TRRA Inc. continues to monitor Development Applications (DAs) and infrastructure works on the peninsula and, where appropriate, make submissions. Here we report on recent DAs and progress with projects already approved.
In September, we objected to a proposed re-development of the Santa Catalina motel in Shoal Bay, on the grounds that it significantly exceeded the height limit applying to the medium density residential zone. Building heights is a critical issue in maintaining the character of the areas many small towns and villages. We strongly believe that there is no point in having height limits unless compliance is enforced, without very strong public interest arguments, which have not been advanced in this case. Applications to significantly vary height limits should also be required to go through an LEP variation process rather than be decided ad hoc in relation to individual DAs. We have already seen several apartment buildings in Nelson Bay town centre built well over the applicable height limits, and approval given to redevelopment of the Magnus Resort again well over the 5 storey limit applicable to that site. We don’t blame developers for trying it on, but Council should not give in as easily and often as they do. Some developers are delivering attractive buildings within the height limits (although some ugly ones have slipped through as well!) so enforcing compliance with community expectations need not prevent new investment.
Nelson Bay Car Parks re-development
Council is in secret negotiations with a potential developer for the Donald Street East and West car park sites with strong rumors that they are looking at very high tower buildings on both sites, and only replacement parking rather than the extra that most stakeholders think is needed. TRRA believes that Council has the process back to front – it should first engage with the community about what uses and heights will be acceptable. We have joined with the Business Chamber and tourism representatives in a new forum Nelson Bay Now, which is trying to engage Council in its promised review of the 2012 Town Centre and Foreshore Strategy. It is essential that Council does not make any binding commitments for the critical car park sites until a new common vision for the future of the town emerges from this review.
New shops and services at Salamander Centre
Work is well under way at the Salamander Centre on the new roads and other infrastructure that will support commercial developments on the sites between MacDonalds and the Rigby Centre. We still do not know for certain which entities Council is negotiating with about the four main lots in the subdivision, or what uses we will get in the end. DAs will need to be lodged for each development so the community will have an opportunity to comment on design etc, but we remain disappointed that Council has made no effort to achieve what could have been an exciting mixed use development perhaps with shop top housing to meet future.
A Council media release dated 19 July 2016 on the Salamander Centre works is online at http://www.portstephens.nsw.gov.au/your-council/news/work-to-begin-on-construction-of-new-retail-development-for-salamander-bay
We welcome the adoption of an overall pathways plan for Port Stephens, which over time should give much better connectivity for pedestrians, cyclists and user of mobility scooters. We have concerns however about ad hoc changes to the plan and an early case where the normal requirement for developers to build sections of missing pathway fronting their new developments has been waived.
Maps showing the elements of the pathways plan in different geographic areas of Port Stephens are online at http://www.portstephens.nsw.gov.au/live/resident-services/everything-roads/pathway-plans