Storm clouds brew at Sunny Sawtell
By BELINDA F SCOTT
SAWTELL business people and residents say a supermarket in the middle of First Avenue will destroy the unique character of the town's main street.
Sawtell Chamber of Commerce president Brian Knight and Sawtell Progress Association member Kaye Foran addressed a hastily-gathered protest meeting at the site of the proposed supermarket yesterday.
"I think it stinks," said Sawtell Progress Association members Heather Austin, Dana Kennedy and Kaye Foran, who believe Coffs Harbour City Council's oversight in not gazetting the village's development control plan for years has encouraged inappropriate development.
Residents also plan to attend tonight's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting, where councillors will consider the proposal.
The planned supermarket is part of a proposal by a Coffs Harbour developer to demolish four buildings in First Avenue, two on either side of the street and replace them with new buildings, one of which will house a Farmer Charlie's supermarket. The four buildings currently contain six shops, four of them vacant.
Both developments propose demolishing buildings listed as being of local heritage significance in Sawtell's local environement plan, but yesterday residents were unsentimental about the old buildings but outraged by the proposed supermarket, which is almost three times the size of the existing Four Square foodstore.
"Sawtell is a unique little shopping village and we want to keep it that way," Mr Knight said.
"A supermarket's definitely not something you want in the middle of Sawtell.'
"It should remain as a boutique shopping centre."
Residents also fear feral shopping trolleys and parking problems.
Julia Atkinson said she had no problem with demolishing the buildings, but wanted to see them replaced with something small scale.
She said Toormina's supermarkets, where a $21 million extension to Centro Toormina is in progress, were only five minutes away and there were plenty of other supermarket shopping centres to choose from.
"Sawtellians are happy to support the small shops, but this will put them out of business," Ms Atkinson said.
"It will destroy the butcher, the baker and two fruit shops for a start and the character of Sawtell will be lost for ever."
Architect and Sawtell resident Ann Gee said the Sawtell development control plan had been ratified to protect the village atmosphere and specifically mentioned 'the small older-style shops of the small-scale town centre'.
Sawtell Bait and Tackle owner Owen Cossley says so much development is proposed for First Avenue he wonders where he will find new premises if his shop is demolished.
He said with buildings having changed hands for high prices, new owners and developers would want high rents, so he is also anxious about the amount of rent he will have to pay.
But the owner of Sunpatch Surf, Mark Hodgson, who hopes to move into a new, much larger shop in one of the new buildings, said while he could see both sides of the supermarket debate, it was not helping trade to have so many derelict shops in Sawtell.