From the Newsroom

Local News

Councillors approved the development application controversial 11 large-lot large residential subdivision at Gulmarrad, relying on the casting vote of deputy mayor Jason Kingsley. Mayor Jim Simmons missed the meeting due to suffering a medical episode prior to the meeting. Image: Contributed

Councillors overrule staff on subdivision decision

Four of Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) councillors have overruled staff advice, to refuse a development application (DA) to develop an 11 large-lot residential subdivision at Bloodwood Grove, Gulmarrad.

In the absence of newly reappointed mayor, Jim Simmons, who suffered a medical episode and was transferred to hospital prior to the meeting, deputy mayor Jason Kingsley used his casting vote to approve the subdivision DA.

Councillor Andrew Baker led the decision, with support from Cr Richie Williamson (seconder of Cr Baker’s motion), Cr Kingsley and Cr Arthur Lysaught.

Councillors rewrote, amended or deleted 11 conditions nominated by staff.

At the August CVC meeting, a majority of councillors decided to “defer its determination … to allow staff to provide draft conditions for approval”, despite staff strongly recommending against approving the DA.

Councillor Baker, who has developed parts of Gulmarrad in the past, talked about how the former Maclean shire council had strategically planned Gulmarrad for the purpose of creating large lot residential housing and retold some of the area’s history from a developer’s perspective.

Councillor Baker said Maclean shire’s “advices were to artificially impose a limit … of one dwelling per hectare; two and a half times the size of what would be allowed under the zoning”.

Councillor Baker then recalled how a significant landowner in the area “took a couple of years through the land and environment court”, during which the court “saw through” various advices used to justify only one dwelling per hectare and said, “’No, Gulmarrad should be 4,000 square metres (one acre).’”.

Cr Baker said the “advices” were “rejected by former councillor and former minister of the [NSW] Labor government, Don Day [deceased]”, who took on “a community leadership role to say … we need to challenge … these conditions”.

Cr Baker said Mr Day’s lead consultant at the time, surveyor and town planner Chris Gulaptis (now Clarence MP), “is still out there fighting the good fight”.

“There would be no Gulmarrad as we know it now, had the original council advices been accepted,” Cr Baker said.

“Since then there have been hundreds of lots created out there and we’ve all been able to gain the experience of that creation, and I am quite confident, because I’ve had 30 years of it, that this isn’t a quick and haphazard offering of conditions.

“This is just good solid conditions that get the job done.”

Greens councillor, Greg Clancy, maintained his dissatisfaction regarding how the DA has played out over several CVC meetings and claimed, “any councillor who supports this motion has to be prepared for virtual clear felling of the site”.

“Gulmarrad has been identified as an important wildlife corridor … so we have to be very careful, while trying to fit in all these subdivisions and houses, that we don’t destroy the place in the process,” he said.

“Here we have a situation where the planning staff have done a very thorough job in identifying three strong reasons for refusal.

“On three occasions they have reiterated their reasons for refusal.”

He said once they have rejected something three times, councillors should “listen”.

He acknowledged, however, that the developer’s consultant’s reports submitted with this version of the DA “are a little bit more detailed and a little bit better than what they were when this was first brought to council”.

Cr Williamson said “this has come a considerably long way” since it was first tabled at a CVC meeting.

“It is our job to condition appropriate development, appropriately zoned under the Local Environment Plan [LEP].

“It’s an opportunity to do so; if we lose the opportunity to do so, the conditions of consent … may well be taken out of council’s hands.

“Today we either do our job: what we were elected to do … councillors, here it is, affordable housing takes on green tape, head-on.

“There is a significant cost per lot here, which no doubt will put the price up…

“If those things are important to you [councillors] … I’m sure you are considering the conditions and costs attributed to this development.”

Cr Peter Ellem summed up his position with his opening statement: “If councillors really did respect our professional staff and the opinion of the independent environmental planner [commissioned by councillors], who provided a review of the competing documentation, they wouldn’t be ignoring the officer’s recommendation.”

Correction

In the story, ‘Councillors overrule staff on subdivision decision’ (Sept 30 edition), it was erroneously stated that Cr Andrew Baker recalled how a significant developer of the area – former councillor now Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis – “took a couple of years through the land and environment court…”

That paragraph has been corrected to read:
Councillor Baker then recalled how a significant landowner in the area “took a couple of years through the land and environment court”, during which the court “saw through” various advices used to justify only one dwelling per hectare and said, “’No, Gulmarrad should be 4,000 square metres (one acre).’”.

Cr Baker said the “advices” were “rejected by former councillor and former minister of the [NSW] Labor government, Don Day [deceased]”, who took on “a community leadership role to say … we need to challenge … these conditions”.

Cr Baker said Mr Day’s lead consultant at the time, surveyor and town planner Chris Gulaptis (now Clarence MP), “is still out there fighting the good fight”.

X