TORONTO Chamber of Commerce has given its conditional support for Lake Macquarie City Council’s plan to develop a multi-storey tourism and residential building on the Toronto foreshore.
Chamber president Branda Hartmire said the proposed development - and the council’s plan to spend up to $9 million to upgrade the foreshore - had the potential to transform Toronto into a “destination”.
The council has committed to spending up to $1 million to explore the feasibility of a development in Bath Street, next to Royal Motor Yacht Club, Toronto.
“The chamber, in principle, is in favour of the development on the provision that concessions be made on a number of other issues,” Ms Hartmire said.
Among those issues was parking, she said.
“One of the main issues that everyone keeps raising is that it’s going to remove some parking from that location. As long as that parking is supplemented somewhere else, we’re in favour of it.”
The council’s Bath Street proposal has so far made few friends.
A Toronto Foreshore Protection Group (TFPG) has been formed by residents who oppose the plan.
They hosted a community meeting last month which attracted 400 residents. The group has attracted more than 3400 signatures on a petition opposing the plan.
Opponents have also dominated the Letters to the Editor pages in the Lakes Mail.
Ms Hartmire said her personal view was that some people had reacted to council being the developer.
“I think people are feeling that if council is the developer that somehow it might be ‘pushed through’, whereas if it was a private developer maybe it wouldn’t,” she said.
However, council has made it clear that it would not be the consent authority for the development. There is a state planning approval process through the Regional Planning Panel that council said would be followed.
Ms Hartmire said the chamber had also written to council to provide detailed suggestions of what its members would like to see happen as part of the foreshore upgrade.
Among the 40-odd suggestions was for a boardwalk, a second toilet block, additional parking on Victory Parade, a flat area for families to play football and cricket in the park, and creation of an ampitheatre performance space below the old train station.
Measures that would also make it easier for people in the town centre to safely cross over to the foreshore were also suggested by the chamber.
Ms Hartmire said council’s investment in Warners Bay had transformed that lakeside town into a destination.
“Warners Bay has got lots of infrastructure, so you can do things while you’re there. Toronto really doesn’t have that.”
She said the chamber had listened to, and respected, the concerns of locals opposed to the Bath Street development.
“We can understand what they’re feeling. We’ve listened to what they’ve been saying but ultimately that part of Toronto needs some development,” she said.
“It’s impractical to leave the site as a dirt car park, and it’s never going to be a parking station.
“It’s a vacant block of land on the waterfront, and it’s zoned for a building of some description, so let’s work together to achieve the best outcome for Toronto,” she said.
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