The argument that a block of land in central Wagga should be made available to development because it is 'under-utilised', has been challenged by a former community group leader.
About 100 people gathered for a public planning hearing on Monday morning on the proposal to reclassify a block of land at 205 Morgan Street from 'community' to 'operational' use.
The land reclassification is linked to an application to Wagga City Council to change the Local Environmental Plan to allow a multi-storey development on the block between Morgan, Murray and Forsyth streets.
The land is currently home to the Wagga Veteran and Vintage Motor Club and its former vice president, Bob Maslin, told the hearing that the community was making multiple uses of the land.
"To say that the land is under-utilised is totally incorrect," he said.
Mr Maslin told the hearing that the site and its building were used for events that brought in vintage car enthusiasts from outside the city and created "economic benefits".
He said the site had been used in the past by the Crow Club and was now being used by Wagga U3A to provide "community support for the aged" by "bringing people together to learn new skills".
Mr Maslin said he "hadn't planned on speaking" but he felt he had to after the hearing was told the Morgan Street site was of limited community use.
The developer behind the Morgan, Murray and Forsyth proposal, Wagga firm Damasa, was represented at the hearing by Manuel and Daniel Donebus.
Manuel Donebus told the hearing that the only time he had seen the site in use was during car club events. and that the "open stormdrain" surrounding the site was a "safety issue" for community users.
The majority of those who elected to speak were residents opposed to the reclassification on the grounds that it would cost the city a "green space" and create a "concrete car park".
Catherine Harding told the hearing that she had been working in medicine for 30 years in Wagga and did not want to lose "the last green oasis before the medical precinct".
Dr Harding said there were mental and physical health benefits to maintaining vegetation in urban environments and there had been no flood modelling or testing for industrial contamination at the site.
There was one resident who supported the reclassification, saying he "loved the block" and "wanted to see it rejuvenated".
"I can't see why so many people who don't live near the block are opposed to this," he told the hearing.
Daniel Donebus told the hearing that the Morgan, Murray and Forsyth proposal was "just a concept plan" and its development application would address any flood or contamination issues.
He also said the claim by some speakers at the hearing that Damasa had already reached a deal with Wagga City Council to support the deal was "completely untrue".
The hearing concerned only the land reclassification and not wider the proposed development.
If the reclassification is approved, the council will sell the land via public tender.
Daniel Donebus told the hearing that if the sale was approved, anybody who bid on the land "would have the same chance as I have" to buy it.
Coolamon Shire general manager Tony Donoghue served as an independent chair of the hearing and will present a report, but not recommendations, to Wagga City Council.