The (perhaps slightly exaggerated) photo accompanying the ‘No backpackers for 29 Grafton St’ Facebook page.
The (perhaps slightly exaggerated) photo accompanying the ‘No backpackers for 29 Grafton St’ Facebook page. Casandra Garvey

Short-term digs plan for old corner store causes stir

A DEVELOPMENT application for a new 12-bed accommodation in the empty building that once was the popular East Warwick corner store has caused a stir among nearby residents.

No sooner had the application sign been nailed to the front fence when a Facebook page titled "No Backpackers at 29 Grafton Street" appeared online, with 29 people "liking" the page and neighbours firing up.

With a cover photo featuring drunken party-goers at the famous Full Moon Festival in Thailand, comments by its unknown creator says: "A Development for in 12 Bed Back Packers is under proposal for 29 Grafton St Warwick. Its is A corner Shop Front NOT Suitable as a Backpackers (sic)".

"Do you really want a 12 Bed Backpackers with no off street Parking and no onsite caretaker," the page asks.

But developer and site owner Joe Scuito told the Daily News the proposed development was "not a backpackers" hostel at all, and was confused at the reaction from neighbours.

"It's classed as a 1B building and will be set up for short-term stays such as six to 12 months," Mr Scuito said.

"It's simply budget accommodation for anyone who needs it; there will be strict rules as well as an onsite manager."

Mr Scuito said the refurbished building would be split into three bedrooms and would accommodate "up to 12 people" in total, meeting all requirements set by the Southern Downs Regional Council.

State Government Building Codes state that a Class 1B building refers to "a boarding house, guesthouse, hostel, farm stay or the like with four or more unrelated residents who do not form a common household".

A Class 1B building also must comply with all fire safety standards and not exceed 12 people.

"If people have concerns they should go to the council or ring the number on the sign, but council have supported us all the way and we've done all that's required," Mr Scuito said.

"From what it was to what it is now, (the building) is clean, tidy and will be something to benefit the town.

"We've done all the tidying up outside and concreting to make it very presentable.

"It was an eyesore before and will look even better once we spend a bit of money."

Mr Scuito said he also wouldn't rule out using the building as emergency accommodation in the event of another flood in the Rose City, as one reader suggested.

"Absolutely, if it needed to be used as an emergency, why not? It's a business, but it could be used for that," he said.

But it seems one of the biggest issues East Warwick residents have with the new development - which is still yet to be approved - is that it spells the end for the possibility of their beloved corner store reopening.

"The building is better off as a corner store; if you want anything like groceries we have to drive down town to IGA," a Grafton St resident said. "It was so convenient if you just wanted a burger or chips; now we have to drive all the way to Westside or into town to grab one."

The residents were also lamenting the loss of the convenience store which came in handy in times of flood.

"With the shop gone, when it floods the only way we can get supplies is walking across the railway bridge and the few blocks into town," a Hamilton St resident said.

"We just really think someone should open up and run the shop again."

Readers also took to the Daily News Facebook page worried about children's safety with the possibility of up to 12 new short-term residents moving into the street.

East Warwick residents said Grafton and Hamilton streets were often used by children walking to and from Warwick East State School as well as the development being directly across the road from a dance academy with children coming and going at all hours four days a week.

"We just don't know what kind of people this budget accommodation is going to attract," a Grafton St resident said.

"I think the old Club Hotel and Parkview Hotel buildings would be better off used as a short-term hotel," a Hamilton St resident added.

"At least there are plenty of CCTV cameras along the main street - there's no cameras or security over this side of town."

The small group of residents who met with the Daily News all said they'd had bad experiences already with party-goers walking home from the pubs on a Friday or Saturday night.

"They also used to rent out the hall across the road and use it for 18th and 21st parties and all the drunks would come up the street and cause trouble," one resident said.

"We don't want even more temporary people staying here, having people visit or women staying here running from their abusive partners and have them come around with weapons yelling and screaming.

"It's a family area and we want it to stay that way."

What do you think? Have your say on the Daily News Facebook page.

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