Red light district on amber
By BELINDA SCOTT
BROTHELS may be the world's oldest business ventures, but an application for a legal brothel in Coffs Harbour's Hurley Drive has received a cool reception from Coffs Harbour City Council.
At the last council meeting for 2005 on Thursday, councillors were presented with a recommendation to approve an application for a proposed two-storey, three-suite brothel in the Gateway Estate industrial complex in Coffs Harbour south.
Instead, they voted to defer the application to allow discussions on finding a more suitable location, preferably a stand-alone site, passing a motion proposed by the mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, and seconded by Cr Ian Hogbin.
Included in the motion was that council prepare a set of suitable guidelines for the establishment and location of legalised brothels in the city. The city currently has only one legal brothel, at the Jetty.
The proposed site is one of 22 strata-titled industrial bays in an established complex at 25-27 Hurley Drive, which currently houses businesses involved with building, timber, printing, electrical and communications contracting, musical instruments, water, mail and bookbinding as well as storage facilities.
Council planning staff had recommended approval subject to technical conditions.
Under current zoning, brothels are permitted only in industrial areas like Hurley Drive, but still require council approval.
Lifehouse Church pastor Greg Holder spoke against the brothel application.
He said his church and a broader body of the community was totally opposed to the application not only on moral grounds but on the grounds of personal safety, occupational health and safety, car parking difficulties and the fact it devalued other business in the area.
Consultant Kerry Power spoke for the applicant, saying they had applied to open a legitimate business in a zone chosen by state and local government, a business which was not permitted in any other zoning.
He said the business would be discreetly run, would be bound by substantial and detailed occupational health and safety guidelines and studies showed there was more than adequate parking.
Cr Rhoades opposed the application, saying he would prefer a stand-alone site and was concerned about fire safety.
Cr Ian Hogbin said he had no problems with a brothel being established, but was concerned over access and parking and the impact on the existing users of the area, including freight forwarders who used the area at night.
Cr Gavin Smithers also opposed the application, saying existing businesses should have some say in who moved in near them.
Cr Rod McKelvey said many of the businesses in the estate were family businesses but the planning instrument gave little thought to this aspect.
Cr Bill Palmer said he wished councillors did not have to address such issues, which put them 'between a rock and a hard place ... but I don't know whether we can afford to hide behind that rock'.
Cr Palmer said, although he had never entered its front door, he lived within 500 metres of the city's first legal brothel in Orlando Street and thought the neighbours had no problems with it.
Cr Joass said council had to make a decision and the wrong one meant the applicant was entitled to take the matter to the Land and Environment Court.
Cr David Featherstone said he had rented premises in Lawson Crescent for some time before he realised that there was a brothel across the street.
"It really does not affect other businesses," he said, "I did not see one car pull up there ever ? if you had personalised number plates, you wouldn't park outside a brothel."