'No' to $52m Midway rezone

COFFS Harbour City Council has knocked back a proposal to rezone the Midway Motor Inn site by the narrowest of margins.

Instead, it has moved to take a broader look at the new B6 zoning for the city centre which includes the Midway site.

With the Mayor Keith Rhoades away, Deputy Mayor Denise Knight used her chairwoman’s casting vote to block the move after voting locked at 4-4 on the issue.

Cr Knight was chairing her first council meeting since becoming deputy mayor.

The debate split the two Greens councillors and had two councillors who work in real estate take opposing sides.

Councillors Degens, Templeton, Hines and Arkan favoured the rezoning, while councillors Bonfield, Graham, Palmer and Knight opposed it.

Before the meeting, Cr Rodney Degens and Cr Paul Templeton gave notice of their intention to move that the council acknowledge the key gateway location of the Midway Motor Inn site as being just as significant to the city’s economy as the State Government owned Beryl St site and therefore should receive the same key-site recognition and planning controls.

If the Medway site had a B6 zoning, this would give a maximum building height of 19 metres, a maximum floor-space ratio of 1:1, remove limitations on office floor space and business usage, and thereby allow the Midway owners to proceed with their plan for office space, a convention centre and serviced apartments.

Crs Degens and Templeton wanted the Draft City Centre Plan LEP and DCP amended to include the changes and the Department of Planning advised.

The move caused intense debate, with Cr Degens saying the Midway developers’ five to six-star environmental plans were “pushing the boundaries of environmental design ...with a worthy building which deserved the support of the councillors”.

He also praised plans to reconstruct the contours of the creek on the site, increasing the resilience and sustainability of the city.

Cr Degens said he believed the developer had been unnecessarily frustrated by council’s planning process.

Cr Bill Palmer lodged an amendment that the council move to instruct staff to immediately review the intent of the city centre’s hierarchy and the resultant zoning and planning controls contained within the proposed B6 zoning in the Coffs Harbour City Centre Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan.

Cr Palmer said this was not to denigrate the Midway proposal but to ensure it was not a one-off.

Cr Kerry Hines wanted to approve the Midway immediately and make Cr Palmer’s amendment into a notice of motion for another full meeting.

“I agree with Cr Palmer that we have made a great mistake with the gateway corridor. There are too many restrictions,” she said.

Cr Hines said the $52 million for the building would revitalise the tourism industry, the office space would bring in $13 million a year and provide new money for local families, and the council would benefit from about $1.5 million of development contributions.

Cr Jenny Bonfield, a former mayor who works in real estate, argued strongly for a zoning review.

“We have developers in the CBD paying $1000 a sq m and sites like Midway are valued at about $160 sq m. If this site is approved for rezoning it will be an $8-10 million site,” she said.

“What about developers that have bought in the CBD?”

Meanwhile, Cr John Arkan argued for immediate rezoning of the site saying it was an excellent project, and Cr Mark Graham agreed with Cr Bonfield.

Cr Templeton said while he had seen both side of the argument “there seems to be a general fear floating around of what we are trying to achieve”.

“I don’t fear the Department of Planning,” he said.

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