PORT Stephens Councillors have voted to reject a controversial proposal for a brothel in Salamander Bay, going against a recommendation by council staff to approve the development.
At the meeting on Tuesday (August 13) councillors voted 5 - 2 to reject the brothel on the grounds the location was unsuitable and contravened the draft Local Environment Plan 2013 (LEP).
Councillor Sally Dover leading the charge against the proposal, and said the brothel was permissible by law, but not by the community.
"I'm concerned about the existing tenets and the existing owners who are going to be disadvantaged if this brothel is approved," she said.
"That whole strip is being rezoned for business [and] if and when it is rezoned a brothel will not fall into that category."
Helen Wright, a Corlette resident representing the more than 400 people who signed a petition against the brothel also spoke at the meeting.
She said approving the brothel would make Port Stephens a destination for "sex tourists looking for an Australian Phuket".
"It is something that will certainly drive away the young families and retirees who currently holiday here," she said.
"The only people who will benefit are the owners and sex tourists."
Councillor Peter Kafer and Geoff Dingle voted for the proposal, saying prostitution was already a reality in Port Stephens, and voting against the proposal would drive it further underground.
"I want to see a facility where sex workers are looked after and the business is regulated," Cr Dingle said.
"Sex workers on the streets are not protected."
Council staff had recommended councillors approve the development because it was consistent with location and design requirements.
"The staff assessment concludes that reasonable action has been taken to minimise potential adverse social impacts from the proposed brothel, and is recommended for approval subject to conditions," the report said.
"The conditions will include requirements for strict compliance with recommendations from the NSW Police, NSW Health and Workcover guidelines."
However, the report also conceded there had been significant objection to the proposal, including a community petition with 454 signatures lodged with the council.
The decision was further complicated because under the council's new Local Environment Plan the brothel would be recommended for refusal.
The LEP has been passed by council, but not yet formally gazetted by the NSW government.