Bermagui Woolworths approved by Bega council

THE new Woolworths development in Bermagui was approved in a close 5-4 vote at last Wednesday’s Bega Valley Shire Council meeting, although without a bottle shop.

The development will be built on the vacant block of land in front of Young Street, and some residents of the street are not pleased with the prospect of living next to the supermarket. 

Gloria and Leo Sherwin live next door to the development, in the family home Mr Sherwin has lived in since he was six years old.

“We are fully against it,” Ms Sherwin said.

“It is such a beautiful block of land - it is a shame that a Woolworths is going to be put there.  

“It is just over our fence.

“It’s going to put shadows over half of our property.

“If you look from our deck to the north, all you will see is a blank wall instead of the ocean or trees.

“It is going to devalue our property here."

A resident from Young St who didn’t wish to be named was “very disappointed” about the news. 

The resident believed the council presumed most people of Bermagui were for the development, when a lot are against it. 

“I feel it will change Bermagui’s uniqueness,” the resident said.  

“It will have a big impact on business people of Bermagui. 

“It’s going to change [Young] street, the market price of houses will drop, and there will be more traffic, lights, noise and crime.”

The resident was concerned about the amount of noise the condenser generations would make on top of the building.

Steve Dalton grew up in Bermagui and has recently moved back to the town in a house opposite the development. 

“Bermagui has lost a huge part of its soul and identity as of Wednesday,” Mr Dalton said.

“Bega council hasn’t listened to the voices of the Bermagui community.

“It’s going to take away what Bermagui is.

“How does the supermarket in Eden not get approved if Eden residents are worried about the impact it will have on their town, but this one does?

“You can get everything that you need here, or you can go to Narooma to get milk 50 cents cheaper. 

“It’s 20 minutes’ drive to Narooma to do shopping there - in Melbourne you have to spend 20 minutes looking for a car park! 

“Bega council have no idea what this town is like if they can make this decision. 

“I’m friends with business owners here, and it’s going to severely affect them. 

“People come to Bermagui knowing what it is - a seaside town with little independent shops and where everyone helps each other.”

Mr Dalton was also concerned about how as Woolworths will be open until 10pm it will disrupt the street and the lights from the car park could make the car park become a meeting place for people late at night.  

Owner of Bermagui’s 777 Supermarket Rhonda Drakos is concerned about the impact Woolworths will have on the town.

Ms Drakos has lived in Bermagui all her life and expressed disappointment after the Bega Valley Shire Council voted to approve the Woolworths development at its meeting last Wednesday.

“I’m not very happy - I was hoping that it wasn’t going ahead,” Ms Drakos said.

“I don’t think that our town is big enough to warrant it. 

“It’s an inappropriate building for the site it is on.

“It’s just across from my mother’s place, which won’t be good. 

“I won’t be using it.”

As Woolworths will open from 7am to 10pm, and the 777 only opens from 7am to 7pm she said the longer opening hours of Woolworths will impact on her business. 

“I just hope that it won’t affect business too much.”

A lot of her regular customers have already told Ms Drakos they will continue to shop at the 777 when Woolworths is built, and she considers herself lucky that she stocks many speciality items. 

In writing submissions to the council against the proposal, Ms Drakos said she aimed to stick to the criteria that the council wanted addressing.

However, that was not enough.

“A lot of us stuck to the principles of what they [the council] wanted, but it still didn’t seem to work.”

According to Ms Drakos, many residents of Bermagui don’t know about the decision as they did not hear the meeting was on Wednesday afternoon and she is concerned about the lack of public notifications from the council.

For the BVSC meeting on March 26 when the Woolworths DA was to be discussed, Ms Drakos received a letter asking if she wanted to speak only several days before. 

“I think someone should investigate the runnings of the council,” she said. 

BVSC general manager Leanne Barnes said short notice of agenda items was unfortunate, but anyone wishing to speak before the council can apply to do so right up until the day of the meeting.

“There is a very short turnaround time from approving the business papers to the meeting,” Ms Barnes said.

“I usually give it the final sign off on Wednesday night and it is then uploaded to the council website.

“We are always advising people to watch the website and to be aware when particular issues are likely to come up.”

Ms Barnes said notifications were sent out late in the week as soon as the business papers were approved.

“It’s unfortunate in terms of the timeframe, but we do our best to be as accommodating and open as possible.”

Ms Barnes said applications to speak at a Wednesday council meeting can be accepted up until 4pm on the Tuesday.

However, late applications can always be made and the decision on hearing those petitioners is left to a councillor vote, which is usually in favour.

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