A 21-STOREY tower is one of two proposals Port Stephens Council has considered for sites it owns on Donald Street, Nelson Bay – even if the mayor Bruce MacKenzie “isn’t set” on the height.
The proposal – four times the accepted five-storey limit – was received as part of an expression of interest advertised to redevelop the public car parks.
The council discussed the 21-storey proposal for the eastern site and a 17-level plan for the western site at a meeting closed to the public on June 28, 2016.
A confidential report presented to councillors at that meeting - viewed by the Examiner this week - outlines the nature of the proposals and the intent to form a contract with the developers under a public-private partnership. The council resolved to enter into negotiations with the developers Veritas and Anglican Care.
But for a deal to proceed the council noted it would need to "secure a suitable variation" to the Development Control Plan to "enable the development proposals".
The council this week launched its Nelson Bay Discussion Paper – a review of the Nelson Bay Foreshore and Town Centre Strategy – a strategy the council has said must precede any review of development controls.
“I’m not set on the 21 storeys but it’s gotta go up to be viable,” Cr MacKenzie told the Examiner.
“We’ve got to go up more than eight or 10 storeys – it will be the making of the CBD. A handful of people have held us back too long.”
The sale of the sites, after redevelopment, is to be on the condition they maintain if not increase the 295 existing public car spaces. That the developer would have to meet the demolition costs of the eastern sites, was another condition flagged in the report.
The EOI was first advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald in May 2015, from which the council received four proposals.
Councillors were first briefed on August 18, 2015, and considered all four "were worthy" of investigation. Soon after council called for detailed proposals from "late 2015 to early 2016" with a "retention or increased number of  public parking spaces".
The general manager, Wayne Wallis, in the interim appointed a panel of five council group managers and coordinators to consider the incoming proposals.
An external advisory panel was also formed to evaluate the proposals, including a legal representative of NSW Local Government, Regional Procurement and a project service provider.
“As far as the staff and the report go, there’s nothing untoward here,” Cr MacKenzie said.
“If anyone suggests there is, they’re wrong.”
Two of the detailed proposals were deemed to meet the criteria with weighting determined by the external project management service provider.
Veritas, developer of The Shoal apartments at Shoal Bay, was selected as the preferred developer for the Donald Street-east site. The proposal included ground floor retail, 174 permanent residential apartments and 54 public car parks as well as 174 private off-street parks, measuring 21 levels, plus basement parking.
Veritas also submitted a proposal for the western site in partnership with Anglican Care. As preferred partners for the western site development the plans included ground floor retail, an 84-bed nursing home, 87 seniors living apartments and parking provisions for 241 public spaces and 73 private off-street car parks. In total, 17 levels plus basement car parking.
The report to councillors in June 2016 said "the probity adviser, Regional Procurement formally reported that the CFDP (call for detailed proposals) was conducted using a consistent and transparent process and the outcome was based on a fair and impartial evaluation".
Contractual conditions include state that the buildings must meet development application approval. A voluntary planning agreement for the public car parking component is also required.
The report to councillors went on to note there were “reputational” risk implications arising from the DCP variation.
"This will require initiation by strategic planning of a 'whole of precinct' review of the current development controls without a guarantee of an outcome that will support the preferred proponents' proposals.”