Council seeks to clarify parking issues

Additional land for the Palmer Street car park was purchased in 1987 for $410,000, council said in a response to a question about parking in Merimbula.
Additional land for the Palmer Street car park was purchased in 1987 for $410,000, council said in a response to a question about parking in Merimbula.

Council has sought to clarify its position on the history of parking spaces in Merimbula following a question from councillor Russell Fitzpatrick at the last council meeting.

There has been considerable debate over historical parking arrangements driven particularly by Merimbula landlord Robert Green who has questioned where the money he believed had been contributed to council in lieu of parking spaces, had gone.

In council’s business paper for the meeting of October 11, council’s general manager Leanne Barnes said Mr Green has suggested that no car parking had been created since the 1960s and this was not correct.

However Mr Green said that he had never made this statement.

“I have owned land in the Merimbula district since the 1970s and I know perfectly well that land was acquired by the council in the 1970s and 1980s for car parking and that the Main St land was acquired more recently than that.

The lack of public car parking is one of the things which is crippling Merimbula as a shopping centre.

Robert Green

“What I have consistently said is that there are fewer car parking spaces in public car parks today than there were in the 1980s,” Mr Green said.

“Recently the council has removed about 45 spaces from the Palmer car park. When the land is sold to Aldi another 60 spaces will be removed from Merimbula's public car parking. In neither case has the council taken steps to replace that public car parking.

“The lack of public car parking is one of the things which is crippling Merimbula as a shopping centre. The council has already admitted that it owes Merimbula at least 501 spaces in public car parks.  At the very least let's get at least that amount of public car parking,” Mr Green said.

The details in the council business paper for the meeting October 11 are part of the general manager’s response to Cr Fitzpatrick who asked for information on the level of contributions paid for car parking spaces in the Merimbula CBD since 1971 and details of any other methods of contributions that had been provided in the same period such as  the dedication of land in lieu of the provision of car parking spaces.

General manager Leanne Barnes said contributions were received for a total of 153.3 car parking spaces in Merimbula since 1971 and during the same time council accepted the dedication of land in lieu of the provision of 48 car parking spaces

“Examples available where other calculations were used: are the Promenade development which paid $37,500; DA No 1981.255 dedicated land and paid $2800 in lieu of providing for eight spaces; and DA No 1989.1093 dedicated land and paid $8000 in lieu of providing five spaces. This represents a total of $46,300 received by council in lieu of 23 spaces,” Ms Barnes said.

“This calculation does not include the parking offset for the dedication of land at the Waterfront Cafe.

“There was a period in the 1980s where complexes such as the Beasley Arcade, Centre Point after credits, paid $1000 per space; the property on Alice Street, Beach Street and Market Street paid no parking contributions and provided car parking onsite which was dedicated as community space (where Poppys is); the Promenade dedicated land to council in lieu of parking contributions; the Picture Showman provided some parking but presented to council and the remainder were waived; Merimbula Square transferred land to council for parking at the rear of the development and later redevelopment received credits; the Rockmans building dedicated the adjacent laneway in lieu of car parking. Developments such as the Bowling Club, Woolworths and the RSL Club have provided parking on site,” Ms Barnes said.

“The total amount spent on the creation of new car parking spaces include council‘s purchase of a property with 29 spots in 2009; Alice Street purchase in 1983 for $360,000; first part of Palmer Street was negotiated in 1971 by Imlay Shire as part of a residential subdivision; the developer Mr Palmer retained a one metre strip and we do not believe paid any car parking contributions; additional land for the Palmer Street car park was purchased in 1987 for $410,000 and works were subsequently done at both Alice Street and Palmer Street to create car spaces,” Ms Barnes added.

“There is also the work on the dedicated car park in Cabarita Place,” she said.

Legislation relating to the methods for council accepting dedication of land in lieu of car parking is in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, Division 6 – Development Contribution. Council Policy 3.15 - Planning Agreements is also relevant.

Cr Fitzpatrick also asked whether council staff would consider appointing an audit company to carry out an independent review of council decisions over the last 40 years “to put this matter to bed”.

He has been told that council officers have engaged an independent planning consultant to review its treatment of car parking considerations in Merimbula and audit the files and Section 94 Plan.

The results of this review will be provided to councillors and the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Green said the property owners have asked to be allowed to meet the auditors but the request had been denied.