Cumbalum is one step closer towards having some local shops and five new officially affordable homes in perpetuity thanks to council approval of preliminary planning requirements.
Independent Councillor Jeff Johnson spoke out in September to The Echo about what he described as Cumbalum’s ‘urban sprawl’ development leaving residents neglected in terms of community services.
Housing construction and sales had been allowed to continue without deadlines for accompanying shops, childcare and education facilities and even playgrounds, Cr Johnson said.
The existing site allocated for commercial services was inadequate thanks to its position on a slope, the independent councillor had said.
Catholic Church to build affordable homes in Cumbalum
The mostly administrative moves at last month’s ordinary meeting mean a new, smaller, commercial zone is proposed and the developer, Vixsun, won’t be allowed to sub-divide the old site into housing lots until building of the commercial centre starts.
Councillors agreed not to sign off on the subdivision until an Occupation Certificate for at least 1000m2 of commercial floor space is issued in respect of the new proposed commercial site.
Part of the old site is owned by the Catholic Church, which is to be responsible for ensuring five new affordable homes are built and rented out in perpetuity, with an appropriate community housing organisation to manage the properties.
The Church also has the option of using another block of land the same size – 1,500 square metres – for the same affordable housing project at ‘an appropriate location within the Ballina Parish Cumbalum property portfolio’ instead.
The new arrangement forms what’s called a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA), included with the revised proposal.
Houses built on the old site are to be consistent with the pattern of development already established on the western side of Ballina Heights Drive under the VPA.
New shops no easy stroll away
Meanwhile, the new neighbourhood commercial centre zone is to be built in what is described as ‘a more commercially viable site within the estate’.
The new site is on flatter ground near the Ballina Heights estate entrance via Ballina Heights Drive and, staff say, will benefit from visual exposure to the Pacific Highway and Tamarind Drive.
It will be easier for cars to get to but more arduous for pedestrians.
The new site is around 70 metres below the top of the ridgeline, making for a somewhat ambitious walk home for most nearby residents.
Staff say it’s also less central to the future population catchment of the neighbourhood centres in the Ballina Heights and Banyan Hills estates.
The council has rules requiring shops to be accessible via a twenty-minute walk but staff say the criteria ‘is not met universally across the shire in other urban areas’.
New general store a possibility for Banyan Hill
They say they are currently liaising with the Banyan Hill developers to the north of Ballina Heights, at the developers’ request, to investigate options for an ‘improved development outcome for that part of the urban release area’.
It ‘may be possible as part of those discussions to investigate provision of a site for a small neighbourhood shop in the northern part of the precinct’, staff say.
Staff have echoed Cr Johnson’s earlier concerns, describing an ‘urgent demand for neighbourhood shopping centre facilities to meet the needs of Cumbalum residents, as the population of the locality has grown’.
But, they say, the timing of the development is ‘ultimately at the discretion of the owner of the land’.
Nevertheless, staff have concluded ‘whilst the proposed location is not ideal from the perspective of walkability, provision for a neighbourhood shop in the northern part of the development precinct in Banyan Hill may mitigate this shortcoming’.
Councillors at November’s ordinary meeting agreed unanimously with the staff recommendation to seek state planning approval for the changes via a Gateway determination and to then put the proposal up for public exhibition.
Mayor Sharon Cadwallader and Cr Jeff Johnson were absent from the meeting.
The changes mostly concern rezoning of the sites, neither of which currently has the zoning required for the VPA to proceed.
The old commercial site needs to be rezoned from a B2 local centre zone to an R3 medium density residential zone and the new site vica-versa.