A development application (DA) for a 68-unit apartment complex linked to the conditional sale of a swathe of land owned by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council will go before a panel for public determination on November 25.
The DA, and other major coastal developments between Port Macquarie and Hawks Nest, came under scrutiny by ABC's Four Corners this week in an investigation on the Obeid family.
Part of that investigation looked at the Obeid family's development at Catarina Estate at Lake Cathie, and also made allegations that through an interface of companies, they are linked to the proposed apartment project on Pacific Drive, Port Macquarie.
Laurus Projects, the Sydney-based developer and applicant for the project, told Four Corners that the Obeid family had no involvement in their Pacific Drive development.
The $23.5 million apartment development near Windmill Hill seeks approval for the demolition of buildings and construction of a residential flat building and associated parking, driveway, services, drainage and landscaping. Gerard Obeid lives next door.
The sale of a parcel of public land owned by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and linked to the proposed DA for the site, came under scrutiny.
The council decision to sell the land at 10-16 Pacific Drive to Pacific Drive Pty Ltd was made in a confidential session at a meeting in March 2017. The land owned by council makes up a portion of Laurus Projects' proposed development site.
Under the contract, final settlement on council's sale of public land is subject to, and conditional upon, the DA by Laurus Projects obtaining development consent.
The matter will go before the Northern Regional Planning Panel in a public determination meeting chaired by Paul Mitchell on November 25.
Council has not confirmed if the land was independently valued, nor how much it is being sold for. It has appointed an independent assessor to prepare a report, either recommending approval or refusal, of the development application,
Council says it has "removed any conflict" by referring the proposed development for assessment to an independent third party.
Council said contracts have been exchanged and a deposit paid pending completion. Adjoining landholders were given the option to purchase the land. Two parties have taken up the sale offer, council said.
There have been calls for greater transparency and full disclosure around the link between the land sale and the DA, particularly now the opportunity for written submissions to the Panel are closed.
Resident Robert Herd, who has written to the Panel requesting the acceptance of late submissions on the matter, said public consultation on the proposed development was lacking.
"(It is) clearly out of keeping with this part of our coastline, is an unacceptable intrusion on this nice streetscape and will detract from the visual amenity of the coastal walk and Windmill Park opposite," Mr Herd said.
Mr Herd said if the Panel is considering approval of the development, neighbours should be given an opportunity to provide further feedback in light of recent developments.
"I know that some who live only one block away were not informed of it by council and want to be consulted," he said.
"This seven-storey complex is not in keeping with the Pacific Drive streetscape. Its height alone violates current planning guidelines."
The DA for the proposed Pacific Drive project was submitted to the Panel on March 30, 2021 with 20 submissions attached as a result of earlier public consultation.
The Panel reviewed the submission again in September. The Panel noted that the proposed building significantly exceeds the height limit. It was also acknowledged that council confirmed development assessment had been outsourced to manage conflicts of interest as council has an interest in the DA.
Candidates running for Port Macquarie-Hastings at the December 4 local government elections were asked to debate the importance of council transparency and due diligence in light of recent developments with the Pacific Drive proposal, as a part of a community meeting organised this week by the Hastings Residents Association.
Mayor Peta Pinson has reaffirmed she was not on council when the land sale decision was made.
Cr Pinson said the community deserves transparent and factual information in relation to the conditional land sale arrangement.
"The only way that will be provided is through an a external investigation to ensure council has followed process. If council has not followed due process, then the relevant authorities need to be made aware of this," she said.
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann advised that she will be asking council to seek some legal advice and explore its options, one of which she says, could potentially be withdrawing the offer of sale.
What else is making news?
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: