The Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) has deferred a decision on a contentious development proposal for 229-lot housing estate at Sharpes Beach, Skennars Head.
The move came after developer Intrapac’s representatives pitched to have Ballina Shire Council’s four recommended ‘deferred commencement’ conditions withdrawn.
The conditions would require Intrapac to continue to negotiate with Council over a rehabilitation plan for a wetland on adjacent land, maintaining and upgrading a wildlife corridor, monitoring water moving from the site into the adjoining wetland and undertaking works to bolster the capacity of nearby Chickiba Creek.
But Intrapac’s hydrologist Blake Stephens maintained there would be ‘no’ or ‘negligible’ impact on Chickiba Creek, because the development would create ‘no additional flows’.
Intrapac’s planner Steve Gallan claimed the wetland on adjoining Stewarts Farm, the proposed area to be rehabilitated, was ‘dominated by exotic pasture grasses, has a history of grazing disturbance and is in poor condition’.
He added the ‘highly disturbed swamp sclerophyll forest’ was ‘not a natural expression of this type of area’.
Third party property
Jenny Rudolph, also speaking for the developer, said she was ‘not confident we will get landowners’ consent [for the works].
While admitting that the company had already secured an easement from them for a rising main to service the development, she said the owners were an elderly couple and ‘not in good health’.
But Council’s planner Michael Tully said that, ‘If the owners gave consent for works to occur I can’t see that being an issue in terms of consent’.
‘Consulting the owners is part of [the developer’s] obligation.
The one olive branch Intrapac did hold out was offering to dedicate a stretch of land on the coastal edge of the property as a council reserve.
However they also indicated they would seek a ‘credit’ towards their Section 94 contributions in return for building a roundabout to access the property.
Ms Rudolph then offered to submit to the JRPP a version of Council’s recommendations, re-edited by the developers, for its approval ‘showing the track changes’.
The normally unflappable chair, Garry West, looked taken aback at this proposal, especially after she admitted Council staff had not seen the new document.
‘For us to make a decision based on that today, it places us and Council in a difficult position,’ he said.
‘I am concerned about deferred commencements in broad principle: they would be better off as a condition requiring a certain action.
‘I’m extremely pleased to hear your comments in relation to the dedication of the reserve – but we’re not going to sit here and go through every one of those conditions.
‘There’s merit in the subdivision and merit in preserving reserve land at the front. It is scenic; the community doesn’t want houses right to the edge of that headland.
‘I think we’re better off to defer our decision today, ask you to supply Council with your recommendations and ask Council to come back on that.
‘I take your point about undertaking work on land not under your control – but at the same time I think there is merit in that,’ he said.
Developer Bill Knobel told the panel, ‘the reason some things came to a head today was that in the last set of draft conditions there was one deferred commencement. Today one became four’.
‘We don’t want to get railroaded completely but I don’t think we’re too far apart. If Council look at those preferred changes it can get resolved very quickly,’ he said.
Board member Pamela Westing called for the reserve proposal to be made in writing to council, with Mr Knobel responding ‘that will be done’.
Deemed refusal deadline
Ms Rudolph then stated, ‘our deemed refusal period finishes on January 21’, which effectively leaves the developer the option to take the matter to the Land and Environment Court if it is not settled by that date.
Mr West responded ‘can I draw it to your attention, until you lodge it with the court, until the court takes it over, it is ours to determine’.
He then asked Ballina’s senior planner Peter Drew, ‘is a 30-day period achievable?’
Mr Drew responded, ‘it’s a difficult time of year, and not having seen the proposal it’s difficult to put a timeframe, but Council will do what we can’.
Mr West then deferred the decision to be announced electronically in January.