Council fails the community on Nelson Bay High-rise

Council fails the community on Nelson Bay High-rise

We are sad to report that Council has approved the 9-storey apartment building at 1 Yacaaba St, by a vote of 9 to 1, against the recommendation of its own planners, and ignoring the clear weight of opposition to high rise development in the town centre.  We are particularly disappointed in our three East Ward Councillors – Dunkley, Nell and Abbott, who all voted for a last minute motion, with less than half an hour’s notice, from Mayor Palmer to approve the controversial proposal. Our thanks go to Cllr Arnott who alone opposed approval but was denied even the opportunity to move the published recommended motion to refuse.

Unfortunately there is no merits appeal option and while we think there are strong grounds to question the process that has led to the approval, a judicial review appeal is beyond our means. We can see three possible scenarios now. The development may go ahead and successfully sell to permanent residents, in which case there may at least be some benefit to compensate for the sacrifice of the town’s character. More likely is eventual completion but with sales mainly to investors, and a majority of units unoccupied for most of the year – the same sacrifice but with little long term benefit. A third scenario is for the site to remain undeveloped, like the one at Church Street approved in 2017. The threat of further tower blocks which would obscure views could well ruin the commercial prospects and sterilise the revitalisation prospects of the town.

TRRA believes that Council has now missed the opportunity to set a clear vision for the town that respects its unique geography and character. We remain strongly of the view that sensible new height limits, such as the modest increases agreed back in 2012, together with all the other aspects of the Nelson Bay Strategy which have broad support, could have attracted investment to revitalise the town. Instead, Council has voted to allow a more than doubling of the height limits across large areas of the town centre. Given the uncertainty this will create, landowners will now be trapped by a toxic mix of fear and greed, likely to result in a continued moratorium on new development.

There will be one last opportunity to challenge Council’s flawed vision, when the proposed new height limits adopted in September 2018 are put on exhibition as changes to the Local Environmental Plan later this year.  But with 9 of our 10 elected representatives having made their position clear, a challenge is not likely to succeed.  We should perhaps look instead to the September 2020 Council election at which Councillors will be held to account for their decisions.

TRRA’s Committee is considering what further action the community could take, including strong representations to the Minister for Planning on the flawed process followed by Council over the last few years and the implications of their approvals of major height variations for the character of the town. It is clear that there is a major backlash against overdevelopment throughout NSW, and even the pro-development State government is having second thoughts about its support for high rise development in many areas.

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7 Responses to Council fails the community on Nelson Bay High-rise

  1. Heather Callister says:

    I am so disappointed in our Council – I felt that they were on the same page as the majority of the community, & then the travesty of the ” community consultations ” were revealed . Does the Mayor & Council have such disdaine & disrespect for those of us who campaigned & voted them in that they think they can waste our time in consultations when their agenda is already set. Bring on the next election.

  2. Chris Peters says:

    “Greed and self aggrandisement”, (thank you Marianne) are the key to our problem. Why are council members constantly voting against the clear voice of its citizens and favoring the developers? Why has the council resorted to abusing an obscure paragraph of the rules to double the height limits? This is why we should be applying to the minister for Local Government to appoint an administrator for the balance of the current council’s term. If we do not fight this, future generations will condemn us for scarring the environment. We must not repeat the glaringly obvious planning errors of other coastal towns.

  3. Mark Penn says:

    As the current council is no respecter of democracy and is always of the opinion that they know best. I believe we should approach the State minister for local government to appoint an administrator until the next election.

  4. Heather Callister says:

    To the East Ward Coucillors who supported the recent 9 Story high rise, in Nelson Bay — I am very disappointed in your support for that development. You are NOT LISTENING to the community , & their ideas for a vibrant town centre — how dare you pretend that ” the consultations” were important to you — & now decide that you know better. The community will not forget your duplicity.

  5. Elspeth Armstrong says:

    I agree with the Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association that Council has now missed the opportunity to set a clear vision for the town that respects its unique geography and character.

    Port Stephens Council’s decision to approve this development without any regard for overwhelming public objections is not in the public interest.

    I remain strongly of the view that sensible new height limits, such as the modest increases agreed back in 2012, together with all the other aspects of the Nelson Bay Strategy which have broad support, could have attracted investment to revitalise the town.

    Instead, Council has voted to allow more than doubling of the height limits across large areas of the town centre. Given the uncertainty this will create, landowners will now be trapped by a toxic mix of fear and greed, likely to result in a continued moratorium on new development.

    This unreasonably high development was approved prior to the adoption of the Draft Strategy for Nelson Bay.

    Council has failed the public interest test by refusing to address the participation principles and the requirements of section 2.23 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

    I appeal to the Minister of Planning to take the pubic interest into account and refuse to amend the Port Stephens Local Plan of Management.

  6. Marianne Bonnor says:

    I fully endorse the opinions of the TRRA. This is such sad news – for the individuals involved and the township of Nelson Bay itself. Yes … greed and self-aggrandisement appear to be the motivation for developments such as this along the beautiful coastal fringe that we share. We can only hope that this is not a step towards a future vision of Nelson Bay. Thank you to those of you who given these concerns a voice. What will future generations think of us?

  7. Jean Armstrong says:

    I agree with TRRA that our East Ward Councillors have let us down.
    There will be one last opportunity to challenge Council’s flawed vision, when the proposed new height limits adopted in September 2018 are put on exhibition as changes to the Local Environmental Plan later this year.

    We should all join forces to demand that the Minister for Planning takes into consideration the voices of the ratepayers and residents and refuses to amend the LEP.

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