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December 2, 2022

‘Highly likely’ councillors will consider contentious M’bah DA

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Chris Dobney

A proposal by developer RGBAH Holdings to build a group living facility for people with disabilities and the socially disadvantaged on the fringe of Murwillumbah is being contested by neighbours who say the site is ‘completely inappropriate’.

The proposed development at 26 George Street, Murwillumbah, is supported by North Coast Community Housing (NCCH), which would operate up to 10 double-storey group homes on the site housing up to 95 people on a five-year lease arrangement.

It’s the latest in a string of proposals for the site, dating back to 2009.

A 2013 proposal for a seniors’ living complex was approved by staff without going to a meeting of councillors. But it was never proceeded with.

An earlier proposal was withdrawn by the proponent while the third, for a 10-lot subdivision, was refused in 2015.

One neighbour, who has requested not to be named, said many of the problems that marred earlier proposals for the site still have not been fully addressed in the new proposal.

Points of contention

Specifically, the neighbour objected to bulk and scale, given it is in an area of predominantly single-storey suburban blocks on the rural fringe.

The neighbour also says that insufficient regard has been paid to the earthworks required to prevent flooding, which could ‘lead to longer periods of standing water and issues including mosquitoes’.

The neighbour added that NCCH had failed to demonstrate a need for a development of such a size.

‘The proposed group home buildings are with stairs, even the lower floors have steps, and would not be suitable for many with physical disabilities. Therefore the proposal would appear to be for people with non-physical disability and/or the socially disadvantaged,’ the objector wrote in a submission to council.

‘I think it highly improbable that the placement of 100 of the North Coast’s socially disadvantaged in a concentrated cluster can be in their best interests or in the best interest of neighbouring residents.’

‘It would normally be expected that any application for large social housing schemes include consideration of the impact on existing residents.

‘However last year when NCCH lodged a development proposal for homes in Mullumbimby they claimed that as a registered tier one social housing provider, a Social Impact Statement is not required,’ he said.

The neighbour also argued that proposals of all three stages of the development should be considered together, not just the first two stages that RBAH has currently presented.

Council responds

A spokesperson for Tweed Shire Council told Echonetdaily that ‘It is considered highly likely that this application will be referred to full Council for determination.’

‘Group Homes (permanent) by their definition are for the accommodation of people with a disability or people who are socially disadvantaged. The assessment of the application will look at the design of the development in terms of accessibility.’

He added that the proponent will be requested for further information regarding the planned third stage.

Echonetdaily asked, given the recent history of the 2017 floods, whether council staff believed that the site is sufficiently flood proof.

The spokesperson responded that, ‘Council is undertaking a detailed analysis in terms of the flood management of the site.

‘Council is assessing the proposed stormwater management works to ensure that surrounding areas would not be impacted by displacement of flooding [caused by proposed cut and fill of the site].

He added that, ‘assessment of the application is still underway and will have regard to the depth of the waterway [on the site] and potential for mosquito impact’.

NCCH was approached for comment but declined to respond.

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