For the most part the meeting was conducted in a civil almost collegial way.
In fact, I was actually hopeful that some of the dysfunction of the council was coming to an end. I was already preparing in my mind a really positive introduction and headline about the last meeting of the year. Then the mayor let loose, as I wrote in this earlier comment piece.
We also had our first absence since the election, with Cr Eva Campbell sending in her apologies.
There were six public addresses, including the shortest I have ever seen and a very powerful one from the Police Association of NSW. Let’s get to them.
There were five scheduled public addresses and one tentative speaker.
Speaker 1 - Rachel Perry: The first was from Rachel Perry regarding ORD04 – the proposed childcare centre for Camden. It was a wonderfully short address just asking for the council’s support for the development of the centre as the DA currently stands.
Speaker 2 - Mr Picton: Next up was Mr Picton who was speaking in opposition to ORD02, the extension of 37 Forrest Rd, Camden. He clearly had concerns about overshadowing and felt that the council officers had misrepresented the impacts of the extension on his property and the neighbourhood.
He requested that councillors visited the site before a decision was made.
Speaker 3 - Sgt Rod Sheraton: The third speaker was Sergeant Rod Sheraton from the Police Association of NSW, who was speaking to the Notice of Motion put forward by Cindy Cagney calling on the council to ask for more police officers in the local area command in the lead-up to Christmas. It was a powerful public address that highlighted the issues the local command had been up against over a number of years.
He noted that this was third largest local area command by area in NSW (from Bargo to Leppington) and that it last had an increase of just one officer in 2013. That officer was removed in the past 12 months. He quoted the statistics from a story in Camden Advertiser and then pointed out that the Camden local area command had a high domestic violence rate, with around 2000 cases being reported every year – that is more than five separate incidents on average a day.
He reminded us of the closure of police stations at The Oaks and Picton and said officers were being exposed more often to dangerous situations because of a lack of back-up.
In concluding, Sgt Sheraton recognised that management and the local State MPs had supported the call for more officers but that to date they had not been successful.
Speaker 4 - Glenda Davis: The fourth speaker was Glenda Davis who spoke on ORD05 – the development of a medical centre at the old council buildings. She noted that an independent heritage impact statement had not been provided and voiced concerns about the provision of car parks and how the additional traffic may affect the centre of Camden. She kindly provided her full statement, which you can read here (pdf).
Speaker 5 - Matthew Waters: The fifth speaker was Matthew Waters who spoke in support of ORD02 – the extension of 37 Forrest Rd, Camden. He noted the changes that had been made, including reducing the garage to a single garage, placing only a porch on top of the garage – not a full extension – pruning of trees to help with the neighbour’s light and changing the front extension to suit the area.
Tentative Speaker - Joseph Tadros: The sixth and tentative speaker was Joseph Tadros who spoke to ORD04 – the proposed childcare centre. It was a remarkably short address and noted that the applicant had consulted extensively and worked with the council for a long time prior to the submission to get it right. He said he looked forward to working with the council.
There were no mayoral minutes at this meeting, so it was down to business.
ORD01: Construction of a two-storey dwelling at 26 Milton Circuit Oran Park.
This went through with little fanfare. The application was fully compliant and was passed unanimously.
ORD02: Alterations and additions to a partial two-storey house at 37 Forrest Cres, Camden.
Prior to the meeting it appeared as if all of the councillors had decided to pass this unanimously. However, Mr Picton’s public address had given Cr Paul Farrow cause for a rethink. He put forward a motion for deferral, so that the councillors could inspect some of the issues themselves.
The mayor, Cr Lara Symkowiak, noted that the Director of Planning and Environmental Services Nicole Magurren had sent an email to all councillors to give them an opportunity to inspect the location. It transpired that only Cr Ashleigh Cagney had taken that opportunity. Cr Symkowiak was concerned that a deferral would delay any construction until after February on what had already been a drawn out process. On that basis she opposed the motion for deferral.
The motion of deferral was defeated along party lines with the Liberals and Independent Rob Mills against the motion and the Labor councillors supporting it.
The original recommendation then went back to the floor.
Cr Peter Sidgreaves spoke in support of the application after saying that he had driven past the property to look at it before the meeting and noting that every councillor has that opportunity. He thought it was a reasonable application and that the applicant had made changes in consideration of the objections.
Cr Symkowiak also supported the application, noting similar points to Cr Sidgreaves and saying she thought a “good compromise had been reached”.
This was passed with only Cr Farrow and Cr Cindy Cagney opposing the motion.
ORD03: Construction of a dual occupancy townhouse at 46 Orbit St, Gregory Hills.
This was a very interesting debate because of suggestions from councillors across both major parties that more discussions around densities may be needed in regards to Camden’s growth areas.
Essentially what we saw here was the subdivision of a 609sqm block to create two townhouses.
Cr Farrow was opposed to this saying that people who had already bought land and moved in did not expect to live beside such small lot developments.
Cr Cindy Cagney agreed, saying it has long been a concern of hers for similar reasons and that she could not support the development.
Cr Sidgreaves supported the development because of housing affordability problems saying in certain precincts we have to make allowances for that. He felt that Gregory Hills was an area where this fitted with the plans. Interestingly, he made the point that as a council further discussion needed to be had about where it wanted to see growth and where large lot sizes should be retained.
Cr Symkowiak also supported the development and made the observation that councillors should not make a decision based on how they feel about a development but by looking at the rules. She said that when the applicant bought this land, they bought it knowing the rules allowed subdivision and it would be unfair to the owner to decline the application considering they bought it in good faith.
She also noted that Gregory Hills is part of the South-West Growth Centre and as such it could override the Council’s development program.
The motion was passed by a majority with the Liberals and Cr Rob Mills voting it through.
ORD04: 72-place childcare at 31 Broughton St, Camden.
This involved the complete demolition of the existing structure and a new building. Cr Morrison had a non-pecuniary interest and left the chambers for this debate.
As the person putting forward the motion, Cr Sidgreaves noted it was a service well and truly needed. He noted the application complied with the DCP, heritage, traffic and acoustic conditions.
ORD05: Alterations and additions to former council building for new medical centre at 37 John St, Camden.
Cr Theresa Fedeli supported the application saying she thought the medical centre would be of great benefit to Camden.
Cr Cindy Cagney also supported the recommendation but said she did have some concerns about car parking and the lack of a heritage statement that she would like on the record. She noted a report said the independent heritage statement would be forthcoming but it seems to have been overlooked. She said as the owner and the landlord it was important for the council to follow its own procedures.
She also had problems with the decked car park.
Cr Symkowiak also spoke in favour of the application. She addressed the concerns regarding the heritage statement saying that as there were no actual demolition or structural alterations to the heritage Maccaria building this would not be an issue. This is simply the case of an office being refitted, she said.
In terms of traffic issue, she believed the high turnover of traffic because the patients would be short-term users of the medical centre would offset parking issues.
The application was passed unanimously.
ORD06: 32.5m telecom tower along Camden Valley Way near Harrington Park
The mayor took this item in hand immediately and moved a resolution to refuse it on the basis that the tower itself was unsatisfactory in its planning, the number of letters of opposition from the community and because it was not in the public interest.
The resolution was seconded by Cr Cindy Cagney.
Cr Symkowiak spoke to the refusal saying that more effort could have been made to find a better site in Smeaton Grange, the visual amenity was a significant issue and that it was unfair for residents who moved in without knowing a tower was going to be constructed.
Cr Cindy Cagney agreed, saying the location was all wrong.
The resolution to refuse was passed unanimously.
ORD07: Amendments to the development control plans for Catherine Field Park Precinct.
This has previously passed through the council. Passed unanimously.
ORD08: Submission to Department of Planning and Environment opposing aspects of the proposed medium density housing code and draft medium density design guide.
As Cr Fedeli noted, if the changes proposed by the State Government were to go ahead, the council would have no control over development.
This is a strong and well thought out submission by council officers. Passed unanimously.
ORD09: Report on the impact of Celtis Sinensis, Celtis Australis and Celtis Occidentalis on the Environment.
This report concludes that action on removing Chinese Celtis or Hackleberry trees would be too expensive and that other noxious weeds are a priority.
ORD10: Appointments to committees.
This is just the confirmation process for new members of 355 committees. The committees include Camden International Friendship Association, Camden Seniors Program Committee, Camden Bicentennial Equestrian Committee and Camden Town Farm Committee.
Cr Michael Morrison noted they had attracted a good group of candidates and that he looked forward to working with them all.
Cr Symkowiak thanked the nominees and said she looked forward to working with them collaboratively.
ORD11: Community sponsorship program allocation – January to June 2017.
Confirming allocation to community groups across Camden.
ORD12: Housing acceleration funding - $2.9m for Ingleburn and Rickards Rd.
The aim of this funding is for the planning and development of improvements to Ingleburn and Rickards Rd, Leppington, so that infrastructure for the new town centre will be in place well in advance.
ORD13: Grant acceptance of $6000 from Australian Men’s Shed.
This grant from AMS is to reinforce the concrete apron of the Camden Men’s Shed Workshop.
NOTICES OF MOTION
NOM01: Report to locate additional outdoor youth spaces
Cr Theresa Fedeli’s notice of motion asks for council officers to produce are report to determine locations for new outdoor play areas similar to that developed at Birriwa Park.
Cr Sidgreaves said that while the proposal was only to report back on a location, he felt it would be worthwhile looking at a park with disabled access swings and other facilities.
Cr Farrow asked if an amendment could be made that might capture exactly which area might be considered, noting south ward needed something.
While Cr Fedeli understood his concerns she thought it would make more sense to go through the report process first as the council was already considering a water park. She said she certainly wouldn’t mind if it went to South Ward.
Cr Farrow was happy with that, saying it was a positive motion and he didn’t want to take away from that.
Cr Symkowiak said that Cr Fideli was taking the appropriate route and that the size, impacts on sporting groups, parking space and even the possibility of co-locating the park with a water park are all important considerations. The purpose is so that more people can get to it more easily, she said.
NOM02: Council requests State Government to increase police numbers urgently before Christmas in the Camden Local Area Command.
I expected in my pre-meeting summary of Cr Cindy Cagney’s motion for this to be a bitterly contested debate with political overtones. I was pleasantly surprised that for the initial part of this discussion this was actually very civil and looked to be passed unanimously.
However, as I noted in my earlier story, even though this was going to pass, Cr Symkowiak was unable to restrain herself. It absolutely destroyed the sense of civility that had pervaded the meeting until this point.
The debate did produce some very interesting discussions despite the ridiculous attack of the mayor that are very worthy of note.
Cr Cindy Cagney opened the discussion by explaining that a phone call from someone working in law and order had prompted the notice of motion. She mentioned how a businessman in a retail shop had to wait six hours for police to arrive after a theft. She noted police have been waiting two years to receive 14 new staff.
Importantly, she noted that police officers were under such stress that they were for the first time contemplating industrial action. With Christmas approaching and the additional workload, the police were asking for help.
Cr Sidgreaves said he would definitely support the motion. While he understood a new model for police assignments to local area commands would start from next year, there was no harm in requesting additional support before Christmas.
Cr Symkowiak indicated she supported more police numbers. She said she had recently attended a domestic violence breakfast with the police minister and local MP Chris Patterson. She said she also new Mr Patterson had been in touch with the Deputy Commisisoner for police. She also indicated the article in the Macarthur Chronicle where Mr Patterons said Camden will be a big winner under the new allocation scheme coming next year.
She then abruptly turned to Cr Cindy Cagney and asked if she had phoned Mr Patterson before the motion. I reported on this ugly exchange here.
At the end of it all, the Notice of Motion was passed unanimously.
NOM03: Illegal parking in Somerset Ave, Narellan.
Cr Cagney opened the discussion. She suggested that Section 94 money that should have been used for Narellan parking structures had been redirected to Camden’s car park.
Cr Cagney also noted the Channel 7 News report that said there had been 300 complaints of cars parking across driveways illegally. She said she was concerned that $3m allocated for the business people of Narellan and a car park was going to Camden. She asked how long before it would be returned.
Cr Symkowiak responded by saying that while Cr Cagney’s notice of motion was not illegal, it was incorrect. She said the Channel 7 report also included Larkham Place at the back of St Pauls, Camden. The time period was from 2014 to the present.
During those last two years Cr Symkowiak said the town centre opposite Somerset Avenue underwent major construction and this caused car park issues to spill into the surrounding area. This is not the case now, he said.
She asked the Director of Planning and Environment Services, Nicole Magurren, for a summary of recent complaints and infringement notices. She said there were 32 notices for the past year and only one was for parking over a driveway.
Cr Symkowiak then noted that the whole movement of money as described by Cr Cindy Cagney was incorrect. A total of $61.5m was available and of this $19.5m was allocated for Camden and Narellan.
The council had actually spent more than Narellan’s allocation for parking plan and it was actually in deficit to the tune of $500,000. We can’t steal money from Narellan that isn’t there, Cr Symkowiak said.
Cr Symkowiak then asked the General Manager Ron Moore if the council currently had enough funds to build a car park in Narellan tomorrow if it was needed. Ms Moore confirmed that the council had $19.5m available and that work could start the very next day if needed.
In conclusion Cr Symkowiak said she could not support the motion because it was incorrectly worded.
Cr Sidgreaves supported this position noting we should be making decisions on current data rather than old data.
After a short discussion, Cr Cindy Cagney withdrew the notice of motion altogether asking for the information could be mailed to all councillors.
The withdrawal of the motion was passed unanimously.
Cr Symkowiak wished everyone the best of the season and said she hoped to see everyone “bright and fresh faced in 2017”.