The Mooball landowners who were victims of a monumental stuffup where their property was rezoned without their knowledge have joined calls for an investigation into the process which led to the mistake.
And a community group supporting the family says the plan should be sent back to the developers rather than allow them to pressure and further stress the landowners in order to resolve the issue.
The upset landowners have also written to Tweed Shire Council complaining their views had been misrepresented in the council report on the issue going to council on Thursday.
They have also asked that the mayor, his deputy and planning director should be involved in any further dealings with them as they felt their views in dealing with the shire planners involved in the mistake had been misinterpreted.
The rare mistake has been described as an ‘oversight’ by the developers, their consultants and council planners in their rezoning gateway proposal to boost the size of Mooball’s population at least tenfold, passed by councillors last December.
The council report detailing the stuff-up says talks between the family and the developers over the future of their house and land, including a buyout option, are ongoing and the NSW planning department has retracted the plan after being alerted by council of the mistake.
The owners of several farms surrounding the village on the western side of the old highway are seeking to rezone hundreds of acres of grazing and farming land for a housing estate with a range of different-sized lots, including village and farm blocks.
In a letter to council, the Chapman family says council ‘needs to ask questions how this situation evolved’. But council general manager David Keenan and chief planner Vince Connell have already rejected a call from Cr Gary Bagnall for any further investigation, asking councillors simply to ‘receive and note’ the report this Thursday.
‘We would like councillors to ask what sort of procedures have been followed when the land owners, the developer, the consultants and the council don’t bother to find out who is actually living within a parcel of land to be developed into something of this magnitude,’ Terry Chapman said.
‘How could our property be overlooked? There are only three homes sitting inside this huge parcel of land, so how can our home be overlooked when you have the landowner who knows we are here, the consultant who is paid to do all the groundwork for this PP (planning proposal) and the developer who is in contact with the landowner showing plans of how their properties will sit inside this proposal and then you have council,’ Terry Chapman said.
‘All of these parties didn’t twig to the fact that we don’t belong to the Pirlos. How can all this be conveniently overlooked!’
(The Pirlo family is one of the largest landowners behind the proposal.)
The Chapmans, who run poultry on their small village lot, said that one would think that he would have some memory of our concerns being voiced many times over the past years.
Mrs Chapman said ‘these documents must have precise information and carry out correct procedure before they are signed off on, then presented to council so correct decisions are made.
‘So is it incompetence or just arrogance from council that the correct procedure has not been followed?
‘Here you have a developer wanting to develop a large parcel of farming land beside a small village, council puts it through during the pre-Christmas period when no one is thinking about it, then it is whisked off to Grafton for a Gateway.’
The Chapmans said a senior shire planner ‘also stressed to us at our meeting that a buffer zone would likely be offered to us by the proponent and made it quite clear that we should take anything on offer because with his past experience home owners trying to fight to stop development have ended up with nothing!’
‘To accept any offer we would have to change to residential which we are totally against as we have dogs and poultry. We have lived this rural lifestyle for the past 23 years, and no matter the size of the buffer zone we were told that there would be a road right against our back fence and a row of houses.
‘Other concerns facing us is the fact our rates would go up and as we were not included in the recent connection to the new STP at Mooball we would have to connect at our own cost.
The Chapmans say they ‘do not want to live inside a huge residential development, if we wanted that type of lifestyle we would have bought at Pottsville or Cabarita 23 years ago’.
They say they’re concerned that at the meeting with the shire planners they were ‘being pressured into something we do not want to be a part of and voiced our opinion at this meeting that how can people in positions of decision making honestly say that this is the sort of development needed in our small village, is totally beyond us’.
The Chapmans repeated their claim they ‘came out of this meeting with council staff and the proponent more confused and pressured into making decisions to suit others not us’.
Pottsville Community Association president Chris Cherry told councillors at a recent access session that allowing the proposal to go ahead ‘is setting a precedent to allow future Gateway applications to occur giving no consideration to the existing landowner and their rights’.
Ms Cherry said allowing ‘delicate negotiations between the proponent and the landowner to proceed is irresponsible and negligent’.
‘Not one of us knows what it has been like for the Chapmans this last three months, to find that your property, your home, has been swallowed up by a planning proposal application,’ she said.
‘The landowner should not be put in this position, to have to negotiate their continued way of life, their continued use of the land they have occupied for the last 23 years with the proponent at this point.
‘The landowner has been made to feel like an outsider and a troublemaker in their own town simply because they want to defend their right to live on their land as they have to date.
‘As Council’s report states the proponent was in error in submitting an application to Council without the landowner’s consent. Everyone agrees that it is regrettable. The right thing to do is to send the application back to the proponent.’
Ms Cherry said that if the plan was to progress to the planning minister again, the minister could determine if public consultation was needed to occur after the Gateway determination.
‘That is admitting that there is a possibility that no consultation would need to happen with the surrounding community post the gateway determination. That puts all the onus on Council to get the proposal right from the beginning,’ she said.
The proposal should be returned to the developers and it is ‘then up to them if they would like to go ahead with a new application covering only the two blocks which do have their landowners consent and allowing for the required buffers around the Chapmans’ rural use of their land and their existing right of way through the other blocks.
‘The proponent then still has every opportunity to negotiate with the Chapmans when submitting a new application. This would allow Council to give due consideration to the rights of the Chapmans in assessing the application. It would also allow the Minister to give due consideration to the rights of the Chapmans in any new application.’