Protest signs at the Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church at Sawtell. Photo by Trevor Veale
Protest signs at the Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church at Sawtell. Photo by Trevor Veale

Church proposal divides community and Council

A conceptually poor, profit-driven development, at odds with Catholic values.

That's how many Sawtell residents, including Charles Lucas, are describing the latest proposal which involves clearing rainforest to make way for eight units on land owned by the Catholic Church Diocese of Lismore.

The corner block is between Boronia and Honeysuckle Streets and Fourth Ave, one strip back from the beach, south of the surf club.

Several units have already been built on the site.
Several units have already been built on the site.

A previous version of the plan was knocked back by Coffs Harbour City Council in September last year.

Unhappy with the outcome the Diocese of Lismore submitted an amended application which was narrowly approved at the recent Council meeting.

Mayor Denise Knight who lives in Sawtell and knows people who live near the church declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the vote.

Councillors Sally Townley, Tegan Swan and Keith Rhoades have since lodged a rescission motion to refuse the latest application based on unacceptable impacts on local traffic, flooding and on neighbourhood amenity and not being in the public interest.

This motion will come before Councillors on Thursday night.

Protesters at the site on Monday.
Protesters at the site on Monday.

Mr Lucas says the amended plans (which included breaking up the eight town houses to incorporate a 1.9 gap) should never have been approved as they actually increased the size and bulk of the proposal.

He talks of the uneasy marriage of Catholic values and ethos with their property development division.

"The land was actually given to the church by Ozzie Sawtell. He was very enamoured with New York and this is why the streets are named First Avenue and Second Avenue and so on," Mr Lucas said.

Brett Cruickshank is calling on Council to support the rescission motion by Councillors Sally Townley, Tegan Swan and Keith Rhoades which will be up for debate on Thursday.
Brett Cruickshank is calling on Council to support the rescission motion by Councillors Sally Townley, Tegan Swan and Keith Rhoades which will be up for debate on Thursday.

Brett Cruickshank lives a few doors down on Honeysuckle Street and has had family in the area for 80 years.

"Boxy little units are not in keeping with the coastal appeal of the area. The houses on the southern side of the units will only get two hours of sunlight a day and there will be a driveway on a blind corner - it's just an accident waiting to happen," Mr Cruickshank said.

Another huge concern, spelt out in black and white by signs held aloft by protesters on Monday morning, is the clearing of littoral rainforest on the site.

"The Catholic Church is facing an ethical dilemma in terms of the challenging union between its property development and the spiritual development arms, which is currently being played out around the world and indeed, in regard to a tiny area of critically endangered rainforest in Honeysuckle Street," Mr Lucas said.

The Catholic Church Diocese of Lismore is behind another controversial DA recently up for consideration by Council.  It's for 52 units on Hastings St, Woolgoolga, across the road from the First Sikh Temple.

RELATED: Developer stretches the friendship on height limits

The Catholic Church Diocese of Lismore was contacted for comment.



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