Central Coast Council is rewriting a master plan for Wadalba East, slashing the number of potential homes in an urban release area that has been in the pipeline for 13 years.
This is despite the original masterplan being signed off by Council and the Department of Planning when the rezoning was accepted.
The new draft could make the project non viable, with more than 40 landowners affected and potentially halving the number of residential blocks to be developed.
Some landowners face losing the potential to develop any of their land at all.
Landholders say the new plan is being drafted using State Government grant money and duplicates work they have already done at no cost to the taxpayer.
Documents show the grant money was originally meant to design specific infrastructure for the site to fast track development.
The land was rezoned in 2020 to enable low density residential development of about 1200 residential lots, excluding flood prone areas and land required for conservation, recreation and infrastructure.
Last year, the State Government provided Council-under-administration with a $1.4M Regional Housing Fund grant to fast-track the land release.
Internal council emails show the council is spending the money to re-interrogate the zoning rather than on what the grant was given for: the designs for sewer and drainage on the site.
Landowners say it is a clear waste of State Government money as landowners have already done the master plan in a coordinated manner.
An email trail shows the council admitting to “pivoting” to include more than the sewer and drainage within the grant focus and suggesting it could ask the State Department to change the wording on the project scope.
An early project scope showed $100,000 to be spent on a consultant but Council accepted a tender for $500,000.
The consultant’s draft plan outlines different options for the amount of land that could be developed, depending on biodiversity studies.
One scenario puts some landholders in the position of having to allow infrastructure on their land while not being able to develop any of it.
Of the 41 landowners, 33 of them are affected by one of the options that reduces their developable land.
The original planning proposal took effect from July 2021.
A new chapter in Council’s Development Control Plan (DCP) outlined the detailed work that needed to be done at DA stage, in developing the land, including environmental offset strategies.
The rezoning included areas of E2 Environmental Conservation Land (now referred to as C2 – Environmental Conservation), which connect to wildlife corridors including the Squirrel Glider dispersal corridors that transect the site.
The rezoning aligned the R2 Low Density Residential zone and RE1 Public Recreation Zone to promote orderly and feasible development outcomes.
Eight landowners put in development applications (DAs) yielding about 450 blocks collectively and others are working on their applications.
None of the eight DAs have been approved.
Five of the oldest DA’s have been with Council for over 246, 294, 365, 457 and 462 days.
None of these applicants have received any written correspondence from council asking for more detail and there has been no determinations.
Two have gone to the Land and Environment Court to try to get some action citing “deemed refusal” but the others didn’t act in the time frame and are now in limbo until determined.
Council told this reporter there were two key reasons that Council has been unable to determine the development applications to date but it did not mention there was a new draft masterplan.
“These are that biodiversity and infrastructure planning issues have not yet been resolved, and that the applications received are for later stages of the precinct and have not identified how services will be provided out of sequence,” Council said.
But landowners say Council is changing the rules as it goes along and landowners are submitting DAs based on the DCP that was adopted less than two years ago.
Council said it appeared that the current owners of land within the Wadalba East Urban Release Area were not completely aware of the constraints, and associated costs, and may not have fully appreciated the advice provided by Council before they lodged their DAs.
The landowners said Council refuses to acknowledge the existing set of rules and wants to establish a new set.
More on this story: scroll down to the Explore heading or see the links below.
Email trail shows Council pivots on grant focus
Landowners meet with State MP
Appeal to Administrator