Local, Opinion/Comment

For the many or the few? New City Square plan gets ‘green light.’

Last Thursday 8 November the Coffs Harbour City Council voted as follows.

By the Editor

That Council:

  1. Note and endorse the redesigned concept for the upgrade of City Square.
  2. Authorise the commencement of procurement activities related to the project.
  3. Acknowledge that the current lease for the Caffeine Central kiosk automatically terminates on 9 August 2019 and authorise the commencement and conduct of exit negotiations with the lessees of the kiosk with a view to achieving the removal of the kiosk prior to February 2019.
  4. Consider any potential structure in the future that will enhance the square at the southern end of city square and still maintaining sight lines.

For:         Crs Knight, Amos, Rhoades and Swan

Against:  Cr Townley.”  See: the Council Meeting minutes here.

Five of the nine elected councillors were present to vote.  Councillor Strom has a leave of absence and three others could not make the meeting.

So was the meeting barely quorate? And what does this all mean?

It means that in spite of a petition of nearly 4,000 signatures being given to Council asking for the kiosks to remain as part of the new City Square development that this was ignored and that Caffeine Central will no longer be in the square from February next because it was argued its place in the square effectively privatises that area according to a staff report. Astute readers of what follows will no doubt pick up the contradiction of Council’s position here.

This is called consultation and consideration apparently.

MamaGOTO’s will remain. But it is understood that the shade sails being proposed by Council for this kiosk won’t keep the rain out and also arguably won’t provide enough shade for this popular kiosk either. Apart from that they are ‘hunky dory’ apparently.

Now there are two ways you can look at this bearing in mind that that the Council originally wanted both kiosks gone as part of the new City Square refurbishment.  Firstly the question is:

  • “Are the shades being proposed for budgetary reasons?”

Or secondly, given sails in the past have been hard to maintain and have been affected by vandalism, the question is;

  • “Does the Council have a ‘Plan B’ for “dealing” with MamaGOTOs?”
As ever it was impossible to avoid the unsightliness of the vested interests.

Let’s hope it is the first.  Although that is hardly a cheering thought either.  If it is the second it begs the question;

  • “Which entity/people are more important in Council’s view than the almost 4,000 petition signatories?”

Or to paraphrase George Orwell’s words;

  • “Are all animals equal but some are more equal than others?”

This latest proposal is the result of six years often fruitless ‘consultation’ between CBD special rate variation payers and Council.  The special ratepayer representation has constantly changed with frustration being an often stated reason.

Outlook has reported on this, firstly here wherein it was shown that Council had six years ago “agreed to work ‘hand in glove’ with the SRV ratepayers who in turn will have a higher than normal degree of control over what happens with SRV money as spent on the CBD.  In fact it gives CHCC agreement to the CBD Masterplan Committee having a level of micro-management in this regard.”

Council then went to IPART about two years ago to check on this and ‘lo and behold’ came back with advice that the special variation ratepayers could only ‘advise’ Council.  The word ‘reneging’ was heard in some quarters.

Recently the S353 City Centre Masterplan Committee had three special variation ratepayer representatives and six Council representatives.  Although to be fair one has been Councillor Townley who has been very empathetic to the special ratepayers as evidenced by her vote last Thursday.

Then Outlook ran this story last July 24th in response to a new motion to Councillors that asked the following still unanswered questions;

  • “Did the CHCC do as agreed by resolution that they would consult with the CBD Special Ratepayers before changing the Terms of Reference?
  • Did the CBD Masterplan Committee have a quorum at the meeting where ‘an agreement’ was reached on the new City Square Concept Plan?
  • Has any money been spent from the Special Rate Variation account without it first being approved in CBD Committee Meeting Minutes (12 c in the Terms of Reference)?
  • Is there a resolution of council approving the new City Square Concept Plan?
  • Were ‘incentives offered’ to some of the kiosk owners by someone who (it could be argued) may have a ‘conflict of interest’ in relation to City Square?”

Let’s now add to those questions the following ones;

  • “Has Council contributed to the City Square project as was originally intended six years ago or has all the cost now been borne by special variation ratepayers?”
  • “Are a small number of ‘vested interests’ being listened to more than many others on this proposal?”
  • “Do agreed changes to the S353 City Centre Masterplan Committee meeting minutes actually occur and are they presented as agreed changes at the next subsequent meeting?”

And let’s re-iterate this one from the 24 July article too because more than ever it seems to be appropriate;

  • “Who controls council, staff or the elected representatives?”

Yes, Council wants to revamp and revitalise the City Centre.  Excellent!  We are in agreement.

But does getting rid of popular attractions who know their product, service excellence, product placement and pricing strategies that locals like and respond to positively achieve this?

It is highly doubtful.

And if the City Centre and City Square are to be rejuvenated, which is a good idea, where is the plan to re-zone some CBD properties so upper floors of CBD buildings and newer developments could be used for apartment accommodation as is being done in countless other progressive regional cities in Australia, such as Lismore,  and overseas because it works?

You know as in encouraging people to live there and use the facilities after 5.00 p.m? Or does Council’s Planning Department prefer to live in a past tense ‘time warp’ as is often argued by increasing numbers of people on the Coffs Coast?

Let’s not expect considered answers to these questions. Council doesn’t seem to do that apparently.

We think we have a pretty good idea of what the answers are though.

One Comment

  1. Let me have a wild stab at this.

    (1) The contradiction is that if having Caffeine Central in City Square “effectively privatises that area” then wouldn’t that apply to everyone else doing business in the Square?

    (2) The ‘vested interests’ Council is appeasing wouldn’t be a small unrepresentative number of special levy ratepayers who own properties in and around the Square by any chance?

    If the answer to the above is ‘Yes’ to both questions then all I have to say is; “Well hack my legs off and call me Tiny! Surely some mistake!”

    George Orwell was spot-on really wasn’t he?

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