AT THE end of a long and confusing debate, Coffs Harbour City councillors voted to defer approval for Gowings' $8 million redevelopment of the former Cunningham's Hardware building in Gordon St to allow time for consultation with city centre businesspeople.
CBD retailers and landlords appear to have been taken by surprise when they read Wednesday's Coffs Coast Advocate and realised the council planned to close a section of Gordon St for six to eight weeks.
This is to allow for reconstruction of roads and footpaths and to replace the roundabout with traffic lights.
A temporary bypass will be created between Duke St and Harbour Dr.
Council staff said it might be possible to keep Harbour Dr open or partially open, at least for deliveries.
Earlier at Thursday's council meeting the councillors voted to spend $1.29 million on the Gordon St/Harbour Dr intersection.
That motion also required the council to undertake a high-priority engagement program on the proposed traffic management plan for the roadworks in order to identify and minimise the impacts on businesses.
It also required a report on the public engagement be given to the councillors before roadwork could begin and that retailers and land owners be kept informed at each step in the process.
The subsequent drawn-out discussion on the Coffs Central development application included questions directed to the general manager of Gowing Bros Limited, Garth Grundy, who gave a presentation to the councillors.
There was no criticism of Gowings' plans for the building project, a two-storey extension of the Coffs Central shopping centre that will provide four large new retail tenancies and is estimated to offer 76 construction jobs and 75 new permanent jobs.
Cr Sally Townley moved for the deferral, saying although it was a great project they needed to be careful in weighing up the benefits against the short-term risk to small retailers and they had seen the details of the public work only a few days ago.
Cr Nan Cowling said to approve the development application and then ask for public input would be shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted.
Crs John Arkan and Rodney Degens spoke against the deferral.
As discussion dragged on, an irritated general manager Steve McGrath said information on each aspect of the work on public land had been in reports stretching back months and the only issue likely to crop up was traffic management, which had nothing to do with the DA.
Councillors spoke of a "three-week delay" caused by the public engagement but Mr McGrath said gathering a meaningful response would require seven to eight weeks.
Mr Grundy said the project involved a lot of detailed design and tendering work, which was time-sensitive.