Port Stephens Council approved plans on April 11 for an eight storey residential apartment building on Church Street, Nelson Bay, but the decision will be challenged.
The developer, Sydney hotelier Rod Salmon, said he had been upbeat after the meeting on his drive home until he received a phone call saying the Ascent project wasn’t in the clear just yet.
Councillors Peter Kafer, Geoff Dingle and John Nell lodged a rescission motion after the meeting to bring the development application back for another look.
“We have to bring the community along on this,” Cr Nell, from the east ward, said.
Measured from the site’s lowest point to the top of the penthouse, the building would be 32 metres high – twice what has previously been allowed.
The council has this year acknowledged that some flexibility would make development more attractive in the CBD and launched a review of the Nelson Bay and Foreshore Town Centre Strategy.
Cr Nell said heights was one of the main items the community was consulted on in that review.
“You can’t ask the community for its input then completely ignore it,” he said.
“We should at least delay it until we see the next draft of the Nelson Bay Strategy.”
Mr Salmon said he had hoped the plans would have been approved in December only to have them held up until April.
When the plans come back to council in May it will have been six months.
“We were driving home [after the meeting] thinking, ‘beauty, let’s get on with this’, and I got the phone call about the rescission motion,” he said.
“The longer you delay, the harder it gets to keep the excitement in a project like this.”
Mr Salmon not only owns the Ascent site on Church Street, he owns “one of the holes” next door.
Referring of course to the failed Milan Towers.
“Port Stephens has been caught in the past and I’m worried it’s going to happen again,” Mr Salmon said.
“There’s a window of opportunity with banks, investors and development costs, and that window is only open a little while.”
Mr Salmon again pointed to the 221 submissions – 217 in favour – as an indication of the support he had in the CBD.
“That support is there when you talk to businesses in the area,” he said.
“There was only a small percentage who don’t want anything to happen. They’re the Grim Reapers of Nelson Bay.”
Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association president Geoff Washington was among those who urged the council to delay any decision ahead of the meeting.
“It is very difficult to see how the planners could recommend approval which would pre-empt the outcome of the strategy review.”