The community will have its chance to guide how future residential developments look when Port Macquarie-Hastings Council undertakes a housing choices review.
The review could help stem community concerns about out-of-character developments in existing neighbourhoods.
It is expected to begin later this year.
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann says the review will be a long process first to decide, and then get, NSW permission for at least some low density R2 residential rezoning.
She said people should contact local MPs and NSW Department of Planning now with your views.
"I've been pushing for this change in council's zoning so that at least some low density areas can be protected," she said.
"There's no real choice if you can't protect the type of development you've chosen to buy into.
"While development can be good, it's not good where it destroys the character of an area due to a blunt zoning instrument like the R1 residential zone in the NSW standard Local Environment Plan.
"The problem is that the R1 zone permits a wide variety of housing densities - everything from single-dwellings to multiple dwellings on each block, up to two-storey residential flat buildings going basically boundary to boundary," she said.
Council can't really refuse a development that complies with the rules.Cr Lisa Intemann
"Council can't really refuse a development that complies with the rules.
"The R1 zone does nothing to protect the character and amenity of an area that is presently single-dwellings, and over-development can easily creep in with residents having basically no control except demanding higher fences be built.
"I see this as a real problem for people who've chosen to buy into a low density residential area."
Cr Intemann said the solution involves council getting NSW permission to change at least some single-dwelling areas to a new residential R2 zoning, with rules to protect the low density character.
Treeview Parade resident Bob Withers is a victim of the current legislation.
He wants to rename his street to Unit View Parade after four two-storey units were built along his back boundary. The units sit just one metre from their back fence.
"When the plans for the units were submitted to council we couldn't believe it (the plans)," Mr Wither said.
Despite spending the last three years arguing his case, Mr Withers says he has simply drawn a blank.
Some of the obstacles he encountered included, not having a right of reply during the development assessment panel process. His search to resolve the issue has taken him to the environmental department, state planning office, ICAC "to see if we could do anything".
Mr Withers described the entire process as "a nightmare". He said the development is totally out of character with the entire area.
As well as having the units overlooking the rear of our four neighbours, there is now substantial glare bouncing off the windows. This is an invasion of privacy and a deprivation of lifestyle.Bob Withers
"As well as having the units overlooking the rear of our four neighbours, there is now substantial glare bouncing off the windows. This is an invasion of privacy and a deprivation of lifestyle.
"I have had the mayor (Peta Pinson), Cr Sharon Griffiths and council director Melissa Watkins here for an on-site inspection too."
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council says in developing an Local Environmental Plan, council is required to meet specific housing targets and densities set by the state government under the North Coast Regional Plan.
"Council is often in a difficult position of having to make the best decision as required not only by legislation, but also by state government policy which often seeks to provide a framework for the benefit of the wider community and for the future," council said.
"The current state government approach to medium density housing is one of those wicked problems for councils - balancing today's needs with the requirements for the future which means that in some neighbourhoods, the emergence of medium density housing was not expected when neighbouring property owners purchased their homes.
"Council's exercise discretion over the ability for residents to have input into planning processes.
"Council is not required by the state government to have an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel, however we do so to promote openness and transparency in our decision making.
"Currently our policy is that if a resident makes a submission, then they are invited to participate in Council's Development Assessment Panel (DAP).
"This gives the resident, the applicant and other affected stakeholders an opportunity to participate in the deliberations and the factors weighed up by the DAP when such decisions are made.
"Participation in the DAP is just one of the ways that residents can be heard. Other ways include making a submission during the development exhibition period, or meeting with Council staff or site inspections with councillors - of which you mention all have been available to Mr Withers.
"Unfortunately, the views of residents are just one of the many factors that must be considered when making planning decisions."
Unfortunately, the views of residents are just one of the many factors that must be considered when making planning decisions.Port Macquarie-Hastings Council
Compounding the "nightmare" for the Withers family is that Mrs Withers was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma. She is currently recuperating but is unable to confront looking at the unit blocks from the undercover area.
"We used to live out here," Mr Withers said. "We had blues skies and trees. But she can't sit here and look at that (the units).
"I really don't know where Port Macquarie is heading now. If we had known that this was going to happen we would not have come here.
"We had a really good look around Port Macquarie before deciding on this place. We knew there was going to be a development at the rear of our place.
"Before the units were built, you could sit here and see a tree skyline. Now we have the unit residents looking into our kitchen, our family room and our pool area.
"Is this what Port Macquarie is going to look like?
"If you go down the path of high or medium density living in Port Macquarie you have taken away what Port Macquarie is all about.
"It is an unbelievable blight on this city."
Council said anyone who is not satisfied with a decision of council is welcome to take those concerns to a state government authorities including the Land and Environment Court, the NSW Ombudsman.
"The Office of the Information Commissioner and Independent Commission Against Corruption who will independently assess the merits a complaint," council said.
The Port News invited all councillors to participate in this story while the mayor referred our questions to council.
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