THE men who want to spend $50- million re-developing the Midway Motor Inn site are prepared to take their money out of town if their plans are rejected.
They say their proposal to build a five-star hotel and 5000 square metres of office space for government and corporate businesses would provide 330 jobs but claim they've been thwarted by the city council's planning department.
None of the city's nine councillors have expressed outright disapproval of the project that will be put to a vote at the next council meeting.
Councillors Rodney Degens and Paul Templeton lodged a notice of motion asking the council to change its stance on the planning rules governing the site.
The mayor, Keith Rhoades, is keeping his cards close to his chest over whether or not he supports the proposal.
Cr Rhoades said he would “not be making any comment on the application” because “the application may be going to government”.
“They (the developers) may be sending it to government for consideration under part 3A,” he said.
Cr Rhoades did say, however, the existing zones at the location had to be examined.
“It's already been mooted by people that it's a spot re-zoning.
“It's about process.”
B and H Group project manager, Chris Bramley, said his firm had spent three years promoting the project, which included extensive flood mitigation, but the council's new LEP adopted in December was too restrictive and prevented them lodging a development application.
“If we can't get approval by the council or the State Government, we will sell the site and take our money elsewhere,” Mr Bramley said.
“If Coffs Harbour doesn't want it, we don't want Coffs Harbour, but we do feel passionate about this project.
“We've said this is a project Coffs Harbour needs – we're offering solutions to stop the bleeding of government departments from Coffs Harbour.”
Mr Bramley said his company had kept a comprehensive file of correspondence and discussions with the city council which showed the developers had kept hitting brick walls at city hall.
B and H Group director, Neil Langton, said his firm believed in this project “for Coffs Harbour”.
“We have a 50-year-old building which is getting older. If we can't develop areas that haven't been developed and not refreshing older ones, surely that's what we should be doing,” Mr Langton said.
“Our impact will be negligible – there will be no leakage (of businesses) from the CBD. Our profile of tenancy is corporate and government.
“And we're not here to steal business from the resorts.”
Mr Bramley admitted that even if the development was given the green light, it would be next year before work would start on the site.
Cr Jenny Bonfield said: “As far as I know, no development application has been lodged at the council about it so how can I comment about something that hasn't happened.
“I can't really comment.”
Deputy mayor Cr Denise Knight said she didn't have a problem with the proposal but she was “still doing my homework” on it and would be doing so right up until the council vote.
Cr Knight said the idea of the City Centre Plan was for “business not to bleed out of the CBD”, but this was not a retail development.