NOT NIMBYS: Janet Allen, of the McLeans Ridges Community Association, pleading with councillors at the Lismore Council Chambers.
NOT NIMBYS: Janet Allen, of the McLeans Ridges Community Association, pleading with councillors at the Lismore Council Chambers. Northern Star

Lismore mayor does a runner

GASPS of shock and mutterings of dismay came from a packed gallery at a workshop in the Lismore City Council chambers on Tuesday night after mayor Merv King closed the meeting and walked out before the presentation from a member of the McLeans Ridges Community Group.

Janet Allen, from the community group, who was to have addressed the meeting, said she felt the mayor's actions were disrespectful.
The workshop was held to discuss staff recommendations on the developments at Dunoon and McLeans Ridges and to give councillors the opportunity to ask questions.

Cr Jenny Dowell confirmed the council had agreed 'absolutely' to give a community member from each area four minutes for a brief address at the end of each council staff presentation.

So when mayor King announced the meeting was over at 9.10pm following the conclusion of a presentation by the council's strategic planner, Bruce Blackford, there were cries of disapproval.

"It was up to Merv to control the meeting, and for him to stop it before important issues regarding McLeans Ridges had been discussed was poorly handled," Cr Dowell said.

Cr King said he did not think he had done anything wrong by closing down the meeting. He said he did not believe the council had given approval for a representative from McLeans Ridges to speak at the council workshop.

"I recall a representative from Dunoon being approved to speak at the start of the meeting, but not one from McLeans Ridges," he said.

"I've read the 201 objections regarding the McLeans Ridges development, and residents will get the opportunity to speak at the council meeting when we vote."

Cr King said council workshops were usually closed to the public and he had decided to cut the meeting short due to the continual questioning by two councillors.

"I did the right thing. The meeting was hijacked by two councillors who would not let Bruce Blackford make his presentation, and I would have stayed there until 10pm if they had followed the correct procedure."

Cr Dowell said she assumed Cr King was referring to herself and Cr Irwin as the 'two hijackers' and said the comment was appalling.

She said that considering the meeting didn't get to the McLeans Ridges issue until just before 8pm, she was concerned they wouldn't cover important topics before the meeting finished and felt obliged to ask questions.

Cr Dowell tried to explain to Cr King as he left that they had voted to allow Ms Allen to speak, but Cr King was already walking out the door and was soon followed by councillors John Chant and Peter Graham.

Ms Allen said the walkout showed some councillors had no interest in the development at McLeans Ridges or how it would affect their families.

Despite the absence of the mayor and two councillors from the room, the remaining councillors and council staff agreed to hear Ms Allen's presentation.

Ms Allen said the McLeans Ridges plan - which had been redrawn following a request from the council to include a 7000 square metre block for community amenities - was still an urban design that was not suitable for rural land and would have a huge impact on the local road network.

She reiterated that of the 205 submissions regarding the development, 201 were objections.

Ms Allen said she was disappointed Mr Blackford had not addressed any of them at the workshop.

She said concern about the project had been raised by Eltham Public School regarding the safety of Boatharbour Road.

Ms Allen stressed in her address that she and other residents were not anti-development, but did not understand how the people of McLeans Ridges and Lismore would benefit from the project.

"We're not NIMBYs," she said.

It was decided yesterday by council staff that the McLeans Ridges development application would not be voted on at the next council meeting as planned, to allow more time for discussion and community consultation.

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