Brunswick Heads will get its first underground car park, after an attempt to overturn the approval of a mixed-use development in the town was voted down by a majority of Byron councillors.
The development on 7 Tweed Street has drawn the ire of many in the local community, who say that the inclusion of a two-space basement car park is neither flood-safe, nor in keeping with the character of the town.
1,000 strong petition
More than 1,000 locals signed a petition calling on Byron Council to refuse the proposal and to amend the planning rules for Brunswick Heads to prohibit such car parks from being built in the future.
But this was not enough to convince a majority of councillors to overturn the decision they made back in June to approve the development.
At last Thursday’s Council planning meeting, a rescission motion moved by Greens councillor Duncan Dey, and Independent Peter Westheimer, was voted down by six votes to two.
Fear of legal action
Two councillors who had previously voted against the development, Greens Deputy Mayor, Sarah Ndiaye and Independent, Cr Sama Balson, changed their positions from opposition to support.
This proved crucial to the outcome of the vote.
Earlier in the meeting, Cr Westheimer called on councillors to act in accordance with the wishes of the Brunswick Heads community, rather than basing their decision on the fear of legal action by the developer should he not get his way.
‘When it comes to overdevelopment, the buck stops with us as councillors, not with Mr James [Council’s lawyer] or Council staff,’ Cr Westheimer said.
Among the key arguments put forward in opposition to the development was that underground car parking was not permissible under the planning rules for that part of Brunswick Heads, a position that was disputed by Council’s lawyer Ralph James.
Car park not be flood-safe
It was also asserted that the car park would not be flood-safe, because the floor level proposed was roughly equal to the current king tide level, and well below both the 10-year and 100-year flood level.
The flood mitigation measures included in the development, particularly an electronic flood barrier, were also called into question.
Other reasons put forward for refusal included a lack of appropriate vehicle access to the site, and the extra strain it would put on the town’s already strained parking resources.
But Mayor Michael Lyon described these arguments as ‘grasping at straws’.
‘If we keep knocking back developments because we don’t like them, we’re doing a disservice to ratepayers, because they’re the ones who ultimately have to foot the legal bill,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘Whether you like this development or not really isn’t relevant. It’s compliant.’
Cr Ndiaye said the Council could not afford a hefty legal bill because it had ‘nothing’ in its reserves.
A need to be prudent
‘We need to be prudent and to make decisions on the basis of the facts that are before us,’ Cr Ndiaye said.
The key question now facing councillors is whether they will use their powers to amend planning laws in Brunswick Heads to prevent underground car parks being built there in future.
A majority of councillors have argued in favour of this action during the debate over the Tweed Street development, including Cr Balson, and Labor Councillor Asren Pugh.
Those in favour of the DA were Crs Lyon, Balson, Pugh, Swivel, Ndiaye and Hunter.
Cr Coorey, an opponent of the plan, was not present for the vote. However, Cr Lyon promised to use his casting vote to support Cr Coorey’s wishes in the event of a deadlock.