Ten + storeys flawed solution for Nelson Bay
The centrepiece of Port Stephens Council’s “Revised Implementation and Delivery Program for the Nelson Bay Town and Foreshore Strategy” is a proposal to more than double the present height limit from 5 to 10-storeys (35 metres) backed by an unconditional option to apply for more floors.
The Council argues that this is necessary for new projects to be viable and to attract more permanent residents to bolster retail business which has been struggling.
Advice provided by long established Nelson Bay real estate professionals, and developers suggests that this a false hope, as a blanket 10 + zoning across the whole town area will actually increase uncertainty because new investors will never know if a project’s views will be built out.
TRRA calls for a more fine-grained stepped zoning across the amphitheatre thus sharing views. This would offer greater certainty to developers and unit purchasers.
The Council’s consultants questioned the viability of high rise in the town when fire protection and parking requirements are factored in. They also described the market for high rise apartments as “very thin”. That is, difficult to sell units after the first couple of towers go up. Locals know how long it takes to sell new units now. We have also seen project failures leaving holes in the ground and high levels of mortgage default.
As for permanent residents, evidence shows that apartments 3 floors and over in Nelson Bay have occupancy rates of less than 30 %. Most have absentee owners and are held for weekend visits, holiday rental or capital gain. Adding to this stock will not solve the problems of our retailers.
Council persists with the line “we listened to you and now you have further opportunity to review the strategy”. However, its exhibited document acknowledges that of the 76 submissions received last year mentioning maximum building heights, “the vast majority was against any significant increase”. Council did not listen!
The majority of local residents and visitors place high value on the coastal village ambience of Nelson Bay and the protection of view corridors to the wooded ridges and towards the Bay. These principles were agreed for the 2012 Strategy. Incentives for amalgamation of sites in the town centre and in surrounding areas could attract high quality low and medium rise developments. Implementation of the other recommendations in the Delivery Program for landscaping, public spaces, traffic, parking and signage would demonstrate to developers that the community is serious about growing a vibrant town.
If you care about your town come to the Public Meeting on Tuesday 6 March, 7.00pm at the Nelson Bay Bowling Club.
Geoff Washington, TRRA President