A new battleline has been drawn between residents of Lake Macquarie and the council over building height limits along the Toronto foreshore.
Concerned about transforming the foreshore into "open slather" for developers, the Toronto Foreshore Protection Group (TFPG) say they will turn the heat on the council and its councillors about their obligation to the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and the wishes of the community.
"We feel there has been a lack of communication with residents, so we are asking whether Lake Macquarie Council's planning processes can continue to be relied upon and why some councillors have so little respect for community views," TFPG spokesman Howard Dick said.
"During a council vote on April 23, 2018, where the council had sought to progress concept development on a six-level scheme on a council-owned operational land located at 4 Bath Street and 1B Victory Row, Toronto, only Cr Wendy Harrison opposed.
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"We are concerned that an increase in the building heights could set a precedent and invite other developers to seek in excess of the current four-level limit."
A council spokesperson confirmed that the Lake Macquarie LEP 2014 provided a maximum allowable height of 10m for 4 Bath Street and 6m for 1B Victory Row, Toronto (the proposed mixed-use development site). "The foreshore has a mix of 8.5m and 6m allocations depending on the lot," the spokesperson said.
"Council resolved [in April 2018] to prepare a detailed design for a medium-density, mixed-use commercial and residential building on the Bath Street site. This decision is consistent with council's objectives of stimulating employment and economic activity and providing more housing diversity in our economic centres.
"The motion passed by council is the first step in planning the future use of the development site. Over several decades it has acquired land for future development.
"Council has long earmarked this site as a catalyst area for residential, tourist and commercial activity. The next step in the process will be undertaking an urban design analysis which will seek to review what is the appropriate height for the proposed development with respect to its surrounding environment and context."
Mr Dick said that the group's argument was not with any private developers, but that any increase in height limits could have lasting impacts on not only Toronto but on other towns around the lake.
"According to council's DA tracker, a proponent for a 124-unit mixed-use development in Cary Street has applied to increase the building height to 6-storeys citing, as one of several reasons, that council is planning an adjacent 6-storey development at 4 Bath Street and 1B Victory Row.
"If the variation is approved, the building will exceed the maximum height of the LEP by 58 per cent. As its justification, the consultant cites council's own proposed foreshore development located just 20m away.
"Councillors are elected to represent their ward communities and abide by planning instruments. There is no evidence of any community push in West Ward for building heights above the current LEP, in fact the community has been strong in its opposition to the Bath Street development with a 5000-signature petition."
The council spokesperson said that all DAs would be subjected to the usual assessment and consultation requirements and Bath Street would be assessed by an independent body, the Regional Planning Panel, for final determination.
"We have undertaken significant consultation with the Toronto community in relation to the Toronto Foreshore Master Plan and the proposed development," the spokesperson added.
"Throughout August and September 2018, we held four community drop-in sessions, and sought feedback through an online survey and interactive map regarding community-desired improvements for the foreshore at Toronto.
"From mid-2019, the community will have further opportunities to provide feedback on the interface between the proposed development and the adjacent foreshore land classified for community use."