Decision looms on development of iconic beachfront site
DEVELOPERS of an iconic beachfront site at Skennars Head have met with Ballina Shire council staff and councillors in a last push to gain approval for a controversial rezoning application.
Intrapac's application would increase the size of the commercial land at the Stewart farm, where a separate 200-lot residential development also is proposed, from about 879sqm to 13,200sqm.
It is set to be debated at Ballina Shire Council's meeting on Thursday, November 22.
Intrapac's chief operating officer, Max Shifman, said he believed the discussions with the council had been "positive".
"We've run through some of the concerns and addressed them," he said.
"The councillors have now seen some of the visuals."
As part of the rezoning, the actual commercial floor space would be limited to 5400sqm.
Mr Shifman said the original zoning was "inadequate" for The Coast Rd location.
"It would have led to something that was poor quality and unsuitable," he said.
"Our development will include a supermarket of 1000sqm, similar to a small IGA or Foodworks. It's not going to be the size of Coles or Woolies in Ballina, definitely not.
"This is a spectacular location, so we also want to make sure it is a place where families can come and enjoy parkland and a bistro or a tavern.
"The commercial area will also have things that will service the residents' day-to-day needs - maybe a medical centre, a bakery, a chemist."
Mr Shifman and his team still have a lot of work to do to progress the development of the Stewart farm at Skennars Head.
A $22 million development application for the residential subdivision - more than 200 lots - is due to go before the Joint Regional Planning Panel for determination.
That could happen as soon as next month.
Council staff have indicated their assessment report is close to being finalised.
The master-planned community will be known as Aureus and, even though the DA hasn't been approved yet, 40 blocks have already sold, with prices ranging from $435,000 to about $600,000.
It's an indication of the "pent up demand", Mr Shifman said.
"We had a release of 20 blocks one weekend, and they all sold. We did another release of 20 - all sold," he said.
"On that first weekend, we had 180 groups through. That's 500 or so people on the site.
"And they're all locals."
Intrapac is also working to secure approval to build a sales office on the site, and another application has been lodged for medium density lots.
The Stewart farm has been identified as an urban expansion area for the Ballina Shire since the 1980s.
But that hasn't stopped criticism of the project.
The rezoning of the commercial and medium density areas sparked 81 submissions when it went to the council last month, with residents concerned about traffic increases, negative impacts on the coastal amenity and overall concerns about the scale of the proposed commercial precinct.
"I'm a developer, I know that people think we're greedy, but we actually care about the developments we do," Mr Shifman said.
"We always know to expect backlash.
"But the fact is, this land was rezoned before we (Intrapac) came along.
"We bought it with this footprint and we have decided to improve on it, to give it a discernible heart.
"We will go to great pains to create a world-class seaside village."
Although Intrapac works on developments all over the country, Mr Shifman insisted it wasn't a "one size fits all" approach.
"All of our developments are site-specific," he said.
"We use national, international and local consultants for our urban design, landscaping, roads... it's all in the detail.
"It's important to make the locals feel special.
"We feel really humbled and privileged to be developing this land."