Station Street, Mullumbimby (Attachment 2 #E2022/29947);
    3. Recognises that the flooding that devastated Mullumbimby on 28 February 2022 will likely reset flood and planning levels within the town;
    4. Recognises that new settlement like this cannot be supported in a floodplain, especially one where there isn’t a flood-free evacuation centre and from which options for egress to higher ground are limited;
    5. Recognises the large steps taken without public consultation since Resolution 21-302, which re-confirmed Council’s in-principle support for diverse and affordable housing on suitable Council owned car parks;
    6. Recognises that the site at 57 Station Street is very visible and its three storey height would change the tone of the town forever, without the town having been consulted;
    7. Reconsiders site options in light of Parts 3 and 4 above;
    8. Determines the maximum human density on each suitable site as no more than double that of neighbouring or nearby residential properties;
    9. Determines that proposed buildings not exceed any of Council’s planning controls, that adequate parking is included at a realistic rate for this region and that no “10% variations” be sought;
    10. Considers the impacts on the public of loss of parking and makes provision of an alternative carpark part of the housing project.

    Were the current project to proceed, it should be compared to the surrounding residential density. Land area is about 1700 square metres. In most of Mullumbimby, that would support 3 families, ie 12 people. Double that density would be 24 people. That 24 would be about half what is recommended. Plus, there’s a further 150 square metres of commercial space to be squeezed in as well.

    The proposed agreement hands control of the project over to Landcom and thus pits Council’s desire as a developer against Council’s role as a Planning Authority. How will Councillors ever back down from the devleoper drive to apply scrutiny to the planning matters around this development?

    • Rather than to regard your comments as completely negative , what would be your plan to assist in the creation of affordable housing in Mullum ?

      Any ?

  2. Looks good – a little feedback:
    -5g tower on the roof as a backup
    -RAT and drug test vending machine in the lobby
    -Donation bin for shoes
    -Public outdoor showers for general community use

  3. Especially like the figure walking the two extra large red chickens? on the footpath in front of the structure.


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