Service station debate gets heated, ends in deferral

IMPASSIONED debate over a service station development ended with a vote for caution at Thursday's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

In the first council meeting chaired by new deputy mayor and Greens councillor Sally Townley, normally pro-development councillor and former mayor Cr Keith Rhoades voted with Cr Bob Palmer, Cr Townley and Cr Nan Cowling to defer approval for a new service station in North Coffs Harbour in order to require the business to meet more stringent environmental controls.

Cr Garry Innes declared a commercial-in-confidence pecuniary interest and left the chamber during the debate, while Mayor Denise Knight was absent in Sydney on personal business.

The delay was unsuccessfully opposed by Cr John Arkan, Cr Rodney Degens and Cr Mark Sultana, who supported an amendment to approve the service station, saying a clause within the conditions of the development consent recommended by the council's planners would achieve the desired environmental outcomes.

Cr Arkan said the deferral would cost time and money; accused fellow councillors of "loading up on fear and emotion" and reminded them about the Land and Environment Court costs involved with opposing the Midway proposal on the opposite side of the highway.

His remarks earned a rebuke from the acting mayor, who said they needed to load up on data and facts, not fear and emotion.

The decision to defer approval drew an outburst from the developer, Coffs Harbour businessman Kent Lee, who slammed angrily out of the public gallery.

Mr Lee was not appeased by Cr Rhoades' motion to expedite the implementation of the adopted motion.

He said the deferral would cause financial stress.

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