News Articles and Media Releases

News and Media Releases

STATE OF PLAY: Toronto Foreshore and Bath Street

 

The following correspondence between the Toronto Foreshore Protection Group and LMCC sets out the current understanding of LMCC staff of the role and status of community engagement on this matter:

 

Howard Dick/Nico Marcar to Laura Kendall, LMCC Director, Organisational Services

Wed. 8 April 2020, 3:30 PM

 

RE: Implementation of 23 September 2019 Council resolution on Toronto Foreshore Masterplan and reclassification of Bath Street site

 

Dear Laura (cc. Mayor, CEO),

 

When we met with you and the Mayor on 11 March to discuss this matter, you emphasised that Council officers were implementing Council’s resolution of 23September not to proceed with the mixed-use development on the Bath Street site and instead to incorporate the site within the Foreshore Masterplan and reclassify it as community parkland.

 

You will recall that we challenged you as to why the Sustainability Policy review included the option of a commercial development (as agreed by Council in April 2018 but ruled out on 23 September 2019).

 

You argued that it would be necessary to demonstrate to the incoming Council after the September 2020 local government elections that all options had been thoroughly reviewed.

Now that the local government elections have been deferred until September 2021 (some 17 months away) we ask, on behalf of the community, that this position be urgently reconsidered.  

 

Specifically, we ask that the commercial development option be deleted from the Sustainability Review, and that this review be expedited to allow the draft Masterplan to be brought forward promptly for community comment.

 

Otherwise the community is likely draw the conclusion that Council officers are not implementing, let alone expediting, Council’s resolution but in fact obstructing and unnecessarily delaying Council’s efforts to respond to strongly—and repeatedly — expressed community expectations.

 

We would appreciate reassurance on this matter and some specific details as to the timeline and process for completion of and community comment on the Foreshore Masterplan.

 

While these are difficult times, we are observing in recent weeks that the community’s need for exercise, fresh air and waterfront recreation is more than ever demonstrating the need for an improved Foreshore parkland. 

 

The community is looking to Council for leadership, not procrastination.

 

Kind regards,

 

Howard Dick, Nico Marcar

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Laura Kendall, LMCC Director, Organisational Services to Howard Dick/Nico Marcar

Thurs. 9 April 2020, 11:41 AM [underlining below by HD]

 

Good morning, Howard and Nico. Thank you for your email yesterday.

 

Ensuring a comprehensive review of future uses for Council’s land at 4 Bath Street and 1b Victory Row, in accordance with Council’s Sustainability Policy, is important, regardless of the timing of the next local government elections. When we met on 11 March, I did not mean to imply the scope of the review is somehow linked to the timing of council elections. It is not. I apologise if you left the meeting with any other impression.

 

It remains my view that any future decisions by Lake Macquarie City’s elected Council about the aforementioned land should be informed by comprehensive analysis. Council’s September 2019 resolution clearly requires a review to be undertaken based on Council’s Sustainability Policy. It would not be appropriate for me, or any other Council officer, to exclude specific options from the sustainability review based on political unpopularity.

 

That said, I reiterate the assurance I gave on 11 March that Council staff are not “obstructing” or “unnecessarily delaying” implementation of Council’s resolution of 23 September 2019.  I can confirm Council staff (and consultants) are working diligently, and without undue delay, to implement Council’s resolution from September 2019 regarding land at Toronto Foreshore. It is a complex resolution, with six parts that need to be implemented in a logical sequence. To do otherwise would likely create further uncertainty in the community in the medium and long term, and involve inefficient use of public resources.

 

I further reiterate that Council staff pursue the highest standards of integrity regarding our role in supporting decision-making by the elected Council. Our interests are in providing high quality information and professional analysis to support Council’s decision-making processes. We also take very seriously our duty to implement Council’s decisions promptly, without bias or undue influence by other interests. Our work on Toronto Foreshore is guided by these principles, just like any other work we perform as Council officers.

 

From our conversations this year, it is apparent this does not align with your perceptions of some of the staff working on the Toronto Foreshore Project. I absolutely respect your right to form and express your own opinions, and to seek to influence the decisions of the Council elected to govern the City on your behalf. However, I respectfully advise the references to “a delaying tactic” and “procrastination” used in your recent correspondence are neither based in fact, nor conducive to constructive dialogue.

 

You requested specific information on the timeline for completion of, and community input to, the Toronto Foreshore Master Plan. This information is currently available on the Toronto Foreshore’s Shape Lake Mac page.

 

You would recall my advice on 11 March about Council officers’ intent to invite community members to an event in late March to discuss progress and next steps regarding Toronto Foreshore. You would also be aware the event scheduled for 25 March was cancelled, in accordance with restrictions imposed by the Australian and NSW Governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Council staff are currently working to create an alternative opportunity to engage with the community about this topic. Our preference is to engage in person, however, as you would appreciate, this is very difficult due to current physical distancing requirements. We expect to be able to post an update on upcoming community engagement on Shape Lake Mac in the coming week.

 

As you might expect, responding to frequently changing circumstances related to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is currently demanding a lot of time and effort from me and many other Council staff. Our focus at this time is on adapting Council’s services, programs, projects and activities to provide as much normality for the Lake Macquarie community as possible, while protecting the health and safety of community members and our people. I know how strongly you both feel about the future of foreshore land in Toronto, so am happy to provide the foregoing response. However, I trust you understand I will not be able to engage in further lengthy correspondence about this project over the coming days and weeks, and I thank you for your patience with this.

 

Kind regards,

 

Laura

Laura Kendall
Director Organisational Services

_________________________________________________________________________________

Howard Dick to Laura Kendall, LMCC Director, Organisational Services

Thursday 9 April 2020, 5:23 PM

 

Dear Laura,


Thank you for your prompt reply. 


We do appreciate, if not fully, the difficulties that Council now faces in changing the way that it carries out its many tasks and that this poses enormous challenges.


At the same time, we remain concerned that with consultants engaged in formulating a Foreshore Masterplan that it remains a high priority.


And while we are accept under the terms of the Council resolution that a Sustainability Review proceed in parallel with the Masterplan process, we and the community also remain concerned that it not subvert Council's intent to complete an integrated Masterplan that aligns with community expectations for improved recreational space on the Foreshore. 

 

In times not long ago Council officers could have carried out a Sustainability Review promptly and efficiently without need to hire in another set of external consultants.

 

Thoroughness is to be applauded, but what we are trying to address, and I thank you for engaging with us, is not only the future of the iconic Toronto Foreshore but also the community's trust in Council and Councillors to put community needs ahead of commercial considerations. 

 

Until the Masterplanners bring forward their recommendations/options, the community is left in limbo. Since we are now two years into a rather tortured process, the community has an understandable desire to see some results over the next few months. 

 

For now I wish you some quiet time over Easter and look forward to finding out how we will be engaging with the Masterplan consultants in our new Covid-19 world.

 

Kind regards,  

 

Howard Dick

TFPG Update March 2020

Toronto Foreshore Protection Group representatives met recently with Mayor Fraser and three Council staff. Based on our current understanding it appears that commencement of foreshore upgrades as per the Toronto Foreshore Master Plan (TFMP) would not commence until mid to late 2023. So, why is this likely to be the case? There are several reasons for this but they all stem from liberal interpretations of the six September 2019 Council-adopted recommendations. Seemingly unwarranted delays in progress is the outcome. The recommendations pertained to both the Bath Street site and the rest of the foreshore. Even though recommendation D called for the physical area of TFMP to include the Bath Street site, Council is still dealing in fact with the both ‘projects’ separately.

The major reasons claimed for the delays are:

1. Recommendation A (ii): Council has interpreted this as a review of Council’s entire LGA property portfolio, not just those in Toronto, which is what the community had thought. Be that as it may, the two-staged process that Council is employing to do this means a significant time delay in reporting back (at least mid 2020). Why should this be the case you might ask?

2. Recommendation B: Council has indicated that the process to reclassify [non-Bath Street site]from ‘operational’ foreshore land to ‘community will take at least 18 months (late 2021) but more probably not until 2022/23. Why you might ask, when Council only has to advertise for 28 days an intent to change the classification of public land before passing the resolution to change.

3. Recommendation F: Council has interpreted this as the need for a detailed consultancy project which will consider the merits of a suite of options (including ‘do nothing’, ‘parkland’, ‘mixed use development consistent with the LEP’ and ‘6 storey mixed use development’) against the four ‘pillars’ (economic, social, sustainability and governance) of Council’s Sustainability Policy for the Bath Street site. This process will take until at least mid 2020 to complete. Council has stated that such a process is necessary to assess ‘future use and design elements’ as desired by councillors via this recommendation. But why is Council even considering the do nothing and mixed use commercial options when these have already been ruled out by the community and clearly stated, for example in the Phase 3 engagement report, petitions, meetings and media articles?

4. As a consequence of the above, further work on developing the TFMP (recommendation E) is also on hold as Council considers this to be contingent on F.

Therefore, the community is once again poorer for having to wait for several more years before any improvements occur in spite of the approx. $9M of contributions having been available now for a number of years!

Council elections are due in September 2020. It would be disturbing if the delays in process were simply delaying tactics so that a new Council could reassess the situation. Surely this was not the intent of the September 2019 recommendations?

You are probably aware that Greg Piper - our local State Member of Parliament, commissioned some alternative (to the Lake Macquarie City Council - LMCC) design work for the Bath Street development. LMCC have indicated a change of heart and are looking at alternative plans for the site including incorporating the site into the Foreshore Master Plan and rezoning from Operational (meaning it can be sold / developed), back to Community. In the interests of promoting a design for the Bath Street site that is more in line with the wishes of the community, we have attached below, images of the wok commissioned by Mr Piper.  

Bath St image 2.PNG
Bath St image 3.png
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Bath St image 5.jpg
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Dear Council, Community Opinion Does Matter

(Opinion piece by Dr Nico Macar published in the Newcastle Herald)

 

Toronto is idyllically located on the western shore of Lake Macquarie but has the least amount of public foreshore of any lake-side town.  Lake Macquarie Council’s own documents agree that Toronto needs more community foreshore for the recreation of its population.

Yet on 23 April 2018 Council made the fateful, rushed decision to progress a non-compliant, 6 storey residential/tourist/commercial complex on the northern end of Toronto’s foreshore, adjacent to the Royal Motor Yacht Club, with a funding allocation of up to $1M of ratepayer’s money. There was no community consultation.

This open area has been termed the ‘Bath Street’ site and comprises two properties – 4 Bath Street and 1B Victory Row. The community was very surprised to learn that this area is now classified as ‘operational’.

Council argues that the Bath Street site and some adjacent properties have been earmarked for operational use since 1982. This is incorrect. No. 4 Bath Street was purchased by Council in 1985 with no definite plan for its use and only years later rezoned for tourism and recreation plus part “urban support”; No. 1B Victory Row was purchased in 2002 for tourism and recreation.

Council can and does reclassify public land to accord with changing needs. In 2019 the obvious need is to protect and enhance the foreshore park.

Council’s prime obligation to the community is long-run strategic planning as a robust framework for development and this includes protecting the environment (the Lake!) and adding to community amenity. 

In fact, Council is preparing a draft Toronto Foreshore Master Plan. But, despite community pleas, it insists on excluding the Bath Street site.

Perceived financial gain is clearly the reason that Council’s Property & Business Development section has seized the opportunity to become the developer of a prime foreshore site that Council already owns. Council as developer has overridden its role as strategic planner.

Council argues that the northern part of the foreshore will be ‘activated’ by this residential/tourist accommodation complex.  But there is a plethora of existing units as well as many other under construction and planned in Toronto, including a 120+ unit proposal adjacent to the site. Council itself owns alternative sites in Toronto that would be suitable for mixed-use development.

 

A proper economic analysis would assess environmental and community benefits. Would other options make better use of this highly strategic foreshore land? The community has put forward numerous constructive suggestions which would have significant flow-on tourism benefits. These include a mix of continued use for events and overflow car parking, a cycling hub, cafe, picnic tables, amphitheatre, boat hire facility, tree planting and public art.

Council’s proposal is at odds with its own strategic planning for Toronto town centre, the Lake and its Foreshore, heritage, view lines and likely traffic issues. If Council flouts its own planning guidelines then why should private developers pay them any heed? In fact an adjacent private developer is already seeking a height variation based in part on Council’s own new precedent.

Ratepayers have voiced their disapproval with Council’s proposal through a 5200-signature petition, 450-strong community meeting, numerous letters to the editor and Council, and overwhelmingly so through written and on-line submissions to Council during last year’s foreshore community consultation.

Council has foreshadowed more “community consultation” on the Foreshore Master Plan but not on the Bath Street site, only the interface between the Bath Street site and the rest of the foreshore area. The only opportunity for community comment will be when the unwanted DA is lodged. No other option is on the table. 

 

Certainly, based on the projected budgets in Council's current Operational Plan and Delivery Program for the next four years, it seems that Council is intent on building this development, as it has set aside about $25 million for capital new works.

It’s about time Council listened to the community and stopped pursuing this proposal. No doubt Council can expect more feedback from the community, as there are also implications for other areas of lake Macquarie.


Dr Nico Marcar, Chair Toronto Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group and member of the Toronto Foreshore Protection Group (tfpg.org.au).

What development would you like to see on the Bath Street Site

The Toronto Foreshore Protection Group (TFPG) are representing the community in an effort to stop Lake Macquarie City Council (LMCC) from developing (up to) a 6 storey residential tower on what the community believe is foreshore parkland in Bath Street.

The TFPG have suggested to LMCC that there are council controlled (owned by the ratepayers) sites in Toronto that would be far more appropriate for the sort of development they are planning for Bath Street. They include the corner of Pemmel and Brighton Avenue, or next to the Anglican Church, or even extending the current Library site.

But what of the Bath Street site? The TFPG have been giving thought as to how they and the community would like to see the Bath Street land developed, and attached is a mud map of what the Bath Street land could look like as an integral part of the Toronto Foreshore Park.

We would dearly like your thoughts on the suggested layout and facilities, so please spend a few minutes looking at the diagram and give us your feedback - click the feedback button below the diagram to send an email with your comments. 

 

Bath Street Alternative V3.jpg

Early Foreshore Foresight ignored

A recently discovered 1980 council brochure says “It is Council’s intention to extend the foreshores Park…” and later continues “The foreshore park should be extended to Bath Street”. You can view the Media Release report by Clicking Here, and the full report below.

Toronto Town Centre proposal 1980 b.jpg
Toronto Town Centre proposal 1980 a.jpg

Council Owned (read community owned) Land In Toronto More Suited To Development

LMCC control a number of landholdings in Toronto - some of which are more suited to the proposed development on Bath Street. The TFPG wrote a letter to council asking them to look seriously at these other holdings instead of pursuing the Bath Street development. Read the letter by Clicking Here

Further Grab for Community Land at Toronto

 

Just three days before Christmas, Lake Macquarie City Council announced in a newspaper advertisement that a number of allotments of public land within the Toronto Township area will be reclassified from ‘Community Classification’ (important to the community for public access and use such as parkland and recreation) to ‘Operational Classification’ for commercial development or sale.

Click Here to view the Media Release

An economist view of the Bath Street development.

Howard Dick is the Conjoint Professor of Business and Law at the University of Newcastle. He recently wrote an article on the subject which was subsequently published in the Newcastle Herald. Click Here for the link to the article.

Are Lake Macquarie City Council displaying the same poor behaviour as many other Local Councils. 

Read this interesting editorial by Jacob Saulwick - journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, published on Saturday December 8th. Click Here for the link. 

Petition Delivered to a packed Gallery

Coal Point Progress Association

OCT 29, 2018 — 

A full gallery of Toronto supporters had to wait 2 hours till almost the  end of the Council meeting to witness the presentation of the petition.

The Mayor denied Clr Harrison's wish to speak briefly on the context of the petition, only allowing her to read the subject of the petition. Clr Harrison had to overcome repeated attempts to be silenced by the Mayor to even report on the actual petition numbers that were being tabled.

At the silencing of Clr Harrison the gallery became vocal and a 5 minute recess was called.

 

Clr Harrison had attempted to have the petition presented earlier in the meeting by requesting the agenda be rearranged, a practice which is a common occurrence.  However the other councillors did not support her. They did however support changing the order of the agenda later in the meeting when a confidential matter needed to be discussed. The double standard was not lost on those present.

One has to wonder why the elected representatives would choose to show such little respect for those that have made the time to be active citizens, perhaps the councillors wanted to show us what democracy looks like.

181021_TFPG 5000 signatures support exte
181021_TFPG 5000 signatures support exte

TORONTO FORESHORE NEWS UPDATE - JULY 13, 2018.

Did Lake Macquarie City Council consider the following State Planning regulations and documents before embarking on their Bath Street development project?

In addition to contravening its own Local Environment Plan and local planning documents, it would seem that Lake Macquarie City Council is ignoring a number of other planning requirements set down by the NSW State Department of Planning and Environment.

 

Take for example the new State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018, which commenced in April this year under the NSW Coastal Management Act 2016 (full information is available through the NSW Dept. Planning website which has a super interactive map that designates specific areas under different classifications).

 

The Toronto foreshore between the Lifestyle Marina site and the RMYC is classified both as ‘Coastal Environment Area’ which is quite large and extends well back from the foreshore as well as being within the smaller ‘Coastal Use Area’ which is a line drawn back 250m from the waterline.  Any developments within these zones must satisfy certain criteria, namely:

 

Coastal Environment Area – A consent authority must be satisfied that the proposed development avoids, minimises or manages impacts on:

The integrity and resilience of the biophysical, hydrological and ecological environment;

Coastal environmental views and natural processes

The water quality of the marine estate, and has particular regard to cumulative impacts  -              on sensitive coastal lakes

 

Marine vegetation, native vegetation and fauna and their habitats, undeveloped headlands and rock platforms

 

Existing public open space and safe access to and along the foreshore, beach, headland or rock platform for members of the public, including people with disability

 

Aboriginal cultural heritage, practices and places

 

Coastal Use Area – proposals must address public interest and built form criteria to avoid, minimise or mitigate impacts on:

 

Existing safe access to and along foreshore, beach, headland or rock platform, including access for people with disability

 

Overshadowing, wind tunnelling and loss of views from public places to foreshores

 

The visual amenity and scenic nature of the coast including headlands

 

Aboriginal cultural heritage, practices and places

Cultural and built environmental heritage

 

Perhaps Lake Macquarie City Council could identify how their Bath Street development meets these requirements – before they spend up to $1M on the Development Application.

 

Another example revolves around the draft Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036, prepared by the NSW Dept. of Planning, which covers the Local Government areas of Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, Cessnock, Maitland and lower parts of Port Stephens. Councils own planning documents and LEPs will need to comply with this Metro Plan in order to gain approval from the State.  At page 41 of the plan is Strategy 2.2 which states – Create more public spaces where people come together.  During discussion it states that “Lake Macquarie, its waterfront and the coastline have helped shape Greater Newcastle and are essential to the identity, liveability and prosperity of the City.”

 

Under ACTIONS, it indicates that Greater Newcastle councils with support from NSW Department of Planning and Environment will:

 

create and activate public spaces in the strategic centres that are suitable for community events like markets, festivals, commemorations and assemblies

 

protect and enhance waterfront parkland areas

 

promote public lookout places to maintain views to iconic buildings and vistas

 

implement a Public Art Strategy (abbreviated from original)

 

identify, protect and celebrate Aboriginal cultural heritage.

 

 

It is difficult to see how the proposed residential development on the Toronto Foreshore by Lake Macquarie City Council satisfies the rulings and recommendations in the above plans and planning policies.

 

The above plans and planning policies appear to be more in-line with the concept of ‘a vibrant and healthy community’ and Council’s focus must be similarly aligned. The current council focus is clearly on a commercial development that primarily benefits the small number of people that will buy the residential apartments and the council who will make money out of it. It is clearly not on the health and wellbeing of the community.  

 

Toronto Foreshore Protection Group.