SHOALHAVEN City Council’s decision to allow the Bounty Motel to continue to provide emergency accommodation to homeless people may be seen as a show of compassion but could expose council to legal action, according to Cr Andrew Guile.
“Council’s decision has opened up a potential liability should there be a fire or some other critical incident in premises being used without authorisation where we’ve publically declared that we will take no action,” Cr Guile said.
“With council reversing its position we have effectively said to local residents that while the ongoing use of the motel is unauthorised, we will be turning a blind eye,” he said.
“Every ward 1 councillor understands the problems this service has caused in the local Bomaderry community, including drug dealing, prostitution and domestic violence, yet the Mayor chose to use her casting vote to allow the service to continue in breach of the original conditions of consent that ran out on March 5.
“It is a slap in the face for the local community that expects their council to stick to DA conditions of consent.”
Council overturned its earlier decision to order the motel on the Princes Highway at Bomaderry to stop providing emergency accommodation at the ordinary meeting on Tuesday night.
It had received numerous complaints from local businesses and residents about the service, which owners have sought approval to extend.
Council originally ordered the motel to close down pending a decision on the application to extend but has now agreed to allow the operation to continue until a decision is made on the new application.
Council gave permission for the Bounty to offer limited short-term accommodation for a nine-month trial period last June.
Cr Jemma Tribe said the change of directions was the compassionate thing to do.
“I visited the Bounty on Tuesday and they are still getting knocks on the door from people seeking accommodation,” she said.
“This change just allows the status quo to remain until the new development application is assessed and we have been told that will take about two weeks.
“Thankfully, councillors saw fit to support my amendment to allow the people a couple more weeks to keep a roof over their heads.”
She said council had two options.
“We could take a hardline approach, notifying the business they absolutely could not continue to take in people seeking crisis emergency accommodation and threaten prosecution and penalty infringements if they continued or allow the original DA to continue to operate until the new DA is assessed,” she said.
Cr Tribe also dismissed Cr Guile’s concerns council could be legally liable.
“It isn’t about bending the rules; it has been a very transparent process. We have taken into account all the views. The manager has been grilled by councillors with many questions at both committee level and ordinary council and the general manager assures me it will not have any effect on insurances or policies,” she said.