Here is hoping we see this kind of conduct persist in 2017.
I am still waiting for Cr Rob Mills to speak during a council meeting but a chat with him afterwards suggests this may occur soon.
He had a couple of good points to make after the meeting about the location of a quarry beside a new residential development and the flood prone subdivision in South Camden. You can read about those below. That said, it would be good to start hearing his thoughts in a public forum.
I hope his customers and close friends encourage him to make himself heard at the next council meeting as I strongly believe that even when we don't agree with a decision made by a councillor, it is always incredibly useful to understand the thinking behind that decision.
But let’s get back to the meeting itself. There were some very interesting discussions regarding a new residential development beside a quarry in Spring Farm; a subdivision on flood prone land in Camden South, and a depot proposed for a Cobbitty property.
In particular, the discussion on the depot issue by councillors brought to light some interesting aspects of this development application that weren't obvious on the business paper. Important discussions like these are not part of the minutes of council meetings, which is why Council Reporter continues to ask for recordings of council meetings to be made publicly available.
Cr Eva Campbell was absent for this meeting and of those councillors that remained there were no declarations of a pecuniary interest.
We had three scheduled public addresses for this meeting and one tentative speaker.
Speaker 1: Warren Eggins opposing ORD02 recommendation to decline subdivision
The first speaker was Warren Eggins who was responding to ORD02 and the council officer’s recommendation to reject the subdivision at Araluen Pl, Camden South, on flood prone land.
Mr Eggins claimed the Council report recommending the development application be declined was "grossly unsatisfactory". He said that he had worked with Ross Newport, a senior planner with the council for 15 years, and that together they considered the report was hard to comprehend.
Using the business papers as his reference, Mr Eggins noted the absence of a report that he had independently prepared, took issue with the suggestion that there were no avenues for escape during a flood. He said the access corridor that did exist on private land met all the requirements of the SES. He also noted that any flooding would come not from the Nepean River but an overflow pond in Camden Park. He said the intersection had been dry for 50 if not for 150 years.
In short, he felt that critical information had not been included in the council report. He asked that the decision on the subdivision be suspended until the councillors had all the information required to make a considered judgement.
The Mayor, Lara Symkowiak, responded to the address noting that the reports that Mr Eggins believed were missing had in fact been presented to councillors in a confidential document.
Speaker 2: Mr Brett Guthrey opposing ORD03 development application for Depot on a Cobbitty property.
This was a remarkable speech from the manager of Kathleen Haven Orchard who is also the Chairman of NSW Farmers Association Horticulture Committee and President of Persimmons Australia.
Mr Guthrey specifically looked at the Council’s Local Environment Plan and isolated exactly where the development application did not meet zoning standards, not just highlighting the rules but also the intent of the Plan. It was pretty much a masterclass in public addresses.
You can read the full address here, which was kindly provided by Mr Guthrey (pdf).
Speaker 3: Mr Pascoe, representing the Collins family owners of M Collins and Sons Spring Farm Quarry.
Mr Pascoe opposed the development application for a residential development immediately beside the quarry. His prime concerns were the amenity of residence in terms of noise and dust, and how the creation of a residential estate on the edge of a quarry could have an impact on its operational future.
A key point was that the expectations of residents in terms of dust and noise might be lower than the current license permits. He felt this could lead to resident complaints even when the quarry was complying with its licence.
He noted that the development application in another form had been rejected in 2015 and that the developer decided not to appeal. In short, he felt a residential development was not compatible with a quarrying business next door.
You can read the full address here, which was kindly provided by Mr Pascoe (pdf).
Speaker 4 (tentative): Mr Crouch opposing ORD03 development application for Depot on a Cobbitty property.
Mr Crouch spoke about how the depot did not meet existing zoning and the significant impact it had on neighbours and the environment. He also wanted to know who controls the conditions of the application if it was approved, particularly traffic.
In conclusion he said the proposed use was inappropriate for the site, had the wrong zoning, and did not support primary production on agricultural land.
ORD01: Staged subdivision to create 62 residential lots at 240 Macarthur Rd, Spring Farm.
This discussion opened with an immediate alternate recommendation by Cr Cindy Cagney, when she called for an outright refusal of the Development Application for the subdivision.
Cr Peter Sidgreaves opposed that motion.
Cr Cindy Cagney then spoke as to why she wanted the subdivision refused. She noted that the quarry had been great corporate citizens and had come to the council themselves to oppose the subdivision. Her primary concern was because of the noise and air quality impacts on the housing development.
She also noted that there was still a lot of land that could be developed before this particular area and that once the quarry had moved on she would have no problem supporting this subdivision.
Cr Cagney also noted that there is no date of closure for the quarry and that the license had been extended previously. In light of this, she would urge the council to refuse the development application until the quarry excavation had finished.
Cr Peter Sidgreaves spoke to oppose the motion to refuse the application. He said he appreciated the quarry and the work they had been doing. However, he had looked at the recommendations on the reports by the council and felt that the developer had met these recommendations. He suggested further that the windows on the front of houses facing the quarry should be fixed closed, as should windows on north-west facing houses.
He said that complaints to the council about noise and dust would not be considered because residents who bought these houses would have been notified and would be aware of the quarry activity. Cr Sidgreaves said with those strict conditions he would be happy to support the development application.
Cr Paul Farrow supported Cr Cagney's motion to refuse the residential development outright. He echoed the sentiments of Cr Cagney and noted that there was no indication of how long the quarry would continue. He said he was concerned with the amount of better placed land available for growth in this area. He queried why some council members felt that a fix with double-glazing, closed windows and a sound barrier was a sufficient response - especially when in 2015 the council had refused the proposal. This current proposal, he said, was not much different from the 2015 version. The only thing that has changed was a 10 m roadway and a 3 m fence. “Is that how far away we were from accepting it last time?” he asked.
He said if there was a sense of how long the quarry would continue to work then it would be possible to look at restrictions in a timed manner. But as long as it was a similar application to that from 2015 and there was no timeline for the quarry he felt the whole thing should be knocked back.
The Mayor, Cr Lara Symkowiak, said she could not support immediate refusal proposed by Cr Cagney. From memory, she said, there was no noise attenuation in the previous application of 2015. She said the 3m high fence and restrictions for a section 149 certificate would be sufficient.
Cr Symkowiak noted that the 3m fence would be removed on the cessation of activity in the quarry and that the classification as a State Significant Development would end in 2019. (While not explicitly stated by Cr Symkowiak, this suggested the quarry may cease to function after this date).
In conclusion, she said, with the 3m fence, sealed windows, mechanical ventilation, glazing and a Section 149 certificate she was satisfied with the application as it stood and would be voting against the amendment to refuse it outright.
With her right of reply, Cr Cindy Cagney said she thought it was important to put this development off until the quarry had ceased operation. At this point in time there is no end date. She noted that many people who lived in the area, including herself, would have thought the quarry would have closed down ages ago. She thought it was likely to continue operation "...until they have run out of sand or other construction product".
She noted the owners had come to the council twice and said they were concerned for the amenity of residents.
Cr Cagney said there was a lot of land that could be developed around the area and that as councillors they were brought here to make difficult decisions at times. She concluded by repeating that she would like to see a residential development put off for a few years and for the land to be subdivided when the quarry had ceased operations.
The amendment to instantly refuse develop an application was lost, with the Liberals and Cr Rob Mills voting against it.
The original motion to approve the residential development of 62 homes was put again by Cr Sidgreaves and seconded by Cr Michael Morrison.
Cr Sidgreaves noted that Spring Farm had been included in the masterplan for development for a long time and that this area was a designated development and had been for some time.
He did however request that an additional condition should be in place so that windows were fixed closed on North West facing lots.
This was supported by Cr Morrison.
Cr Sidgreaves said that an additional condition noted in a report that complaints against the quarry could be ignored by the Council could not occur. "I don't think this is lawful," Cr Sidgreaves said. He said he supported the development and that this was a case of "future buyers beware".
Cr Paul Farrow spoke against the development going ahead saying it was absolutely ludicrous. He said he couldn't believe the council was going down this line especially after they had talked about other matters of a similar nature with subdivisions in Oran Park.
"We talk about affordable living and sustainable living, saying here we will just fix the windows closed and that will fix the problem. I can't believe we're giving our consent to a new subdivision and fixing the windows closed. We are going to be faced with massive dramas down the track."
Cr Cindy Cagney asked how the council would police the restriction for all windows to be fixed closed.
A council officer responded saying that the restriction will be put in place on the properties and then this would be considered.
Cr Cagney asked, what sort of teeth the restriction would have. “What can we do if they have windows that can open and they do open?” she said. See also asked what process would be required when the quarry ceased operation to make these windows open again.
A council officer responded saying the first question was an enforcement issue that council would deal with through its usual processes. In regards to being allowed to open the windows again, the owners would have to come back to the council.
Cr Farrow asked if the quarry complied with all of the conditions and residents were not satisfied, could they go back and litigate against the quarry?
A council officer said all residents have a right to make a complaint about noise.
Cr Farrow then asked if this was the first time that a closed window restriction had been placed on a development.
A council officer indicated that a similar control existed on some townhouses in Liz Kernohan Dr. The officer also noted that similar restrictions exist under the Australian standard for buildings near noise generating areas, such as train lines.
Cr Ashleigh Cagney asked Cr Sidgreaves if he would entertain the idea of restricting those homes closest to the quarry to just one storey as recommended in the noise report commissioned by the quarry owners.
Cr Sidgreaves said he would not entertain the idea as residents would be fully aware they were building near a quarry and if they chose to build two storeys then that was their choice.
Cr Cindy Cagney said she would vote against the residential development for all the reasons she mentioned earlier and to avoid potential litigation from the Collins Group because the quarry owners had warned the council of the consequences. For this reason she felt it was possible that they could take legal action against the council in the future.
Cr Symkowiak supported the residential development given that it was zoned for residential use in 2004. She said the fixed closed windows would not prevent fresh getting into the houses as not all the windows would be fixed. She also noted the council had done this before, so there was a precedent.
Cr Symkowiak said that in regards to potential litigation, as long as the quarry complies with noise restrictions she did not see this becoming an issue. She noted that the State Significant status of the quarry concluded in 2019.
She then asked a council officer whether the fixed closed windows would be a temporary measure.
A council officer noted that it would stay on unless there was a timed restriction or the owners came back to the council.
Cr Symkowiak affirmed she would support the development and would welcome owners to come back to the council to lift that restriction when the quarry ceased operation.
The residential development was approved with the Liberals and Cr Rob Mills voting for it. The ALP councilors voted against it.
Cr Rob Mills didn't speak during the debate but afterwards in a conversation outside the chambers explained why he voted to support the residential subdivision. He told Council Reporter that he was concerned that the developer could also take legal action against the Council and appeal a negative decision, which could result in unnecessary legal expenses.
Whether we agree or disagree with this perspective, it was useful and valid and would have been good to hear during the debate itself. As I noted at the beginning of this report, it is perhaps time that those around Cr Mills encouraged him to speak in open council.
He also had a reasonable point in the following debate (ORD02) but again only stated it after the meeting. You can read that below.
ORD02: Subdivision of a lot in Araluen Place, Camden South, on flood prone land. Recommended refusal.
Cr Peter Sidgreaves thanked Mr Warren Eggins for speaking to the council and noted he had sent an email to them all.
Before addressing the application before them Cr Sidgreaves thought it was important to answer the questions put by Mr Eggins. He noted that:
- The council has no information on a flood safety corridor in the 1960s.
- The safety corridor mentioned by Mr Eggins is not considered legitimate.
- The councillors did receive the JWD report.
- Residential development applications do consider Potential Maximum Flooding and have to comply with it.
Cr Sidgreaves then went on to a broader discussion saying that the SES correspondence talks about principles of safe evacuation for the full range of flooding. He noted that this states evacuation must not require people to drive or walk through floodwater. Considering the flood levels likely in a potential maximum flooding event he could not support the subdivision going ahead.
Cr Paul Farrow said he was against the recommendation to refuse the subdivision. He said he was quite concerned that with the previous site we go one way and then with this site we go in the other direction. He noted that this was not the first time a subdivision had occurred in the street and that more objections seem to be attracted to those developments that occurred last.
He wondered why the council had approved past subdivisions in the street but now decided to say no. "I think we need some consistency — this was not a problem in the past."
Cr Farrow said he didn't want to put people's life at risk but the council needed to be consistent.
Cr Cindy Cagney also disagreed with the recommendation to refuse the subdivision. She noted that she had lived in the Camden local government area for decades and that the 100-year flood area had changed in that time. She said under the new regime many new areas around the fringes are now affected by a potential maximum flooding event.
She noted it would be useful to have some local knowledge as to where flooding occurs and that normally there is an eight-hour warning before a flood.
Cr Cagney noted that Mr Eggins said no one actually recalls the street flooding. She also felt there was an access point to the properties and no fences interrupted the walk-through, therefore flood free access is available. "There is actually 600m² that won't get flooded," she said. "At first glance it looks quite dangerous but in reality I don't think this is the case."
Cr Symkowiak was in favour of the council officers recommendation to refuse the DA. She noted that similar subdivisions were refused in 2003 and in fact the last time a subdivision was approved was in 1975.
She said the line in the sand was drawn in 1978, 1995 and 2015 when more accurate data and laser levels recalculated possible flood levels. Cr Symkowiak noted the SES did not support this subdivision and its refusal was based on the floodplain management developed in January 2001.
"We should look at the Queensland floods," she said. "just because we haven't seen floods this high in our lifetime that doesn't mean they won't ever be seen."
She noted there was no flood free zone access from the site and that if vehicle access was possible there was no evidence for it. Cr Symkowiak also noted that residents appreciated that the floodplain allowed Camden to protect the natural land close to Belgenny Farm and other areas around Camden. She said to approve this development application would set a dangerous and sad precedent.
She also didn't support the setback, which was only half that of other houses in the block. In short, she would vote to refuse the subdivision.
Cr Peter Sidgreaves said he supported mayor’s position 100%.
The subdivision was refused with the Liberals and Cr Rob Mills voting against it.
It is worth noting that while Cr Mills did not speak during this debate, afterwards he referred to the Picton flood as the reason he couldn't support the subdivision. That flood, he said, showed we must prepare for the worst. It was a useful comment and one that would have furthered the debate.
ORD03: Use of an existing farm building has a depot in Cobbitty.
The mayor, Cr Lara Symkowiak, stepped in right at the top and moved a refusal of this development application, which was seconded by Cr Peter Sidgreaves.
It quickly became clear that this was a unanimous position. The discussion that followed revealed the applicant had been using the shed as a depot for at least a year without council authorisation.
The councillors were also sceptical about the number of vehicle movements that were suggested.
There was also an indication that the site has a long history of negative impacts on neighbouring residents.
Finally it was apparent that the development application did not meet zoning requirements.
In winding up the discussion the mayor stated that a depot to serve an off-site building should itself be off-site, potentially in an industrial area.
Councillors unanimously voted to reject the application to the applause of a number of Cobbitty residents who had attended the meeting.
ORD04: Submission to the NSW Heritage Division for changes to the heritage listing of some of the land around Gledswood Homestead.
This was a fairly straightforward discussion. Council officers had noted that if the council had accepted the draft changes proposed by the NSW Heritage Division, it could have allowed higher roof lines in parts of the area around Homestead.
The councillors voted unanimously for a large L-shaped area to remain as heritage-listed land to protect the sight-lines to and from the property.
This was passed unanimously.
ORD05 Delegations to the mayor – Christmas New Year Period
This was just a bit of housekeeping. The mayor had no need to use her delegation authority. Passed unanimously.
ORD06: Update to code of conduct
Once again, this was just housekeeping, updating the code of conduct to keep it in line with government amendments. There was a little questioning about why this was done through council officers and with very little engagement with the councillors themselves.
It was explained that this particular process was of an administrative nature and therefore the councillors did not need to be heavily involved. There would however be more chance for input into the code of conduct at other times.
ORD07: Pecuniary interest forms.
All councillors have now submitted their forms. Passed unanimously.
ORD08: Back to Business Week funding of $5000.
The Council accepted a grant of $5000 to be used for the promotion of small business in the community. Passed unanimously.
ORD09/10: Investment monies November/December 2016
Another bit of housekeeping. Reports on Council investments for the last two months of 2016. Passed unanimously.
ORD11: Minutes to the November 16, 2016, Business Assurance and Risk Committee.
Further housekeeping, approving the minutes of this committee. Passed unanimously.
ORD12: appointment of independent members to the Business Assurance and Risk Committee.
Mr John Gordon and Mr Bruce Hanrahan were returned as independent members of this committee.