As we mentioned in our last post on Donald Street Car Park, TRRA Inc. has some history with the Council and the Donald Street East Car Park. We made extensive submissions to Council about a proposed Public Private Partnership with Coral Corp Pty. Ltd on the site in 2008-9. This process had actually started in 2003.
The whole thing came unstuck when the developer insisted on a lot of commercial retail and residential being incorporated into the development to make it viable. When calculations were done by TRRA to include the required off street CBD parking as well, the structure needed to be over 10 stories high which would not have been appropriate for this site. Then the GFC came along and the whole thing was put in the too hard basket. The mock up shows what it would have looked like from the Bowling Club.
The person that was handling that process at the time was none other than Carmel Foster, who was about 3 months into her job as PSC Commercial Property Manger, and we have some interesting exchanges between Ms Foster and our previous Chairman Bob Young on our files.
Imagine our surprise when one of our ever vigilant Planning Sub Committee spied this ad in the Sydney Morning Herald. Geoff Washington immediately contacted Council and requested that the ‘Proposals Package’ also be sent to us.
We were very interested to see if the ‘Proposals Package’ was consistent with the Nelson Bay Town Centre and Foreshore Strategy adopted by Council in April 2012 (cost to Council????millions over 5 years preparation), The GHD Traffic and car Parking Strategy 2012 ( cost to council????) and the Draft 2013/2015 Development Control Plan due to be recommended to Council for adoption on 14 July 2015.
Our suspicions were well founded, A close examination revealed that the RFP document does not refer to these key documents which set out the Strategic Planning principles which should guide any process directed towards development concepts for the two car Parks being offered for commercial development.
This seems to be yet another example of the Properties Section operating in a silo. The sale of these sites ought to have been subject to close consultation with the Planning Section to ensure that any proposal to be developed by the commercial sector reflects Council’s Planning objectives for Nelson Bay. TRRA is also concerned that this prospectus refers only to the 2013 DCP and that the deadline for submissions is 19 June 2015 when the Draft revised DCP goes to council on 14 July 2015. No mention is made of this document or of its possible implications for the proposals to be submitted.
Geoff Washington, in conjunction with other Committee members, prepared a submission to Council and also applied for public access to address Council on this matter in person. Geoff also addressed the local Business Association, many of whom were as surprised as we were about the recent call for proposals. Queries were raised as to why the advertisement was not run locally which would have alerted Port Stephens developer and real estate interests to the opportunity.
These are the links to the relevant documentation:
150525 RFP – Commercial Development Sites – Nelson Bay
150527 Letter to Council – Expressions of Interest May 2015
150526 Public Access Presentation to PSC 26.5.15 Geoffrey Washington
We have received the following rather uninspiring reply’s
150601 PSC Acknowledgement Donald Street
150604 PSC – Process for Inviting Proposals for Development
Glen Bunny, P.S.C. Property Services Manager: “All points raised by the Association are valid and correct should the Council be undertaking a tender process or similar whereby we were seeking final building and land use outcomes. However, by commencing an RFP process Council is simply seeking to discover business opportunities that are proposed by the market, without constraining or overly influencing any particular end use or opportunity. By doing so Council enables creative development proposals to be presented that may include ideas and activities, additional to those that have not been considered internally.”
TRRA does not accept this attempt to justify Council’s approach. The fact remains that Council formally adopted the Nelson Bay Town Centre and Foreshore Strategy in April 2012 and will most probably adopt the revised Development Control Plan on 14 July 2015. These decisions should shape the concept plans of proposals for the two car park sites from the outset. Any creativity on the part of proponents, which TRRA welcomes, should at least be exercised with full knowledge of these overarching planning guidelines for the shape and function of the Nelson Bay Town Centre.
TRRA Inc. is very concerned at this turn of events because a pattern of failure seems to be emerging from this process, and maybe the process is the problem. The first example was the last time this process was used for the site, the documentation then and our concerns are uncannily similar. Then there was the debacle with Nathan Tinkler with the sale of the land around the Shopping Center. We expressed concern the at the loose requirements placed on the proponent with that one as well. Then there was the Tender Process for the sale of Samurai Holiday Resort, two more attempts, two more abject failures.
In our humble opinion, being straight, right up front with developers about what your community wants and what the rules and requirements are to get there could save a lot of time and unreal expectations on both sides. If this process is not working, maybe it is time to change it, or is it us that have the unreal expectations?