Offer comes with strings
LENNOX Head's Condon family has offered to donate most of their controversial Condon Hill property to the community. But not everybody is happy with the idea. The offer comes after years of battling Ballina Shire Council and the Land and Environment Court over a controversial 121-unit seniors' living development proposal for the site. At a meeting of Ballina Council's Environment Committee on Thursday, town planner Steve Connelly on behalf of the Condon family and Indigo joint venturers, proposed that almost two thirds of the 9.059 hectare lot be rezoned to public open space. At the moment the site is zoned urban investigation. The hill is now inaccessible private land owned by the Condon's. Under the new proposal the land would be given by the Condon family to the council, to be dedicated as public open space for eternity. Land owner Margaret Condon, who is not related to the Lennox Head developer of the same surname, said she had always planned to open the hill up for the general public. "We wanted to donate it because we realised the value of the land," she said. "Not from the perspective of looking at it, but from the perspective of those who have the privilege to look from it. We realise what a beautiful and special spot it is." Mr Connelly said the proposal involved dedicating the hill, free of cost, with two strings attached that the hill be named in honour of its patriarch, Samuel William Condon, and that the council enter into a legal deed with successors to never rezone the hill to develop it for commercial purposes. The Condons would retain 3.38 hectares of land on the fringe of the hill. However, Victoria O'Connor, co-ordinator of local activist group Lennox Care, said the plan does not go far enough. She said the community had waited patiently for the land to be rezoned for environmental protection, which council staff had recommended be done in 2005. She said it could still be done. By rezoning the whole area, except for small blocks in the north-east and north-west corners, the community could still get access to the land but any development application would be forced to meet more stringent guidelines. On the other hand, president of the local Residents' Association Brian Smith said he was pleased the situation was 'moving forward'. "The green backdrop of Lennox is being preserved. We have always battled for the ridgeline to be left clear and that will happen," he said. Council staff will prepare a report on the matter, outlining options. Councillors would vote on the matter at a council meeting on Thursday, August 23.