Port Stephens councillors at odds over South Street subdivision

STILL HOPEFUL: The owners of 111 South Street, Medowie, wish to subdivide their backyard.
STILL HOPEFUL: The owners of 111 South Street, Medowie, wish to subdivide their backyard.

Emotions have reached fever pitch in Medowie over a backyard subdivision that’s prompted the mayor of Port Stephens, Cr Bruce MacKenzie, to call for calm.

The Morrissey family applied to the council to subdivide their South Street property in January which Meagan Morrissey said had resulted in menacing behaviour including threatening phone calls.

She said she had reported the matter to police but declined to comment further for fear of reprisals.

"These people are getting bullied, plain and simple," Cr MacKenzie said.

"They should be treated with a bit of civility. This family is only trying to do something that's perfectly legal under the LEP [local environment plan]." 

The Morrisseys live on a 2226 square metre property outside Pacific Dunes golf course that the developers RCL Group had rezoned in 2012 to potentially market as a smaller lot if the larger parcel proved too hard to sell.

It has enabled the Morrisseys to subdivide the corner lot but Cr Ken Jordan brought the application before the elected council in March because the "community wasn't happy with the plans".

He did not take part in the debate having declared a significant non-pecuniary interest because one of the neighbours was a family friend.

Councillors listened to the objections of two speakers against the proposal. One of whom shared photographs of a bus interchange, nearly 250 metres away, as reason to reject the subdivision. Traffic concerns were also raised about the subdivision being opposite a child care centre driveway.

The deputy mayor Chris Doohan sided with opponents in the gallery and noted his son was pictured in the school drop off photos.   

The application was refused despite Cr John Nell's assertion there was no proper legal reason to do so, leaving council open to challenge in the Land and Environment Court.

Cr MacKenzie said he approached those councillors who refused the application after the meeting.

"I said to them, 'you've supported this deplorabe behaviour tonight'," he said.

"I showed them a letter from [Mrs Morrissey] about her family being harrassed."

The council's decision is now the subject of a rescission motion that might yet grant the Morrissey's approval to split off a 700 sq m lot.

"This family is not guilty of doing anything wrong," Cr MacKenzie said.

Cr Doohan said he had "done nothing" to encourage or support the intimidation and harrassment.

"I'm not agitating the situation I'm simply showing them my support against the DA," he said.

"I don't believe it should be subdivided but the traffic concerns probably aren't the strongest argument. Like the mayor I would like there to be some calm so we can follow the process because if we rely on traffic and it goes to court we're probably going to lose."