What every councillor thinks about $90m Square development

13th September 2017 12:43 AM
UPDATED 11:40 AM
Lismore councillors have had their say on plans for an expansion of Lismore Square. Lismore councillors have had their say on plans for an expansion of Lismore Square. Northern Star

Update 11.45am: YOU know how they voted on the Lismore Shopping Square proposal, but what was the thinking behind the councillors' decisions?

In the debate that divided the chamber, here's the highlights of what your councillors thought about the proposed look at growing the Square.

FOR: Mayor, Cr Isaac Smith

"I don't like shopping centres … but it's not about me, it's about our community. I want to ask them the question," he said in the chamber last night.

"For us as a council to shut down discussion after one week, I don't believe that is appropriate."

FOR: Cr Gianpiero Battista

Cr Battista identified the proposal as an opportunity to connect the CBD and the Square to create a vibrant city centre.

"I see a win-win for everybody if this happens, it's only a memorandum of understanding, but let's have a look at what they are planning to do. Let's have a look what's in the pipeline."

CONFLICTED: Elly Bird

When it came down to the final vote, Cr Bird voted against the motion but she said it was a difficult decision to make.

"I've been extremely conflicted the whole way through this process because I absolutely, 100%, believe in community consultation. I believe it is the way to do things," she said.

"As much as I hear the economic arguments, I hear that there are benefits I know that people shop, you can't deny people shop, but there is no other way that this is going to happen other than impacting on parklands that we heard this evening have been parklands as long as Lismore has existed.

"(The expansion) will significantly impact that space, there is just no way around that."

FOR, BUT WITH A CATCH: Cr Greg Bennett

The caveat for Cr Bennett voting in favour of the expansion was that ratepayers wouldn't be negatively impacted by the development and that funds raised from the sale of council lands be used to pay down debt.

"I can support (the proposal) if that is fixed but it can't be fixed by breaking every other business," Cr Bennett said.

"If they aren't met I won't support it, if they are met I will."

Cr Bennett's conditions were later put forward as a two-part amendment which was lost when it came down to the vote.

CONVERTED AGAINST: Cr Nancy Casson

One of those who supported Cr Bennett's amendment was his ally in the chamber, Cr Casson.

She said it was the council who has "screwed" the CBD and cited the lack of undercover parking and higher parking fees as an example.

"In terms of the Square, they are also behind and I agree with Cr Bennett in terms of rates so we are letting them down once again," she said.

"It's not the Square's problem about competition with the CBD, it's us as a council letting those CBD businesses down.

"I'd like to commit to the Square paying more rates to come in line with what CBD owners are paying to actually give them something back, a bit of equality."

AGAINST: Eddie Lloyd

Since the debate began and on social media in the lead up to last night's meeting, Cr Lloyd's view of the expansion did not sway.

"If the company wants to proceed with an expansion then it must go back to the drawing board and find other alternatives," she said.

"We should be doing our job focusing on protecting our public land, our CBD and not breaching the social contract we have had with our community."

FOR: Neil Marks

While he acknowledged he held concerns about implications of the expansion to nearby traffic, Cr Neil Marks remained open to exploring how to navigate the issues by supporting the MOU to "get a conversation going".

"There are conversations that need to be had and we can't really have those conversations without going to this next step," he said.

"We can't have these conversations and we can't see where it goes until we get to an undersanding that we are interested in this and this is where we are."

AGAINST: Cr Adam Guise

Similarly to Cr Lloyd, Cr Guise had his mind already made up by advocating for "a fast no" to the developers and accused them of silencing locals' say in the project.

In particular, he reflected on the project's potential impacts on Browns Creek.

"I suspect the engineers amongst us would like to brick over Browns Creek and put a walk way or perhaps even move Brewster St over Browns Creek so we can put it out of sight and out of mind," he said.

AGAINST: Cr Vanessa Ekins

"It's just a big concrete monstrosity in the middle of our park."

That sentiment pretty much summed up Cr Ekins' thoughts on the MOU as she questioned what good it would bring our community, citing speculation the expansion would make room for a bigger Coles.

"Are we selling our park for Coles? I'm not happy to sell our park just for a Coles, it's stupid," Cr Ekins said.

"I think we should just say no, get your hands off our park."

FOR: Cr Darlene Cook

A diplomatic Cr Cook threw in her two cents to remind the chamber that the MOU was legally non-binding.

"There are many details to be negotiated, but importantly before any legally binding agreement takes place there needs to be extensive community consultation," she said.

"That community feedback will guide councillors making any decision whether to approve or disapprove the development."

FOR: Cr Bill Moorhouse

Cr Moorhouse reflected on the CBD's history and implored council to make a milestone change in a bid to revive the centre of the city.

"My big deal is I've seen no development in the CBD bar the one next to the Rous building in the past 15 years," he said.

"If the smart money thought the CBD was a good place to put something it would be there - it hasn't happened.

"The smart money is now suggesting we do something with the Square, and they've got a track record to say, so perhaps this is a good thing at least look at."
 

 

Update 7.30am:  PAGE MP Kevin Hogan has slammed Lismore City Council for knocking back plans for a $90 million expansion of Lismore Shopping Square.

On his Facebook page this morning, Mr Hogan wrote: "Woeful decision, Lismore City Council.

"To maintain its status as a regional capital Lismore needs continual development.

"This is not, an either or, we need a healthy CBD and shopping centre.

"Many leave our region, and indeed drive through it to the Gold Coast for the shopping centre experience.

"It was going to better link the CBD to the Square.

"This is going to cost us jobs and hold back Lismore. Woeful Lismore City Council, woeful."

 

Original story: A PROPOSAL to explore a $90 million expansion of Lismore Shopping Square was shutdown by councillors on Tuesday night in an hour long battle of words that divided the chamber.

The debate culminated in a tight and rare 6-5 vote at about 11pm where conservative councillors Greg Bennett and Nancy Casson sided with their Greens counterparts Cr Adam Guise and Vanessa Ekins in voting against the proposal.

Councillors argued over entering a non-binding memorandum of understanding with McConaghy Properties to further investigate the proposal.

Plans revealed about 4 hectares of Lismore Park was earmarked to cater for the expansion.

Lismore Shopping Square workers were among the gallery who watched the hour long debate as for and against arguments were shot across the chamber.

Prior to the proposal being put forward in the chambers, seven people voiced their view on the proposal during public access: five spoke against, two spoke for.

McGonaghy's managing director, Gary McConaghy was one of two who spoke at public access for the community discussion about the expansion. He cited engineering issues as the main reasons as to why other alternatives, like building a second story, weren't an option.

He said he would be "very disappointed" if the motion was lost but respected the no vote.

Councillors Eddie Lloyd and Ekins led the charge of impassioned pleas to preserve community space.

In light of damage to the CBD after the floods, Cr Lloyd lashed out by calling the proposal "heartless" and criticised what she said was a lack of transparency between the developer and the public about confidential commercial documents.

"Our community has their trust and faith in our engagement processes and the Imagine Lismore vision and regional parkland masterplan," Cr Lloyd said.

"To abandon these plans and to instead do a deal with a private company to handover community land would be an unforgivable betrayal of that trust."

Crs Gianpiero Battista, Neil Marks and Mayor Issac Smith were prominent voices calling for the option to be explored in a bid to foster economic prosperity post-flood.

The chamber recognised the large debate that had ensured about the issue particularly social media in the past week.

Cr Smith criticised those councillors who claimed the debate was one sided.

"You may call it the fast no but I call it not consulting," Cr Smith said.

"What I want to do is start a conversation with our community and I believe the MOU does that.

"I believe it gives us time to pursue the consultation with the broader community."

Cr Bennett attempted to move an amendment which aimed to install a rate discrepancy between the Square and CBD to prevent negative impact on other ratepayers. But it was lost when it came down to vote.

The final vote for was : Crs Battista, Marks, Cook, Moorhouse and Smith. Those against were Crs Casson, Guise, Ekins, Lloyd, Bennett and Bird.