Residents have been in a stoush with Wagga City Council and local property firm Damasa over a planning proposal, which they argue does not meet community expectations.
Council is in receipt of a planning proposal to amend the Local Environmental Plan 2010 in the Morgan, Murray, Forsyth and Docker streets precinct.
This proposal has been in the works since 2013, but was pushed into the spotlight only a few months ago following state planning's gateway determination.
The plan seeks to reclassify community land, rezone land, increase building heights from a maximum of 16 metres to 35 metres and remove the floor space ratio provisions.
The Donebus family has owned land in that precinct, which was previously zoned industrial, since the 1970s and in that time have brought in commercial services, such as a pharmacy, post office, butcher, dentist and medical centre.
The concept forms part of council's long-term strategic approach to future development and the identification of Wagga by the NSW government as a key regional centre, with a population target of 100,000 people by 2038.
Michael Keys, council's director for regional activation, said the proposed development can be staged to respond to current and future growth and demands across the city and wider region.
The Daily Advertiser sat down with three Central residents: Chris Roche, Jim Doig and Anne McGregor in an attempt to nut out their major concerns surrounding parking, traffic, building height and its impact to surrounding houses.
But, despite their differences, one thing all parties can agree on is the need to improve the current services.
Parking and traffic
The proposal has identified an existing parking problem and aims to resolve this issue through basement parking, ground level spaces and a multi-level car park on community land, if approved.
The community land at 205 Morgan Street is currently home to the Vintage Motor Club and was identified by council as a site that lays idle the majority of the time.
A public hearing was held on November 18 and was facilitated by Tony Donoghue, an independent chairman, who will make a final report to council with respect to the reclassification in mid-December.
According to a report by McLaren Traffic Engineering, at peak times during business hours, 1085 parking spaces are required for tenants, staff and visitors.
However, the complete proposal includes a total of 1325 car spaces, with 500 car spaces on the ground level, a 450-space car park and 375 residential tenant spaces.
Damasa director Daniel Donebus said the Wagga Base Hospital redevelopment has exacerbated the parking woes in the vicinity.
"We acknowledge that there are a lot more cars on the streets than we would like," he said.
"Our parking plan is to provide for all parking and overflow on our site."
However, Mr Roche said the site's existing Enixus building tenanted by NSW Roads and Maritime Services is pushing cars onto the surrounding streets.
"[Daniel] has got about 250 people working in that building, who can't park there," he said.
"He has allowed 113 parks to be locked up."
Mr Donebus said the current parking solutions are based on their successful acquisition of community land, but understands that it is only an "if".
"RMS does not reserve all parking spaces, however, they do have unique needs that relate to only the existing tenancy," Mr Donebus said.
"We had, therefore, attended to construction over the previously open drain to provide extra public parking in addition to the existing street parking and onsite parking to cater for demand."
Mr Doig said he could not understand how a concept plan can be based off a site that they do not own or have control over.
The MTE report identifies that there is an existing traffic issue and will worsen as the city grows.
Mr Donebus said any development application that is submitted must have a solution, but admitted it is "premature" to find a concrete traffic solution as nothing has been passed yet.
Some possible solutions that have been thrown around include installing traffic lights or a roundabout at the Docker, Morgan and Bolton streets intersection.
But, Mr Roche argued that anyone can spend money on a report and it should not be trusted.
"What do they say about statistics? Statistics, statistics and all bloody lies," he said.
"You can make a report say anything you want [it] to say."
Height and shadowing
The concept plan encompasses a mixed-use development that seeks to deliver 180 residential living units, comprising of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, 13 three-storey townhouses, 23,000 square metres of additional commercial office space and the retention of 8000sqm of retail floor space.
The proposal seeks to amend the LEP for an overall 35 metre height limit, but introduce controls at the Development Control Plan level to ensure there is minimal impact to the residential street frontages.
Mr Donebus said DCP changes would require that the height of the site would graduate up to the middle and would also be set back from the streets that face homes.
"The current proposal contains only one building that achieves a maximum height of approximately 29 metres but allows for lift and other plant, telecommunications equipment, items required for energy efficiency, tenant design requirements and beautification within the proposed 35 metre limit," he said.
"Murray Street would have two to three level buildings ... the idea of getting these controls right ... [is] to merge the skyline in with the surrounding area.
"You can't have shadowing if these buildings are not much taller than a normal house on Murray Street."
The professional shadowing diagrams, part of the concept plan, show that in the winter solstice the worst case scenario would be some shadow creeping into someone's front lawn on Murray Street.
Mr Doig agreed that the Enixus Centre does not impose on the Morgan Street residences because it is set back from the road.
However, he argued that the existing building has largely caused the parking problems and history should not repeat itself.
Mr Roche compared the size of the WBH at 37 metres and said a 29-metre building would "kill the character" of the area.
"[Residents] are losing sight of the DCP that we're proposing to limit the way the height integrates with the site ... of course an eight-storey building situated next to the street will shadow houses," Mr Donebus said.
Impact on the CBD
The proposal seeks to attract corporate businesses, both non-government and government agencies at the local, state and national level.
Mr Donebus said the current retail footprint is roughly retained in the new proposal and there is no intention to negatively impact on the CBD viability.
"Our intention is to make a positive impact on CBD viability, because the residential component is going to have some seniors or some transitional housing, some affordable housing and also apartment-style living," he said.
However, Mr Donebus said the new office spaces will partly cater for relocating existing office tenancies in the firm's buildings that wish to grow and upgrade.
"The rest will be targeted directly at new professional offices from outside of Wagga, bringing potentially many hundreds of permanent high level jobs to the area," he said.
In relation to the Enixus building, Mr Donebus said he was informed that the RMS tenancy drew in additional jobs outside of Wagga, such as Port Macquarie.
"RMS outgrew their old office in Simmons Streets and needed a new premises, thereby allowing the Conservatorium of Music to obtain government grants for expansion and repurposing of this building," he said.
Mr Roche and Mr Doig questioned whether Wagga would have enough jobs for this kind of development.
"The city has been identified as a regional growth centre by the state government and ongoing investment and support ... will help drive employment and growth," council's director for regional activation, Michael Keys, said.
"This includes the Special Activation Precinct at Bomen and the Health and Knowledge Precinct.
"Recent research by the Regional Australia Institute indicates that there is growing demand for employees in the Riverina region."
But Mr Doig, a former real estate agent, argued that unless people are forced to relocate to Wagga they simply won't move.
He questioned who council has spoken to in terms of what the demand factors are for each type of dwelling.
Mr Keys said the concept plans, with the planning proposal, provide for the staging of the development and the total number of units proposed will not be delivered all at once.
"Council has engaged regularly with the development industry in relation to supply and demand across the local housing market," Mr Keys said.
"The long-term supply of housing is a key consideration for council, with potential impacts on affordability, accessibility and attractiveness of the city to new residents, industry and business."
Mr Roche argued the concept plans demonstrate a lack of green space and more grassed areas were needed.
"For our own mental health, we need the availability of green space around us," he said.
However, for the proposal to meet the planning guidelines, there needs to be a balance.
Landscaping is proposed for the community land and Damasa has offered to contribute to the Wollundry Lagoon by building a children's playground and water park.
Mr Donebus said the proposal's green space is integrated with a pedestrian walkway that runs as a T-shape across the entire site.
"The idea is that you come off the Wollundry Lagoon walkway and you've got a destination," he said.
Mr Donebus said this additional contribution would not go forward if it wasn't in line with the community's interest.
Setting a precedent
The former industrial site that has been converted into a mixed-use business area is not heritage listed and falls under a different zoning than its surrounding blocks.
Central residents have been arguing that approval for amending the LEP could set a "precedent" for other sites.
"It's the size of the land which gives you the availability to do things," Mr Roche said.
"The issue is that this could act as a precedent for other major development sites around the area, such as the old Daily Advertiser site, Weissel Oval and other big sites that are just waiting for developers."
However, Mr Donebus said the site cannot be counted as a precedent when it's in a uniquely zoned area.
The report by Tony Donoghue regarding the reclassification of community land is expected to be issued at the December 16 council meeting.
Mr Donebus said the next stage of the proposal weighs heavily on forthcoming council decisions.
It is estimated that in about six months' time, the firm will know what land they own and could be in a position to start work on a detailed design.
"I would expect that we would be looking at this time next year to be going through the development application process," Mr Donebus said.
"It would be the following year before we got a determination ... with a hope of being able to start building in 2021.
"But, that wouldn't be the whole site, it would just be one building."
The concept design has taken inspiration from existing spaces, such as Sydney's The Grounds of Alexandria.
"Our idea is to create a very leafy community environment, where the public can use the space, while kids can play ... a place where the people who work there feel that their options are being catered to in a very welcoming environment," Mr Donebus envisioned.
"If we don't do anything here, we're left with the legacy of ... an old industrial site where things aren't working ideally, where there's no green space, where there's no community options.
"It's in the CBD area of Wagga that we want to see as a place we can promote to the state and country as being a great place to live and work."
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