FREE’s tennis court rezoning proposal leads to alternative solution by Waverley’s Mayor

Tennis Courts - Wellington Street

Tennis Courts - Wellington Street

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by StreetCorner

Heated debate on an application by FREE (Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe) to rezone the Wellington Street Tennis Courts as lead to Sally Betts, Mayor of Waverley suggesting that Council explore the lease of it’s land at a subsided rent for to allow a FREE community centre to be built.

FREE has been seeking to have the Wellington Street Tennis Courts rezoned by Waverley Council to allow residential development on the courts. FREE is then proposing to use the profit from development to fund the construction and costs of a community centre.

FREE argues that its community urgently needs a new centre and that rezoning to allow residential development is appropriate based on the community benefit its services provide. Council officers and local opponents of the plan, oppose rezoning saying that rezoning of recreational space in one of Australia’s most densely populated suburbs cannot be justified based on the financial needs of a group and that planning considerations alone must determine the outcome. Council officers have recommended against rezoning, in part because of the scarcity of recreational and open space in Waverley.

FREE has posted a story on Streetcorner outlining the nature of its work and development plans for the Wellington Street tennis courts, which also attracted heated debate on both sides of the argument. To read the article and some of the 106 comments, go to F.R.E.E. Community Centre

It is not clear which parcels of land Mayor Sally Betts believes may be suitable for leasing to FREE are located but Streetcorner will update the article once we obtain this information. Council will debate the idea at the next Waverley Council meeting and community members on both sides of the argument are expected to again forcefully put their case.

What are your views on the proposed rezoning of the Wellington Street tennis courts? Do you think rezoning of recreational or open space should be allowed to fund the building of a community centre? Is Sally Betts suggestion that FREE lease a parcel of Council land a good compromise?

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This idea by Ms Betts could be interesting but I would like to see more detail first. I certainly wouldn't like to see Council land given as effective freehold to a community group via a long term peppercorn rent especilly not land that is open space but maybe there is a way through all this. Good on the Mayor for standing firm under all this pressure and doing the right thing. Why did the Hakoah Club not provide FREE with a new centre as a condition of the Toga development. That would have made the most sense.

“”Why did the Hakoah Club not provide FREE with a new centre as a condition of the Toga development. That would have made the most sense.”” You want to know why ! Because council is incapable of making any good decision, except spending our money & increasing our council rates – which will have direct effect on rental market. The council has no idea how to negotiate with project developers , it listens to minority objectors . As a , result Toga got what they wanted and community got nothing in return – “Thankyou council “ . Unfortunately, we don’t have creative thinkers or smart people on council – everyone drives his of her agenda according to the political parties they belong to .

Ian Orl posts

To objector : Why is it Waverley Council can sell and rezone public open space to private developers when its suit them? I am referring to sales and subsequent rezoning of Dover Heights Bowling club, Albert Street Queens Park at Bondi Junction. This was a public open space sold to developers to make money! FREE is converting private space into an asset for the community, is there anything wrong with this? In any case the tennis courts will cease to operate within 6 months . One should take into account that this is PRIVATE open space not PUBLIC and there neither council nor anyone else should have the right to sterilise it. The community and FREE will start using this property for communal events . FREE, of course, has the right like any other member of the municipality to seek a rezoning if they so desire.

Freeadmin2 posts

Project background FREE has acquired control over 105 Wellington Street property, being 4,000 sq meters of vacant land (Vacant Possession pursuant to Contact for Sale of Land) from Sports Property Group. With view to build a Community Complex that will incorporate , Community Centre Facility & affordable housing accommodation . FREE has applied for and received exemption from stamp duty under provisions of Section 275 (33) (b) of the Duties Act 1997. FREE has lodge application to become a Community Housing Provider, under the NSW State Government program . Until October 2008, the land was occupied by Maccabi Tennis club. In October 2008, Maccabi Tennis Club sold its premises and moved to new large premises with car parking and club facility at White City, Paddington. Current Property zoning at 105 Wellington Street is 6a Private Open Space. Some of the aims of this zoning are to maintain improve the types of recreational opportunities available to the community. The community centre proposed by FREE will creates recreational and social opportunities for our community and for the greater community of Waverley. The estimated total cost of land acquisition and construction of the community centre is approximately $11-12mil. In order to fund the project, FREE, which is a non-profit benevolent organisation, must allocate some of the space to a revenue generating development. Zoning The entire block bounded by Hall, O’Brien and Wellington Streets where this site sits is Residential 2(c)1 a. FREE proposes to re-zone the land to Residential b. 800sqm foot print will used , by FREE to develop a residential flat building comprising of 30 apartments: c. The proposed community centre facility foot-print is also approximately or 800 sq metres, • 20 apartments out of 30 will be sold on the open market to offset the cost of the development ; • 10 apartments or 33% of the residential component will be retained by FREE and provided to low income and other eligible occupants under the National and NSW Government regulatory framework. • Together, the community centre and the residential component will take up 1,600 sq metres or 40% of the total area. The remaining 60% of the whole property – 2,400 sq metres – will remain open space, but this time with trees, landscaping, and community organic gardens where people will have an opportunity to learn, recreate, socialise and demonstrate sustainable principles within a garden setting (as inspired by Woollahra Municipal Council Community Garden Policy). We note that today the green colour of the property does not reflect its environmental status. As such, only 13% of the whole site at 105 Wellington Street will be utilised to cover some of the cost of this non-profit project. Instead of 100% empty private space, we will achieve 87% community owned space with affordable housing and community facilities. This will be achieved without any financial assistance from Local, State or Federal Governments. Traffic The community centre will attract mostly local residents. We identified over 280 households within the Bondi Precinct who are members of our community. These people live within 5-10 minutes walking distance of the complex and will most likely choose to walk instead of drive. The proposed development provides for 65 car parking spaces in total. We already received several expressions of interests for purchase of the proposed residential apartments from members of our community who wish to live next to our community centre. These people will not need to drive to the centre. The current site at 105 Wellington Street presently has no on-site parking at all. Preliminary assessment of car movements conducted by FREE indicates that the proposed development will have a positive impact on traffic congestion and shortage of parking facilities. We will provide a copy the traffic engineers report when it is completed in time for the Waverley Council Meeting to be held December 2010. Tennis court amenity The vendors of the property sold the property because the tennis court operations were not commercially viable. The tennis operator, Bondi Tennis Club, will vacate the property regardless of the Council’s decision. It will be the vendor’s responsibility to remove the operator from the site. FREE acquired the property as “Vacant Possession”. FREE is not in the business of operating tennis courts; FREE is a non-profit organisation that provides humanitarian services. For further information please contact FREE - 93652777 or visit

In reference to Michael Bogan's comment, I need to point out that Waverley Council was in the middle of negotiations with the Toga Group when the State Government decided to take the planning approval process out of our hands as part of their 3A provisions. Before this happened Toga had agreed to delete one floor from the Hall Street frontage and retain the community swimming pool. It is disappointing that we weren't allowed to continue our negotiations as the community would have had a much better outcome. It is the Keneally State Government that has failed the community not Waverley Council. Sally Betts, Mayor of Waverley

Chair of the committee, Liberal Councillor Kerryn Sloan, said she feared the council would “lose the battle when they [FREE] go to the Department of Planning”, which she said would “look favourably on the rezoning”. “I just put that as a rider,” Cr Sloan said. “To keep this in council control, whatever offer is made needs to be reasonable.” She is the only intelligent person at the meeting , if FREE goes to NSW State Government – under Community Housing Scheme Provider, they will get permission to build not 30 apartments but 60 – and council or residents , will have no option , but to initiate legal action against FREE try to stop them ; and who knows what the outcome of the proceedings will be , from previous experience with Toga Group , and Benevolent society Project at Ocean Street it doesn’t look very good – we can win the battle but probably lose the war. Council should try to resolve this issue amicably and pre-empt a need to apply to State Government. I want to point out that all political parties have similar affordable housing policies. Further, their policies reflect the need for affordable housing and senior citizens care programs.

Dear Sally Please explain why , the State Government decided to take the planning approval process out of your hands as part of their 3A provisions

Saturday posts

Councillor Kerryn Sloan is misguided, well that's my feeling and I have some experience with these things. It sounds more like an attempt to appease the considerable interests involved with F.R.E.E than any considered assessment of the merits of this site. Well may it be that there is a push by State Government for seniors and community housing but I seriously doubt even F.R.E.E would be successful in this argument. Bondi has so little recreational space that there are serious consquences if even a small amount of space is lost. The Ocean Street and Toga developments are completely different circumstances and cannot be compared to this site. Sloane in my view is just playing politics. Re-zoning cannot be taken lightly and should never be imposed on a Council, it would be a long bow for the State to impose a rezoning on a Council for a site like this. It has to be considered as part of the larger jigsaw which is the total community and Council is best placed to make that assessment.

Friday posts

Only time will tell, how things will turn up – it is obvious that the council will not support FREE’s application for rezoning. I suggest we should turn this site in to community open market. What you about that ?

Freeadmin2 posts

To Saturday : The recreational space you referring to - already gone with the wind. FREE acquired the land under contract “ Vacant possession”, regardless of how council votes in November or December , this facility eventually will be replace by Community Centre, if FREE will not find alternative site . . 1.In any case proposed FREE development aims to provide amble recreation opportunities to the local community, We will on a smaller scale re-create facilities that the community lost with the demise of the Hakoah club and we will provide other new facilities , including: a. Open green areas (real grass); b. create sustainable community organic garden c. gymnasium; d. chess club and board games facility; e. table tennis club facility; f. dancing and martial arts facilities; h. arts & crafts facility; i. public function rooms & library So there will no loss of recreation facilities, as it was suggested in report , but opposite will happen

Freeadmin2 posts

To Friday :) , thank you for your input in relation to open area market we will look in to it , I am certain it will bring more than the current use of the property . Thank you for your suggestion . Any more bright ideas please write direct to us:

Seawolf posts

I've come to Sydney long ago And I call Australia home. But I am also an Isroel And I speak Russian too. I reckon you should want to know That more than 30 years ago Rav Ulman opened up a shule. This shule has grown from a simple home And it's become an isle of hope - For those Jews who lost their homes, For those men who lost their folks. Our community has grown Thanks to the seeds which we have sown. They've flourished under auspices of FREE Who's helped us to regain our dignity.

It was nice deed by council, to offer alternative site for Community Centre, but I found hard to believe anything will come of it . We have to realise we have no friends on the Council , community has to stick together and rally for support for current proposal : definition of true friend : A friend is someone in whose presence you can think aloud without worrying about being taken advantage of . A friend is someone who suffers with you when you are in pain and rejoices in your joy. A friend is someone who looks out for you, and always has your best interests in mind. In fact, a true friend is like an extension of yourself. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

adamK posts

I have spoken with the people at Tennis NSW. The average court to population ratio around the country is 1 court to every 1500 people. In Waverley Council it is 1 court to 30,000 people!!! That is a damning statistic that this council needs to address and losing more courts - which provide health and recreation opportunities is clealry not the answer. F.R.E.E, I don't claim to know much if anything about your cause or the work you do, but you can find somewhere else to do it please.

M.Basin posts

As mother of participant of the Tennis Academy at Bondi Tennis Courts, I would like to express my support of the rezoning of the land where the community centre and housing complex will be built. This community centre is such a great idea. Our children will be offered a wide variety of activities, from table tennis to dancing and even chess. This project will not be taking away tennis, it will be offering much much more. I am willing to travel to other courts in the area, in order to allow this wonderful project to become a reality.

From the Bondi Tennis courts users As residents of Waverley, and as regular tennis players at the Bondi Tennis Centre, we are very upset that Waverley Councillors, some of whom couldn’t care less about tennis, pretend that it’s a big tragedy if 105 Wellington St. is rezoned so that a new community centre can be built for FREE. FREE took the trouble to show us the plans for the rezoning of the site and for the proposed community centre, and we are very impressed. This is what Bondi really needs. We have used the courts at Wellington St. twice weekly for the last 15 years. If you ask us, which they haven’t, what is more important - our game of tennis there or the proposed community centre, where youth, the elderly, young families, people in crisis, the lonely, and ordinary people are able to enjoy life – we would emphatically tell you that it’s no contest. The need of FREE for a community centre, enabled by rezoning is, by far the more important social priority. It’s not as if there is no alternative courts available. At Lyne Park, there our plenty of courts available, and we are happy to drive one minute more to get there. For those who want to walk, or jog to a court, there is a very pleasant path leading down O’Sullivan Road to Lyne Park. We know that Lyne Park is in Woollahra Municipality, but last time we checked there is no border to cross, and a valid Passport is not required. And once Waverley Municipality establishes the new approved courts as promised in its Masterplan, there will certainly be adequate courts to meet demand in the general area. So how about some social reality in this matter, and no more equating things that are trivial with the very real social needs of thousands of people.

Shaya posts

I came to Bondi due to state / religious interference in my life. As a gay Jewish man I've suffered discrimination and until now felt free in Sydney to choose how I live (including with my Muslim Arab boyfriend). I don't want narrow orthodox religious groups such as FREE interfering in my lifestyle in Bondi or elsewhere. I can't believe that Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (F.R.E.E.) as Chabad Lubavich or others will tolerate or even respect my lifestyle given their mandate and teachings. The occupants of the apartment complex are likely to also discriminate against me given that the properties are to be let to refugees and religious supporters.

Freeadmin2 posts

To Shaya - I’ve been closely connected to Chabad in general, and to F.R.E.E. in particular. I know that one of the main mottos of Chabad is to separate between people as individuals and their beliefs, which means to embrace every person irrespective of their beliefs or actions. So you have nothing to worry about, especially with your sense of humour.

At the West Bondi Precinct Committee meeting on Tuesday evening traffic chaos descended on Wellington street as members of FREE vied for parking and blocked driveways. All this for one meeting of about 60 people. Look to the future, a community centre capable of attracting thousands to the area. And FREE seriously want us to think that the rezoning will not cause traffic problems. It's time for some honesty here. The tennis court site is not appropriate for rezoning. The Council knows this, that's why they intend to reject the application. The State Government will acknowledge this also. FREE, despite all it's good intentions needs to move on and look for a more appropriate site.

to all the residents of wellington, GET OVER the parking issue, you live in bondi and thats what this place is like, wherever you live, especially near the beach- what do you think, that other residents around the bondi area dont have these problems. whatever happens to the empty space will cause traffic because ITS BONDI!!!! i live right near the beach and have a hell of a time finding parking every night after work, its life.... move to the outback if you want space....

Freeadmin2 posts

If no alternative solution will be found , at 11of June the Tennis courts will closed , - regardless of the outcome of the Council meeting – or State Government decision or anyone else decision. The 105 Wellington Street is property belongs to F.R.E.E , and we will utilise this property according to its zoning.

Freeadmin4 posts

Dear "Wellington street too", we ask of opposers and supporters to refrain from personal attacks, we don't take responsibility for the views of anonymous commenters, people should refrain from letting their emotions get the better of them, and remain in focus to the real issues. Thank you.

Freeadmin2 posts

Dear friends and neighbors Members of FREE recently came across your Facebook group, Rescue Bondi. The FREE community fully supports your cause and what you stand for; overdevelopment and greedy developers are ruining our community. We agree with the mission statement found on your Facebook group, We too are against these things, that is why we are limiting the size of our residential complex and community centre and we are offering a solution to the parking situation that could possibly be brought on by this project. We support you and the work that you do as the local community. Both our general agendas are on the same track and as a Jewish community we are an environmentally conscious group just as you are. We understand that your organization ihas recently shifted its focus against our communal project which in fact is meant to benefit the entire Bondi community and not just the FREE community. We would like to clarify some points that have been either misrepresented or misudnderstood about our proposal which has many positive points, both environmental and social. We would like to set the record straight. The current tennis courts provide only a single activity, as opposed to the community centre being proposed by F.R.E.E. which will provide for multiple activities. Hakoah club put local activity groups out of public reach, such as chess clubs, table tennis etc. F.R.E.E. will provide these activities and many more. Hall Street lost 24 low cost rental apartments which will be replaced by the residential complex. You are trying to save "open space” which is actually a privately owned empty space with just a slab of concrete painted green. The present zoning for 105 Wellington Street allows for the building of the community centre, the rezoning is only needed in order to build the residential complex which will help fund the project. If anyone is worried about where they will play tennis, Maccabi has offered to take on all of the members of the Bondi Tennis Courts and allow them use of their 12 courts about 5-10 minutes away once the courts close on June 11, 2011. F.R.E.E. currently provides programs for the elderly of the community and it is important for our location to be in this area as the majority of them do not drive. Many youth programs will be offered at the community centre which will help keep the youth of Bondi of of the streets A car park will be constructed on the centre's grounds so that there ae no problems with parking in the street. We hope that these clarifications will change your opinion of this project which will clearly be a great addition to the Bondi community.

Dear FREE, Is the Maccabi Tennis Club planning to move to the Hakoah Club's White City site in 2011? We understand this is the plan but just wanted to confirm that is the case. With regards to the offer by Maccabi for all members of the Bondi Tennis Courts to be allowed access to 12 courts 5-10 minutes away, does this refer to the White City site? Thank you very much. Kind regards, Streetcorner YOUR voice in the community

Freeadmin2 posts

Dear StreetCorner just to let you know , Maccabi has moved to new premises in 2008 at White City, Paddington. The current operator, Bondi Tennis Club, is operating under licence until 11 of June 2011. FREE has purchased the property as Vacant Possession, and presently has no intention of renewing the lease. Maccabi Tennis club has told us on record that they have plenty of space and will welcome new & old members at their new facility with ample parking and club amenities.

Thank you for that clarification and please forgive our ignorance. That all makes sense now! Kind regards Streetcorner

Dear Wellington St resident, Just wanted to let you know that we have removed the last two sentences of your post following requests from the community. Kind regards Streetcorner, YOUR voice in the community

TO FREE - My husband and I have been following your plans with interest but haven't spoken out until now. We like the sound of what you are planning to do but is it true that you will only be able to access your community centre if you are Jewish? I was told this by someone in the street, is this right? We are not Jewish but I would like to join your community centre. We would also like to know if only Jewish people will be able to access the low cost housing? This is also something that interests us as we am getting on in years. Thank you very much for your answers

freeadmin5 posts

Lisa, thank you for asking your questions. There are many myths out there about our project and I am happy to clear this up for you. The community centre will be open to the entire Bondi community, not only the Jewish community, although it will be run by the Jewish community. It will be exactly what it says...a community centre. In relation to the low-cost residential components, applications will be considered with the same criteria of the Housing commission and will be judged on merit not on religion, beliefs or personal life-style. FREE would greatly appreciate it if you could inform the person or persons who gave you this incorrect information so that they are not misinformed. If you have any further questions, please feel free to post it.

Streetcorner has published an article on the community activism surrounding F.R.E.E's proposal to rezone the Wellington Street site, all comments and feedback welcome - "Bondi tennis court battle hots up with grassroots activists on both side of the net" Kind regards Streetcorner, YOUR voice in the community

Freeadmin2 posts

We would like to set the record straight and invite you as individuals or as a group of people to our office to properly introduce you to our communal non-profit organisation. We would like you to come and visit on Sunday from 4pm to 6pm at our present premises at 25 O’Brien Street. Your view & opinion of our community is important to us –even more important than the council decision to support or not to support our application. We all live as in one highly destly populated area . We probably see each other in coffee shops, or the beach, on public transport or shopping centres or we live next door to each other, we are nebours -our goal is to have a harmonise relationship with everyone, it’s very important to us! – right now elements within community & council trying to divide our communities & our people , everyone has its own agenda – we should remember –these people who wish to control groups or communities will use tactics such as – first Divide than Conquer . Remember United we Stand – alone we will Fall. We believe anyone who makes a decision to – object or support it should be base his or her opinion on an informative assessment . We will respect your opinion & your decision as long as you been properly informed about this project . Harmony and trust in any relationship is a key for successful coexistence – we will never want to copmrimise that with our neighbors – that is why we will continue our campaign to educate the public about our project , and hopefuly we will be standing side by side , as one community in the near future

Dear FREE, You might also like to post this invitation as a separate news story on Streetcorner, that will help spread the word on your Sunday Meeting more broadly. Kind regards, Streetcorner, YOUR voice in the community

Seek the welfare of the city...and pray to G-d for it, for in its peace, you shall have peace -- Jeremiah, 29:7 The role of government is to balance communal and individual good. This is only possible when society is governed by the principles of morality and justice, law and order, under one G-d -- The Rebbe

Today, we are surrounded by people we may call leaders – in local government. But we are suffering from a scarcity of genuine leadership. Where are these people really leading us, and why? After witnessing so much deceit and such frequent abuse of power, many of us have stopped trusting our leaders. Still, no matter how cynical we may grow, we resign ourselves to the fact that we need someone to keep our various houses in order. Since we are so preoccupied with our own lives, we are willing to elect or appoint officials to manage the affairs of the municipality. But is a leader merely a manager? What should we expect from our leaders? And do we really need leaders in the first place? Please comment:

Rezoning posts

Dear Street Corner, A correction to your comment: Rushcutter's Bay is anywhere between 15- 25 minutes away depending on traffic. You could perhaps get there in 10 minutes at midnight. Many tennis players choose to walk to the Bondi Tennis Courts and have done so for generations. Hakoah would, I'm sure, also welcome the 12000 members of FREE (from across the Eastern Suburbs and inner Sydney, as stated by FREE) to the new $13.5 million dollar world class Jewish Community Centre at Rushcutters Bay. Clearly, not all of these members can walk to Wellington St, Bondi. Just to even up the argument :-) about sending members of either community to rushcutters bay

Freeadmin2 posts

To Rezoning Please read all postings – and educate yourself on this subject. 1. FREE purchase the site subject to Vacant Possession 2. FREE will not run Tennis courts business 3. It is the huzpa to tell owners (FREE) what they should do with the site 4. Tennis community will have to travel further , to play the game they love. 5. And if you love your sport I suggest you put your Tennis community together and purchase Tennis courts yourself , then you can dictate usage of the property

Waverley Council voted on Tuesday night to reject F.R.E.E's application for rezoning. It was not unexpected news given the recommendation of Council officers for the rezoning to be declined. A previous application for rezoning of the site by Maccabi Tennis Club had also been declined and Mayor Betts said that rezoning decisions should not depend on who owned the land. Councillor Wakefield moved an amendment to the motion that was accepted which aimed to set a timetable for Council to present an offer of suitable Council land on which a F.R.E.E. community centre could be built. All Councillors acknowledged the important community work undertaken by F.R.E.E and made clear that the decision did not relate in any way to the organisations standing in the community. What do you think of the Council's decision? What should happen next?

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