Raj Mahal conundrum

WOOLGOOLGA and the vexed question of the Raj Mahal land once again dominated discussion at Thursday’s Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

Zachary Hawke, of Woolgoolga, addressed council about the impact approving a B4 zoning for more shops on the site surrounding the Raj Mahal would have on the town centre, business and employment.

Mr Hawke attempted to broach the matter of a councillor’s conflict of interest, but was cut off by the Mayor, Keith Rhoades.

Cr Rhoades said the matter was under investigation and if Mr Hawke referred to any complaint lodged with or under investigation by the general manager, his permission to address the council would be withdrawn.

Mr Hawke said the proposed B4 (retail) land rezoning of two large blocks around the Raj Mahal would create a site large enough for a shopping centre with speciality shops and a liquor outlet to be built around the proposed supermarket.

He said such a development would cause a huge loss of business to the shops in the existing Woolgoolga town centre, including a loss of about 50 per cent of weekly turnover to the IGA supermarket, which employs 65 staff and pays out $1.5 million annually in wages

He said although developer Buildev had told the council it would build a stand-alone supermarket, a company representative had admitted a Liquorland would be included.

Mr Hawke said a stand-alone supermarket would not be viable, and it was speciality shops that gave developers the return on their investment.

Coffs Harbour City councillors were asked to consider endorsing employment zones in Woolgoolga and Toormina and update the Employment Lands Strategy to reflect these changes to allow the revised ELS to go to the Department of Planning at Thursday’s meeting.

Cr Jennifer Bonfield was alarmed by the possibility a new shopping centre could spring up and asked for confirmation of the combined size of the blocks, which was 10,434 square metres, with the main Raj Mahal block 6520sqm and the adjoining block 3914 sqm.

“That puts the cat among the pigeons,” Cr Bonfield said.

“How do we constrain that site so it does not affect the viability of the town centre?”

The director of land use, health and development, Mark Salter, said council could restrict the B4 zoning to the large corner block.

Cr Rhoades was reluctant to take this step, saying it was difficult to determine what any developer wanted to do without a development application and restricting the B4 zoning might mean the supermarket did not have adequate space for parking.

Discussion followed on whether the B6 zoning for the second Raj Mahal block would allow car parking, with Cr Rhoades still unhappy about changing the staff recommendations and upsetting the timing of getting the Draft Local Environment Plan to the Department of Planning.

However, the majority prevailed and the amendment put forward by Cr Bonfield and seconded by Cr Graham saw the smaller block given a B6 (commercial, but not retail) zoning.

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