The developer behind a major affordable housing project in Mullumbimby has applied to significantly increase the number of parking spaces on the site, despite the fact that this will encroach upon a much-loved mature fig tree located there.
North Coast Community Housing’s application to modify the Development Application for the 25-unit development on Station Street will also see a reduction in open space on the site.
Nevertheless, Byron Council staff have recommended that councillors approve the modification when it comes before this week’s planning meeting, finding that it ‘addresses the relevant constraints applying to the site’.
‘The application… raises no planning issues and is recommended for approval subject to amended conditions,’ Council Planner Ivan Holland said in a report contained in the agenda to this week’s meeting.
Proposed car space increase more than required
North Coast Community Housing (NCCH) is proposing to increase the number of parking spaces in the site’s communal parking area from nine to 17 and to relocate a driveway to facilitate this. This will increase the total number of parking spaces on the site from 14 to 25, significantly more than the minimum of 10 spaces required under planning rules.
The increase will mean that there is a parking space for each of the 25 one-bedroom units on the site.
The CEO of North Coast Community Housing, John McKenna said the increase was needed to attract buyers.
‘Our plans on that site were to build 25 units, sell 19, and keep six for social and affordable housing,’ Mr McKenna said.
‘The (NCCH) board and the bank set a pre-sale level of 15 sales to de-risk it so we could borrow the money [to build it].
‘But we didn’t get anywhere near those pre-sales.
‘The real estate company raised the lack of parking as something that potential buyers were concerned about. Hence the application to increase the number of spaces.’
However, in order to accommodate the extra spaces the development will have to encroach upon the protection zone of the mature fig tree located at the southwest corner of the site.
Community members fought hard to protect this tree when the development was first proposed in 2015.
As a consequence, the preservation of the tree was included as condition of consent when the project was first approved.
North Coast Community Housing says that it has consulted an arborist and found a solution that will allow the increase in parking to go ahead without affecting the health of the tree.
‘We found a permeable surface that we could put over the top of the roots that would allow you to park over the roots without preventing the tree from flourishing,’ Mr McKenna said.
Council staff found that this solution was acceptable.
‘Suggested measures to protect the fig tree have been included in recommended conditions [in relation to the amendment],’ Mr Holland said in the report. Mr Holland also found that the reduction in the amount of communal open space as a result of the changes was also acceptable in the circumstances.
He noted that as the applicant was a social housing provider, it limited opportunities for refusal.
‘As the application is made by a social housing provider, failure to meet landscaping, deep soil or car parking requirements cannot be used as grounds for refusal of the application,’ he said.
There were six community submissions in relation to the proposal, all of them opposed.
These have been listed as confidential on the Council meeting agenda.
However, the report notes that they related to the preservation of the fig tree, the loss of open space, and the impact of fumes, from the increased cars entering the site, on the neighbouring childcare centre.