Chamber opposes Bullion St carpark sale
Peninsula Chamber of Commerce has come out opposing the proposed sale of Umina's Bullion St carpark.
It could be devastating to West St and the Umina Town Centre, according to Chamber president Mr Matthew Wales.
"There will be traffic chaos and businesses will suffer," Mr Wales said.
The Central Coast Council has called for expressions of interest from parties wishing to acquire and develop the land, which is currently zoned B2 for Local Centre.
The former Gosford Council placed a covenant over the land before calling for expressions of interest, in an attempt to protect the 160 parking spaces.
Mr Wales said the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce intended to seek an urgent meeting with Central Coast Council chief Mr Rob Noble.
"We will request that the Council abandons the current expression of interest process and consults with Umina businesses and the community to come up with a positive covenant that works for the town and not just for the Council," he said.
"My view is the current expression of interest, including the positive covenant, is totally inadequate," Mr Wales said.
"Too many people have raised concerns directly with me as president of the Chamber, including business owners, and this current expression of interest fails to protect the interests of business owners and the future viability of West St," he said.
"West St is successful because it has got the Bullion St carpark."
The positive covenant, Mr Wales said, "has fatal flaws".
Gosford Council's application for the covenant to be placed over the land was made by its Manager of Property and Economic Development Mr Christopher Redman on April 8 under the delegated authority of the then chief Mr Paul Anderson.
"It is intended that the land be sold," Gosford Council's application for the positive covenant said.
"This order is made to ensure that sufficient public parking is provided on the land for the community of Umina.
"...parking for 160 motor vehicles must be made available on the land at no charge to members of the public between 7am and 9pm seven days per week," the covenant said.
However, the first flaw in the covenant, according to Mr Wales, was that it allowed for reduced public parking during construction.
"Where the owner undertakes construction for a development, the owner may reduce the parking available on the land to the members of the public to assist in the construction of the development where it obtains permission from council".
"From the moment the developer gets a construction certificate until completion of the development, the car parking is lost to the town centre and that would be devastating to the main street of Umina,' Mr Wales said.
"People will make a decision to go elsewhere to do their shopping and it would create the traffic chaos in Umina that Terrigal is faced with today.
"I won't stand by and see Umina lose 160 parking spaces," Mr Wales said.
He said the covenant, in its current form, could see the carpark closed for up to two years and that would be a reasonably positive scenario.
"What if a developer acquired the land, commenced construction and then went broke?
"I don't believe it is possible for the developer to substitute 160 car spaces in another location for the duration of a development.
"The land cannot be developed in the way council is proposing because it cannot guarantee the community would not lose its parking."
Mr Wales said if the Central Coast Council wanted to continue with the proposed sale of the Bullion St land it would need to provide Umina Town Centre with a multi-storey car park elsewhere to guarantee the existing 160 free parking spaces and have capacity for future growth.
The second flaw in the current positive covenant, according to Mr Wales, was that it provided the new land owner with the ability to charge for the parking if it obtains permission to do so from council.
"The owner may request permission to charge for public parking and council will not unreasonably withhold or refuse permission if a period of at least five years has elapsed since the date of the final occupation certificate for the most recent development of the land and the land has been developed in excess of 50 per cent of the maximum intensity allowable under the zoning for the land," the covenant said.
The final flaw was that existing West St businesses that back on to the Bullion St carpark could lose their rear access if Bullion St was sold and the land developed.
"At the moment there is no formal roadway; the existing laneway forms part of the property that runs right up to the back of the businesses," he said.
Mr Wales said several of those existing businesses had development consents that had to provide rear access to their buildings for commercial reasons and for fire egress.
Some businesses had their own parking that could become inaccessible if the carpark was sold and developed right to its boundary with the existing West St buildings.
Business owners in the area were not notified by council prior to the Expressions of Interest being called.
Because the land is classified as "operational", the council did not have to consult the community before it decided to sell it.
The diversion of delivery vehicles to West St from the "informal" laneway at the boundary of the Bullion St land would be a traffic nightmare for Umina Town Centre, according to the Chamber.
"It would be like telling Umina shoppers the council was going to put paid parking metres in; there will be a worse revolt than the Ettalong boarding house proposal," Mr Wales said.
The Gosford Council did hold discussions with the Peninsula Chamber in 2014 about the future of the Umina Town Centre.
"We did say that the Bullion St Carpark was important to the town centre and held prospects for future development for community benefit but at no time did we agree to its wholesale sale," Mr Wales said.
"Umina is unique and successful because of Bullion St.
"There is no other town centre in the former Gosford local government area that has a grid system to give traffic access to and from the town centre, the offers kerbside parking and the parking in Bullion St with its direct links to businesses.
"Then we have excellent public transport in the form of buses so if you play around with that mix of unique circumstances you could ruin the town centre.
"Every other town centre that is suffering retail problems has a shortage of parking.
"We did not spend a decade encouraging businesses to come to Umina to see it ruined,' Mr Wales said.
Interview, 30 Aug 2016
Matthew Wales, Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
Reporter: Jackie Pearson