Ms Lea Lawler, an Avoca Beach resident who has been battling with Central Coast Council to have the Lake View Village Development Application (DA51538/2017) re-advertised, said her enquiries with Council have hit a brick wall at every turn.
According to Ms Lawler, most Avoca Beach residents were unaware that plans to develop the mostly vacant caravan park site had gained traction since the original DA to revamp the site was approved by the former Gosford Council in 2011.
Ms Lawler also alleges that the DA Notification placed onsite at Lake View Village is misleading, advertising “Integrated Modifications to an Existing Caravan Park”.
“This is not a modification, it is a total reversal of the DA that was approved in 2011, which was never acted upon,” Ms Lawler said.
The 2011 proposal approved 98 short term dwellings, 16 long term dwellings and seven camping sites valued at $1.1m.
The 2017 proposal has flipped the number of short and long term dwellings, proposing 86 long term, 15 short term and the same number of camping sites valued at $19.9m.
“This is the largest development to go into Avoca in recent memory,” Ms Lawler said.
Ms Lawler also said she feared the impact of such a development on both the environment and local infrastructure.
“The development is situated on an environmentally sensitive lagoon and Round Dve, the main access road for the development, already has parking and traffic management issues, not to mention the massive impact a new long stay holiday village would have on our roads and schools.
“This is not low key mobile homes similar to ones in The Palms Caravan Park.
“There are 86 two storey, four bedroom, double garage units to be placed alongside low density housing in an environmentally sensitive area.
“Twenty years ago the State Government at the time was pushing medium density development.
“SEPP 25 meant that people could sub divide their blocks and place dual occupancies on each block.
“I and others fought vehemently to have DCP’s for the four catchment areas.
“The Minister for Planning at the time, Mr Robert Webster, agreed to allow these DCP’S after coming to Avoca himself and seeing the effect that this intense form of housing would have on our fragile lake and lagoon.
“Twenty years later and we are faced with the prospect of ‘back door’ medium density development,” Ms Lawler said.
According to Ms Lawler, the Avoca community is still largely in the dark regarding the specifics of the 2017 DA, with only a handful of residents directly next to the proposal site having been notified.
Ms Lawler has since been struggling to get the DA re-advertised and has found herself going in circles with Council staff.
“I asked Council to re-advertise the DA as it was only advertised for two weeks and the implications of the DA affect all residents of Round Dve, not just direct neighbours to the site,” Ms Lawler said.
“The Council Officer in charge of assessing the DA, Ms Dianne Spithill, categorically stated ‘this would not happen’.
“She did say that people could still make submissions, but I suggested that would be difficult if people are actually not aware of the DA.
“A few people who did try to make a submission said they were unable to because the site where a submission is made automatically cuts out when a DAs’ advertising period ends.
“Apparently the administrator has brought in a new rule that there must be ‘50 substantial submissions for a DA to be brought before Council, otherwise the decision will be made by the officer in charge of assessing the DA.
“At last count, there were 20, proving very few people are aware of it,” Ms Lawler continued.
“Unfortunately, because the State Government sacked our Council, there are obviously no Councillors to discuss this matter with.
“I then wrote to the Administrator, Mr Ian Reynolds, requesting the DA be re-advertised.
“After three weeks, I received a reply from him saying he has referred it to Council’s Group Leader Environmental and Planning, but when I phoned Council to see who this was, my enquiries were directed back to Ms Spithill.
“I have phoned her on a regular basis ever since, left messages, and have asked Council staff to email her as they will not divulge her email, but after many weeks, I have still not received a response,” Ms Lawler said.
Ms Lawler said she found no help at the state level either.
“I contacted the Minister for Local Government but was passed on to the Minister for Planning who then wrote to me suggesting I should call Dianne Spithill,” Ms Lawler said.
“I have just been given the run around.
“Residents have assumed that the advertised ‘modifications’ mean a few extra mobile homes.
“They are gobsmacked when I show them the extent of the ‘modifications’ in the DA,” Ms Lawler said.
Ms Lawler also raised suspicions as to why the 2017 proposal costing registered just under the $20 million DA threshold.
“It should be noted that any DA over $20 million must be assessed by a joint planning committee.
“It is interesting that this DA falls just under this magic number.
“I asked the duty planner how the estimate was arrived at.
“He said a quantity surveyor would have costed it, but I could not find this document in the submissions.
“I wonder how many developments of this size would actually stick to budget?”
Ms Lawler said she would reach out to Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, Mr David Harris and the Environmental Defenders Office.
Residents in the know aren’t the only ones concerned about the proposal, with established local business owners also at risk with the addition of retail space in the DA.
Mr Paul Cole, the owner of the Round Dve Convenience Store, is one such small business owner who stands to lose potentially hundreds of customers if the DA is approved.
“The proposal includes space for its own convenience store.
“This is devastating to me as my store, which has been here for decades, is less than 100 metres away from where the proposed new store will be built.
“It’s gut-wrenching because one of the reasons this store was built here in the first place was to service the patrons of the original caravan park, but if the new plans go ahead, it’ll be like I’m not even here,” Mr Cole said.
Mr Cole also believes the DA should be re-advertised and that the previous advertisement of modifications needed to be scrapped and replaced with something that better outlined the magnitude of the proposal.
“As it stands, Council is letting the developer fly this DA under the radar and its plain and simple over development.
“You’ve got somewhere between 85 to 90 luxury villas being erected on environmentally sensitive land in an area that has existing low-medium density housing.
“This is going to affect everyone that lives around here but no one knows anything.
“Imagine how having an additional 100 families, cars, kids and so on, on the street and around the community will affect existing residents who have no idea they’re coming.
“It does not take into consideration my existing business, it will not deliver affordable housing to the area, and the land itself is ill suited to this type of development which is why the original owners of the caravan park were never able to get their own plans to redevelop the area approved,” Mr Cole concluded.
Interviews, May 10 and 15
Lea Lawler, Avoca
Paul Cole, Avoca
Dilon Luke, Journalist