Bermagui Woolworths approved in tight council vote

A WOOLWORTHS supermarket has been approved for Bermagui by the Bega Valley Shire Council in a 5-4 vote Wednesday afternoon.

The DA was deferred at the last council meeting on March 26, with councillors seeking a staff report on issues brought up during public deputations (BDN, 28/3).

The DA was back before council at its Wednesday meeting – with one significant change.

The proposal to include a liquor store in the complex - which will include a supermarket, specialty stores and car park - has been excised from the DA by the applicant Fabcot.

The council staff report concluded the development “meets the objectives of the zone, is a permissible land use, is considered to achieve the orderly and economic use and development of the land and is consistent with the strategic direction for Bermagui”.

Voting for the resubmitted development on Wednesday were Mayor Bill Taylor, Deputy Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick and councillors Tony Allen, Sharon Tapscott and Michael Britten.

Against were councillors Keith Hughes, Kristy McBain, Liz Seckold and Ann Mawhinney.

Before the vote there were five deputations against the DA.

Nadine Hills spoke first on behalf of herself and her husband Edward.

She brought with her several posters with key statements written on them, which she stuck to the front of councillors’ desks as she spoke, including one that read “Early 2014 83% opposed”.

“There has been insufficient consultation with the Bermagui community,” she said.

“This is a deeply unpopular development and a direct assault on the economic viability and aesthetics of our town.

“Why not upgrade Narooma Woolworths?

“A development like this in Bermagui would dominate, decimate and detract.

“I implore you to have courage and stand up to this development and say no.

“Who are you really representing?”

Cr Tapscott asked Ms Hill if she owned a small business in Bermagui or had ever been a small businessperson, to which Ms Hill answered no.

The second petitioner was Geoff Steele, a resident of Montague St in Bermagui, who was concerned about traffic flow and the lack of footpaths should the development go ahead.

Christine Poulton spoke on behalf of architect Philip Cox, reading a letter outlining his disappointment in the change of design facades, stating the Woolworths DA was now in opposition to the “regional architectural vernacular”.

A fourth petitioner, Vicki Sherwin, spoke on behalf of herself and her elderly parents, Leo and Gloria Sherwin, who live next door to the development site.

“My father grew up in the house where he and my mother now live and this development would turn their home into a dungeon.

“Don’t people’s lives and health matter?

“On one hand Bega Valley Shire Council proposed to beautify Bermagui [with the CBD masterplan] and on other hand it wants to ruin the beauty of this town with a Woolworths.

“The building is too high and it will be a scar on the landscape.”

Ms Sherwin also questioned why her mother had only received a notice in writing on Tuesday, the day before council met, about the DA being on the council agenda.

The last petitioner was No W in Bermagui community group spokesman Paul Payten.

Mr Payten said he had submitted a detailed letter to the general manager Leanne Barnes regarding reasons for refusal.

“You are elected by the community and the staff is paid by ratepayers, and as councillors you have the right to refuse the DA on behalf of the community,” he said.

“Change in the community does not have to mean development and diminished competition.

“Change needs to be mutually agreed upon.”

Councillors were given a chance to speak for and against the matter.

Cr Fitzpatrick said he believed this second DA was a better result than the one first submitted by Fabcot.

Cr Seckold said she was “concerned about small business in Bermagui and undermining the fishing village character of the town”, voting against it.

Cr Tapscott said she was for the recommendation.

“I acknowledge it’s a vexed issue with for and against, however there is a third group who is for the DA with all the conditions now applied by council.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars leach out of Bermagui every year when people drive to Narooma to shop at Woolies.

“They don’t just go to Woolies, they use other services, go to a café, fill up with petrol, and Bermagui needs to recapture that money.”

Ms Hill became agitated as Cr Tapscott spoke and tried to interject, but was silenced by Cr Britten.

Ms Hill quietened down, but held the “Early 2014 83% opposed” poster above her head for the remainder of the discussion.

“With conditions this can work and will have no Tura Beach [Woolworths] ugliness,” Cr Tapscott said.

Cr Hughes opposed the DA saying it would “diminish the amenity” of Bermagui, with Cr Mawhinney echoing his statements.

Cr Taylor said “as a statement for record, this property has been zoned commercial since 1987”.

“The DA met the objectives of this zone, as does the traffic flow.”

Cr Taylor noted council was bound by NSW Government legislation under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, which set down clear guidelines under which a DA can be approved.

“It is not open to us to operate from the heart as one petitioner asked, we have to abide by the framework set by State Government and abide by the law.”

Cr Allen said all issues previously raised “had been addressed more than adequately” and was voting for the recommendation.

Cr McBain gave her reason for voting against the recommendation as she was concerned about the “social impacts” of the development.

The development application was the second lodged by Fabcot for a Woolworths complex in Bermagui.

The first DA was taken to the Land and Environment Court by the community action group No W in Bermagui

The group will be meeting next week to discuss what steps they are taking next. 

HAVE YOUR SAY: Comment below or email ben.smyth@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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