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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Fed Sheds DA rejected

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Concept plans from Davgav Pty Ltd. Photo supplied

A proposed light industrial development that divided the community of Federal has been knocked back by Byron Council, leaving a cloud of doubt over the plan.

The Fed Sheds development came before last week’s Council meeting, with Davgav Pty Ltd proposing to replace the old house opposite Federal Hall with three buildings housing a total of eight light industrial tenancies.

The $2.8m development, which lies within the Federal Village Heritage Conservation Area, would also have included 19 parking spaces, two service bays and its own stormwater and sewage treatment facilities.

Amended version of the original plan

The Development Application (DA) that came before Council was an amended version of the original plan, with the developer making a number of changes in a bid win over Council and opponents within the community.

There were myriad concerns, including the size and scale of the proposal, the use of a novel sewage and wastewater system, and the impact on the amenity of the town and its village character.

‘It’s a good design, but it’s all about context, and in context I think the size and scale of this proposal is a significant issue,’ said Independent Councillor Mark Swivel, who moved the motion to refuse the application.

‘It’s about having the buildings talk to each other in a little village, and this proposal doesn’t achieve that in my opinion.’

Back to the drawing board

But one of the developers, Gavin Elterman, said that he and his colleagues had gone ‘back to the drawing board’ in a bid to alleviate these and other concerns.

‘We moved the building back from Federal Drive by between seven and ten metres,’ Mr Elterman said.

‘We changed the parking to 19 spaces which is three more than required for compliance’.  

‘The community access plan allows for… the public to access 60.35 per cent of the total footprint we’re building.’

Deputy Mayor Sarah Ndiaye also spoke in support of the plan, noting the quality of the design and the workmanship that would be provided.

Hesitation from some in the community

‘I get that there’s a lot of hesitation from some in the community,’ Cr Ndiaye said.

‘But I’ve had contact from quite a few people in Federal who’ve said they’re in favour of it, but they don’t want to speak up because the opponents have been so vocal.

‘I think change is always resisted, and sometimes it’s for the right reasons and sometimes it’s not.’

A key sticking point for other councillors, and local opponents of the plan, was the use of a new type of sewage management system that had barely, if ever, been used in Australia.

‘The constraint of greatest concern is the absence of suitable area for a conventional OSMS [Onsite Sewage Management System] disposal system,’ said Goets Bickert from the Federal Community Centre Steering Group.

The devil is in the detail

‘The devil is in the detail, and it’s beyond my comprehension why staff recommended approval of this highly problematic DA. Without a conventional OSMS, it leaves you, as Council, with liability as this is prone to failure.’

Those voting to refuse the development were Mark Swivel, Peter Westheimer, Duncan Dey, Asren Pugh and Alan Hunter. Those voting against the refusal motion were Mayor Michael Lyon and Deputy Mayor Sarah Ndiaye.

Cr Sama Balson was not present for the vote.

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  1. There was and is a lot of local support for this development from the community, perhaps it was a failing of those of us who supported it not to be more vocal against the opponents. This development will be a huge asset to Federal and to the arts community of the shire in general, the design is inspired and beautiful, a quick look at their previous work will attest to that. When a project comes along like this and the people behind it have a vision to enhance the village it seems that working with them towards that goal instead of attempting to thwart them at every turn would be beneficial to all. I hope they fight on, I feel a very vocal group has opposed this from the start and no matter what was offered they would have, simply on the basis that they didn’t want a development to happen no matter what it was. If people have been too frightened to speak up because opponents were so vocal, then that is another problem in itself.

    • To: Miss Construe – That’s not actually what happened at all. The proponent was asked on numerous occasions to consult with the community and decided not to. The only time they did consult was after the initial DA was deferred and Council required them to meet with a group of locals who were looking for the developer to reduce the size and scale of the development so that a proven wastewater system could be used. The developer, when asked if there was any amount they would be willing to reduce the overall footprint, refused – the only concession was a pull back from the streetscape with a reduction in car parking – not a good outcome for the community. And by that, we mean the 72% of locals who officially objected to the proposal through Council’s DA process. Any suggestion that it was only a small group who opposed this DA is indeed, misconstrued. All the opponents have asked from the start is a reduction in size and scale – the overall concept is considered worthwhile supporting. However, a small rural town is not the place for an experimental wastewater system – untrialed anywhere in Australia – not even the proponent could point to somewhere in this country where such a system exists, (well, they did so, but it was discovered that didn’t actually exist). Yes, the Council department recommended the application for approval – however that is because of the anomaly that they could defer approval of the wastewater system. The ‘novel’ system had 4 independent reports that all conferred that the wastewater system was deemed too risky. That is why it was rejected by Councillors: 6-2. (There were other concerns that were raised by the Councillors)
      The motion put forward by the Councillors is a request that the proponent reduce the size and scale of the proposal and use a proven wastewater system – like everyone else in the Shire has to. It would be great if the proponent could take these suggestions on board and come back with a proposal that is suitable for the site limitations – that is all the opponents have ever asked for.

  2. The devil is really in the detail! The quote I put up in Council (and not said myself) ‘The constraint of greatest concern…’ is not from me but from the D.A. itself. It’s in the On-site Sewage Management Feasibility Assessment forming part of the D.A submitted by Davgav Pty Ltd, the developer, written by Dylan Brooks, Environmental Consultant of Greg Alderson Associates. My other quote correctly stated is ‘The devil is in the detail, and it is beyond my comprehension why staff again recommend approval of this problematic DA without conventional OSMS; leaving you as councillors with the liability in case of failure’. I fully agree with the letter from Cr. Duncan Dey who writes ‘A reduction in built area in the proposal would have left room for correct treatment of sewage and stormwater from that more modest proposal. Let’s hope the developer takes that approach in the future DA,’ and with this enough quotes for here. Goetz Bickert (not Goets)

  3. Along with Miss Construe, I wholeheartedly believe that it was only a small vocal group that opposed this and the rest of us thought that sensibility and the facts would prevail. There is a lot of disappointment and surprise in the community about the proposal being rejected. It has been recommended for approval by the expert staff in the Council on both occasions and the developers have met with the small group of opposes and addressed all concerns. Like many of us in Federal, I sincerely hope this gets up and going. It’s great for the future of the village and residents.

  4. To: Graham,
    “ And by that, we mean the 72% of locals who officially objected to the proposal”
    I think you/“we” (plural) mean 72% of the locals who actually submitted a response, not 72% of locals, which is quite a different statistic. It is a known fact that the objectors and “strongly opposed” will always speak up and make themselves heard.
    Miss Construe stated: “If people have been too frightened to speak up because opponents were so vocal, then that is another problem in itself.“


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