At the next Council meeting (April 24th) Councillor Pat McGinlay will put forward a motion to have council consider upgrading the Albert Ryan Park toilets as a higher priority. But will he get the support of his fellow councillors. The toilets at Albert Ryan Park are the very ones that Council had moved to decommission a few years ago. Albert Ryan Park is the park that Council wanted to develop until they discovered they didn't own the land. The Batemans Bay community, through two groups, fought tooth and nail to see the Park remain and to see the toilets remain. Now there is a move to see that fast tracked. But is comes down to a vote. Why would Councillor Pat McGinlay's fellow councillors vote no? Back in 2016 Eurobodalla Council has proposed to rezone and reclassify Lots 10 and 11 of the park so that it could sell the land to raise funds for community infrastructure. The council’s website says the land “could provide development opportunities in the form of medium density housing or tourist and visitor accommodation” At the Ordinary Meeting of Council on 12 April 2016 described Albert Ryan Park as the "subject land" and said that it "is currently zoned RE1 Public Recreation, has frontage to Beach Road, and is located between the Batemans Bay towncentre and R3 Medium Density land starting at the corner of Pacific Street and Beach Road. The land commands excellent water views and is a short, flat walk to the town centre.The land is currently under-utilised with its current primary use being the housing of a public toilet.The adjoining lot on the corner of Pacific Street and Beach Road is zoned R3 Medium Density and is currently being marketed for auction, based on its potential to be redeveloped to provide residential units. Council resolved in part on that day to consult with the community prior to any preparation of a formal planning proposal to rezone and reclassify community land. After considerable public outcry when the intention to sell was widely revealed Council resolved to not proceed with the proposal. Since then the community is doing what it can to return it to being a "utilised" park. How will the vote go for Councilor McGinlay? It is suggested that Councillor Tait will vote against him. Initially Tait was for the retention of the park but more and more reiterates, as if by rote, that there is a toilet just down the road, with a big carpark, by the water and that there isn't a need for a second toilet in such close proximity. Now, either Tait is toeing the economic rationalist perspective as he openly says Batemans Bay has enough toilets already or he has been bought into the fold of the "Let's sell it and go with the dream it will be seniors accommodation on the edge of town". Keep in mind that Pollock, Innes and Brown have already backed the idea saying in 2016: There is the potential for concern by adjoining landowners that residential development on the subject land could compromise their existing views. As part of the planning proposal Council has the ability to introduce height controls on the land to address this issue.If rezoned to enable development for residential unit development or tourist and visitor accommodation, a significant financial return could be achieved by Council. These funds could be directed toward community infrastructure improvements.The completed project would see the sale of surplus land for a higher and better use; redevelopment of the site would provide economic and development activity and improved amenity, thereby supporting further economic activity and development within the town centre. No doubt staff have advised Mayne, Thompson, Nathan and Tait that if the dunny goes ahead that will block any opportunity for any development long into the future. It has been confirmed that the RMS owns this land. However at a whim they could decide to sell it to Council. It would be convenient if Council had something the RMS wanted in exchange. Maybe the Bowling Club site? So tomorrow isn't about toilets - it's about the big picture, the vision that council staff have and they are more than likely doing everything they can to ensure the councillors don't stuff up their plans by voting for a dunny block that will act as a bung in their works. Maybe each of the dissenting councillors should advise during debate their reasons. And what if the history. Council via its Heritage Officer has been erecting historical plaques all over the shire and there is little doubt that a storyboard opposite where the Albert Ryan's house once stood would be most appreciated by tourists as they walked along the cycleway towards the Batemans Bay Marina passing by the equally historic site of Perry's Mill that too, has also long gone. We will be watching with interest.
Albert Ryan's House with Perry's Timber Mill in the background - just a short stroll to town from a three story apartment block overlooking the bay. Or will the site remain a great place for a toilet block and picnic setting?