Council considers seeking costs after drawn-out legal battle
COFFS Harbour City Council is considering pursuing legal costs after fighting a lengthy court battle over a controversial 57-lot subdivision on Sawtell Road.
The matter was recently before the NSW Land and Environment court with the applicant abruptly discontinuing proceedings on day five of the matter.
"It was the subject of a class 1 appeal hearing in the Land and Environment court recently and the applicant sought to discontinue proceedings," A Council spokesperson said.
"In this jurisdiction each party generally pays its own costs however Council is seeking advice on whether to pursue a costs order given the discontinuance of the proceedings."
The spokesperson said the legal costs in this case are yet to be finalised.
A controversial proposal for a 57-lot subdivision on Sawtell Road has been withdrawn from the NSW Land and Environment Court.
Dan Stevens from Regional Ethical Developments (RED) Coffs Coast says that while the matter has been discontinued in the Land and Environment Court, he hasn't abandoned plans altogether, but would not elaborate on why court proceedings last month were halted so abruptly.
The DA was first submitted to Coffs Harbour City Council in April 2018.
The matter was later escalated to the NSW Land and Environment Court with an on-site conciliation attracting well over 100 people in April last year.
Lawyers on both sides inspected the site which fronts Sawtell Road opposite the Linden Avenue intersection and continues through to the Hogbin Drive Industrial Estate.
Unable to reach a resolution the case was adjourned to allow the applicant to provide further information to Council as part of the mediation process.
Further delays followed and once again the matter was scheduled for a hearing in the NSW Land and Environment Court from February 17 to 25.
But halfway through the hearing, on February 21, the applicant filed a notice to discontinue the matter, which the court accepted.
The Save Lot 2 Sawtell Road group has thanked Coffs Harbour City Council for resisting the proposal.
"The group thanks the Council planning staff and legal team for expending significant time and effort to oppose this DA," David Wood said.
But Mr Wood says Council had no option other than to refuse the DA and that the battle can be traced back to a missed opportunity approximately five years ago.
"This is the legacy of Council sitting on their hands in 2015 when the land was offered for sale by the Coffs ex-services club and ignoring a petition signed by 130 nearby residents concerned at the promotion of the land for residential development and requesting Council intervene."
He says the site, which includes about six hectares recognised and mapped as Primary Koala Habitat in the Coffs Harbour City Council Koala Plan of Management 1999, is still not adequately protected.
"From our perspective the process has only wasted significant amounts of public and private money and time, and created angst and outrage in the local community.
"In our view, the vegetation on Lot 2 is still currently not adequately protected nor appropriately managed.
"We once again appeal to the owners of Lot 2 to stop trying to bulldoze the land and seek an alternative which includes protecting the habitat in perpetuity."
Mr Wood would like to see the land included as part of the North Coast Parks and Reserves system.
"This would obviously require a compensatory buy back or trade-off between Council and the owners of Lot 2.
"Given the recent loss of native habitat in our summer fires, the protection and maintenance of remnant habitat such as Lot 2 is even more important than ever. We will not rest until this habitat is protected and maintained in perpetuity."