The recently approved catholic high school at Medowie has been accused of trying to "skip out" of paying close to $900,000 contribution to Port Stephens Council for footpath construction and road upgrade outside the Medowie Road property.
Port councillors decided at the last meeting to refuse a request from the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle to waive local infrastructure contributions for the Catherine McAuley Catholic College, which was given state significant consent last July.
In a letter written to the council on September 5 - supported by a public access address by the proponent at the October 22 council meeting - the developer requested a waiver of development contributions in exchange for contributing $233,946 towards the cost of the proposed footpaths.
The works also included intersection upgrades (including traffic lights) at the Medowie Road and South Street intersection.
Cr Chris Doohan said that the $900,000 represented less than 1 per cent of the total $100 million school development project.
"The proposed capacity is 1600 students and just one sporting field, which means they will need to use council's parks and swimming pools paid for by ratepayers," he said.
He suggested that the council could use the money to upgrade much-needed Medowie facilities
Councillor Giacomo Arnott accused the school, backed by the Catholic Church, of trying to skip out of its funding obligation, while Cr Jaimie Abbott warned of entering dangerous territory by waiving the contribution.
"Where do we draw the line?"
Mayor Ryan Palmer said the council would be headed down a slippery slope by ceding to the request.
"The footpath and road works would not be required if the school wasn't going in," he said.
The applicant told the council that there was widespread agreement among parents of children intending to attend the new school that the contributions should be waived as the footpath and road works were outside of the school property.
Across town, Medowie Christian School is proposing to demolish a single-storey building to replace it with a three-level development consisting of technology workshop and art room (ground floor); science, tech, engineering, mathematics plus amenities (first); plus science labs (second).
The $5-plus million development project has been referred by Port Stephens Council to the Hunter and Central Coast Regional Planning Panel for determination.
A council spokesperson said that the development application had been reported to the planning panel "because the estimated value of the project exceeds the $5 million threshold for educational establishments".
The council advertised the proposal for 14 days last December and received two submissions, and a public meeting was held on October 23 attended by some of the Port councillors and members of the public.
The two submissions raised concerns that the proposed development would result in flooding nuisance on adjoining properties.
The planners responded by saying that a deferred commencement condition had been included requiring the applicant obtain a drainage easement.
"A defined drainage system with an appropriate easement through the northern or eastern property to the public drainage system will prevent waterlogging and damages to properties."
The downstream easement has been supported by the council.
"The requirement for an easement to facilitate stormwater drainage from the site has been included as part of a deferred commencement condition that will need to be satisfied," the spokesperson said.
"The panel postponed determination of the application pending further legal advice to clarify whether the requirement could be included as a requirement of the occupation certificate for the school building. The panel will determine the application once the legal advice has been reviewed."
The school principal said "we are unable to comment until a final decision has been made by the panel".