Avoca Beach Picture Theatre minor modifications approved

Minor modifications to the redevelopment of the Avoca Beach Picture Theatre have been approved by Central Coast Council, despite efforts by, Cr Jeff Sundstrom, at the meeting on April 8, to have them rejected.
Theatre owners, Norman and Beth Hunter, lodged an amendment application in August, 2018, to make slight alterations to their plans to redevelop the single screen cinema into a four cinema complex, with a terrace and five residential units.
The redevelopment was approved by the Land and Environment Court (LEC) in 2017, after having been originally denied by the then Gosford Council.
The amendments include raising the roof height of Cinema Two by 700mm, relocating Cinema Three to an area originally proposed as an outdoor terrace, and extending the terrace area.
There will also be a slight increase in residential gross area and modification of the bin storage area and lower basement carpark level.
Sundstrom said debate over the redevelopment had been going on “for a number of years”.
“The community is sick and tired of it; we don’t need to keep coming back with variations,” he said.
But, Cr Chris Holstein, said the owners had “the patience of Job”.
“They are trying to make the cinema viable for the future,” he said.
Councillors had earlier heard from several community members who opposed the amendments.
Resident, Mike Rubbo, said the height increase would move the cinema “even further away from its historical reality” and, Steve Fortey, wondered if the latest application was “incremental increase by stealth”.
Fifty four objections to the amendments had been received, with relevant issues of concern including the increase in floor space ratios and the possibility of overdevelopment of the site.
But council officers reported that overdevelopment was not an issue, as the proposal fitted permitted use of the site and floor space ratios were within acceptable parameters.
Other concerns, including car parking, flooding issues and heritage values, had already been addressed in the application approved by the LEC.
At the end of the day, a motion by Sundstrom to refuse the amendments was lost, with only, Crs Kyle MacGregor and Doug Vincent, supporting it.
Holstein’s motion to accept the staff recommendation to approve the amendments was carried.
Mayor, Jane Smith, said Council could only make a decision on the amendments before it, and it was not an opportunity to “revisit issues such as parking”, which had already been resolved by the LEC.
“This has been a fraught issue over a very long time and has really divided the community,” Smith said.
“There is a sense of community ownership, but the reality is that the redevelopment has been approved by the Court and these are relatively minor changes.
“Let’s hope now that the proponent gets on with it.”
Theatre owner, Norman Hunter, said he was “very pleased” with the outcome.
“All the changes we put into this amendment were compliant and we asked for no exceptions to the LEP whatsoever,” he said.
“Our main focus was on safety, turning a cinema around to help patrons with the transition from bright sunlight to a dark cinema.
“We continue to work on the project, but it is a slow slog.”
Hunter told councillors the theatre had raised $3m for charity over the years and had been named in New York as one of the top 10 cinemas in the world for its programming.
“Let us expand and continue what we bring to the Central Coast,” he said.

Agenda item 2.2
Central Coast Council Ordinary Meeting, Apr 8
Interview, Mar 9
Norman Hunter, Avoca Beach Picture Theatre
Interview, Mar 9
Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith
Reporters: Terry Collins and Merilyn Vale

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