Crucial decision on airport rezoning put on hold
WITH lease negotiations reaching a crucial stage, councillors questioned the timing of a push to rezone land in the 95-lot Airport Enterprise Park development.
Instead Coffs Harbour City Councillors last night voted to defer making a decision on a recommendation that would essentially strip the council of its authority to approve any rezoning request.
The land is currently zoned for air services only, but a proposal is on the cards to have parts of the area rezoned to also allow for industrial and business uses as outlined in the council’s Airport Master Plan.
However, Council is currently both the developer of the park as well as the consent authority – meaning conflict is inevitably rising around potential rezoning.
Complicating the matter, negotiations are underway to handover a long-term lease of the airport and the Enterprise Park development to a third party, with binding bids to be received within a matter of weeks.
This led some councillors to question why there was a sudden need to amend the development’s probity plan to remove council as consent authority.
Councillors Sally Townley, Tegan Swan and Paul Amos expressed that they felt uncomfortable making a decision while lease negotiations were actively underway.
Cr Townley instead put forward an alternate recommendation that the matter be deferred until after bindings bids for the lease had been received and assessed.
“Council has had plenty of opportunities to consider rezoning over the last few years and we have chosen not to so far,” Cr Townley said.
“I feel uncomfortable about changing the probity plan with the specific view to rezoning when we are five minutes away from receiving these bids.
“It puts councillors in an awkward position … I think it would be much cleaner if we waited a couple of weeks.”
When asked by Cr Swan why rezoning had all of a sudden been put on the cards at this point in time, Director Business Services Andrew Beswick provided clarity on the situation.
Mr Beswick said the current zoning had been sufficient in allowing for the initial stages of the development, which included the establishment of aviation-related services and hangars.
However, he said the push to rezone the area had come to a head following council’s acceptance of $10m Federal government grant in October last year.
As part of the funding requirements, the development must be completed by April 2022.
“There’s always been the thought among airport management that there would have to be some form of rezoning at some stage,” Mr Beswick said.
“If we don’t do it now, we will have to consider it again at some stage.”
Cr Amos, Cr Arkan, Cr Swan, Cr Knight and Cr Townley voted in favour of deferring the decision to change the probity plan.
Cr Adendorff, Cr Rhoades and Cr Cecato voted against.