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February 1, 2023

Greens councillor defends staff over West Byron rezoning report

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Greens Cr and Richmond federal candidate Michael Lyon.

A Greens councillor has sprung to the defence of staff over a rezoning report which was roundly criticised at the November 22 meeting by a local environmental activist.

During public access, Dailan Pugh demonstrated on an overhead projector why he believed staff report would create more housing density and less environmental protections for West Byron lands.

The report was requested by councillors so that in the event that the JRPP rejected the development application (DA) for the massive suburb, council could request a rezoning to the state government.

The contentious development proposal is located opposite the Industrial Estate on Ewingsdale Road.

Cr Michael Lyon, who is also seeking to contest the federal seat of Richmond in next year’s election, told The Echo, ‘Just to be clear from the outset, I do not want to create division or engage in wars of words. I want to work together with people in our community to achieve outcomes in an environment where the odds are stacked against local councils.’ 

‘Dailan, I appreciate the time you spend to try to get good outcomes and meant no offence when I suggested that you missed the point. However, as you did not recognise or understand that Council are attempting to achieve better outcomes for the site with the rezoning proposal, it came across as you thought we were intending worse outcomes, which was unfair. If you get some facts wrong during this, it exacerbates things.’

He provided The Echo and Pugh staff comments. Cr Lyon said, ‘The most important point is that the minimum lot sizes were yet to be specified, and that specification can be according to our own designation.’

‘Therefore, we have the capacity for the increased protections, larger minimum lot sizes and a substantially reduced overall footprint. 

‘That is not say that we did not appreciate your comments, and they will be incorporated where possible, feasible, appropriate and with a view to this being accepted by the state. The point you missed in my view, was the intention here is to reduce the footprint substantially, and this is a high-level plan which needs further detail before it takes shape, most specifically on the minimum lot sizes to be allocated to each zoning.

‘The intention behind the move dictates the final result. That is where trust and goodwill come into it. I didn’t feel that from your presentation and while we will act in the best interests of our community regardless, couching things constructively rather than derisively is a better method in my view.’

Shocked Pugh

NEFA’s Dailan Pugh.

Pugh told The Echo he was ‘shocked’ when he saw the rezoning report on West Byron.

Councillors decided [at the meeting] to proceed with their proposed zoning, provided it “Embeds where appropriate the design parameters as shared during public access in the planning proposal mapping”.’

‘While this means that Council should consider the concerns I raised, I believe that councillors failed in their duty to the community to provide specific direction to staff. I do not expect councillors to adopt my proposals, though I do expect them to provide similar detail in directions to staff if they want a socially acceptable outcome.’

Pugh continued, ‘I have truthfully and factually presented the only data on dwelling densities provided in Council’s report. I therefore strongly object to Cr Michael Lyon’s claims that I have “applied the lot sizes incorrectly”. I have applied the only information publicly available, if they have better thought out proposals they should specify what their intent is.’

‘This allowance for significantly increased housing density does not address traffic impacts or allow for adequate stormwater infiltration areas.’

‘I strongly object to Michael’s dismissal of my valid concerns about Council’s intent to remove 4.6ha of existing environmental zones, containing 1.22ha of core occupied koala habitat, and the catchment above the eastern population of the Wallum Sedge Frog. I also maintain my objection to the proposal to reduce lot sizes to “lots less than 100m2,” and proposed dwelling densities of 15 to 25 per ha, which across the 50.3ha of the proposed three housing zones would theoretically allow for 996 to 1,149 dwellings.’

Despite the harsh criticism, there were some areas where Pugh commended the staff report.

He said, ‘At least Council’s proposed rezoning tries to retrospectively fix two of the major flaws in their West Byron DCP; a setback from Ewingsdale Road, and the destruction of the wetland home of the western population of Wallum Sedge Frog.

‘I support the decision to have at least a 20m setback from the Ewingsdale road reserve. I have been advocating a 50m setback for years. I was disappointed that Council decided not to implement a setback in their DCP and instead intended a concrete wall on the boundary and the mound extending 6m into the public road reserve. I thought that Council’s failure to remove this was contrary to clear community interests.

‘Similarly I support the proposed rezoning of the western Wallum Sedge Frog (WSF) wetland. Protection of this wetland, along with a 50m buffer and a linking corridor along the existing drainage line (in compliance with the National Recovery Plan) was part of my submission to Council.

‘To my dismay, Council’s DCP concept plan identified the WSF wetland for filling, housing and roads. I am pleased that the wetland is now proposed for rezoning, though without a buffer and dispersal corridor the frogs don’t stand a chance. The proposed rezoning around the wetland to E4 (unspecified) is an inadequate substitute for specifically identifying the required protections.’

‘I support the rezoning as E2 of the urban outliers (which is a wise move for fire protection), though the two eastern areas proposed for rezoning are heavily cleared and will need significant resources and time to restore as useful habitat.’

Staff’s response

Cr Michael Lyon supplied staff’s response to Pugh and The Echo, which seeks to ‘provide for a substantial reduction in the overall footprint allocated for urban development.’

Staff say this will be achieved by:

  • Increased protection for sensitive wetland habitat on the southern parts of the land through expansion of the area subject to E2 Environmental Conservation zoning;
  • Increased protection of the Belongil Creek ICOLL and catchment through expansion of the E2 zoning within the eastern part of the land, with a subsequent requirement for substantial revegetation (Note: an item of Aboriginal heritage significance is also located in this area, and the E2 zoning would provide ongoing protection) – the increased areas of E2 zoning on the southern and eastern edges of the land provide a substantially improved wildlife corridor that links important habitat areas;
  • Protection for the area known as significant acid frog habitat, located in the western part of the land, through E2 Environmental Conservation zoning;
  • E4 Environmental Living zoning for the area around the acid frog habitat, which would allow a greater variety of residential lot types through a provision of lot size averaging, which could be utilised to buffer important habitat areas;
  • E3 Environmental Management zoning for a 20 metre wide strip along the Ewingsdale Road frontage of the land, which would ‘push back’ the footprint of the development to provide greater future flexibility for Ewingsdale Road and reduce the visual impact of the development through this corridor (also improving amenity outcomes for future lots created along this frontage);
  • E3 Environmental Conservation zoning for the main drain through the property, leading to a smaller area of E2 Environmental Management zoning covering an important area of koala habitat (directly adjoining and contiguous with the larger area recommended for E2);
  • A combination of urban zoning for the area north-east of the main drain, which could include B4 Mixed Use (for a Village Centre), RE1 Public Recreation to provide an area of local open space adjoining the centre, and R1 General Residential and/or R3 Medium Density Residential to provide for an innovative and contemporary mix of housing types close to the Village Centre.
  • R2 Low Density Residential zoning for the remaining urban area south-west of the main drain.

Cr Michael Lyon added, ‘The zone application review provided recommended zones and objectives for those recommended zones it did not prescribe any details on lot sizes for the land under those proposed zones. Lot sizes can be applied differently across the Shire to locations / sites or parcel of land.

‘This zone application review was not a planning proposal or final local environmental planning instrument.  This work is yet to be done as was discussed at the meeting on November 22.’

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