The proponents of the large-scale Ewingsdale seniors/commercial precinct are urging the state to take over planning approval for the site, claiming Byron Shire Council is taking too long
Staff have tabled in a report for Thursday’s upcoming meeting and the pressure is on councillors to do something – anything – after they failed to vote on a motion at the last meeting.
General manager Ken Gainger said at the time they were in ‘uncharted waters,’ while many fruitless hours were spent debating unsuccessful motions by Crs Cubis and Ibrahim.
Sydney-based developers, the Belbecks, are seeking a change of zoning to enable a suburban centre with seniors housing, a medical centre, businesses, restaurants, cafes, and shops in what is currently a rural zone.
The land surrounds the new hospital, and the Belbecks plan to on-sell the proposition.
Ongoing issues such as traffic management and who pays for a roundabout at McGettigans Lane have dogged it for some time.
Additionally there is no overarching planning instrument for the area and residents have been very vocal in opposing the plans.
State approval sought
Staff say the proponents have asked the planning department to ‘appoint an alternative relevant planning authority (RPA) under the EP&A Act to complete the planning proposal.’
In the report, three senior staffers clearly state that council is the ‘relevant planning authority for this planning proposal.’
They said, ‘As such Council is required [emphasis theirs] to review the planning proposal following exhibition.’
Options were suggested, such as varying the proposal or sending it to the minister and asking for it not to proceed.
May 28 deadline
‘Council should also note that the gateway determination issued for this planning proposal has set a project time (as amended by the minister three times) for its completion by May 28, 2016.
‘The department has advised that if the minister directs that the secretary is the relevant planning authority for this LEP [local environment plan] amendment, the secretary cannot request a VPA [voluntary planning agreement] for the construction of the McGettigans Lane roundabout by the developer. Therefore, if the secretary proceeds with the LEP amendment, Council must fund the roundabout.’
By comparison, Council are considering roundabout costs of around $2.5m in its upcoming budget.
Staff say, ‘The previous absence of a detailed traffic study resulted in significant delays to the site’s consideration. Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) advised Council on August 1, 2014 that the work undertaken by the proponent was inadequate and a demand transport model was required.
‘At the time the proponent declined to undertake this work as they believed that the traffic assessment provided with the planning proposal was adequate for the purposes of the planning proposal process. The new traffic study now provided by the proponent has shown that the proposed location of the commercial precinct on the western portion cannot be reasonably accommodated and needs to be relocated to the eastern portion.’
‘If the planning proposal is to proceed, the roundabout at McGettigans Lane is essential.
‘As Council cannot afford to fund these works in the next five years, these works would have to be forward funded by the developer with the costs being offset against their developer contributions. In the absence of a voluntary planning agreement (VPA) from the developer to construct the roundabout, the planning proposal should only proceed on receipt of a draft VPA.’
In conclusion, staff say, ‘Given the high level of community interest and the complex nature of this site, it would be advantageous to keep the planning proposal, DCP and VPAs coupled for transparency and for Council to make an informed decision about the appropriateness of the development uses proposed for the site.’