Austinmer residents have accused developers of planning to build a residential apartment block ‘‘by stealth’’ on the prime piece of coastal land occupied by the dilapidated Headlands Hotel.
These accusations came after the site’s new owners flagged plans to revive a nine-year-old proposal to build 69 serviced apartments, a function room, two restaurants, a bar and underground space for 120 cars in place of the run-down former hotel.
Central Coast based developer Stevens Group has applied to Wollongong City Council asking that it remove conditions on the original DA, approved by the council in 2004, which prevent permanent residency at the serviced apartments.
The application says restrictions requiring the serviced apartments to be available for use as tourist accommodation for 12 months of the year are ‘‘unreasonable and unnecessary as they may provide a restraint to trade’’.
Resident John Spira, who lives behind the Headlands site, said he and a number of neighbours believe this would make way for renters to use the apartments as their permanent homes.
‘‘I think this is a sneaky way to establish an ordinary block of apartments on this headland and I think that’s wrong,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s an iconic headland and an outstanding feature on the coast of the northern Illawarra, which is enjoyed by residents and tourists who walk and picnic in the space available.
‘‘Having two blocks of what would essentially be private apartments blocks built there is excessive and completely out of character with the area.’’
Mr Spira, who plans to reform the Headlands Community Action Group along with a group of other concerned residents, has urged people to voice their objections to the proposed complex by making a submission to the council. However, he said he and other residents were not opposed to all construction at the site.
‘‘The residents do not object to a reasonable sized development being put on the site, because we don’t like the derelict thing that is there any more than anyone else,’’ he said.
‘‘We would be very happy to see a restaurant, pub or modest sized tourist accommodation on the site, but our objection is to the excessive size of what has been proposed and it is absolutely unacceptable that people could live there permanently.’’
Responding to these concerns, Stevens Group partner Graeme Charles admitted it would be possible for people to live at the Headlands development full-time if the proposed modifications are approved.
However, he said his company’s research showed this was unlikely and emphasised that the complex would remain a tourism site.
‘‘People could buy them to live there permanently, but we don’t know of any statistics around the state where people live in serviced apartments permanently,’’ he said.
‘‘The definition of serviced apartments means a building let to persons which are cleaned and otherwise serviced by the owner or the owner’s managing agent.’’
Mr Charles said his company had sought to revive the 2004 DA and remove the restrictions so it could sell the apartments to individual owners off a plan and gain funding to start construction early next year.
‘‘We’ve reviewed the 2004 development consent, and while it is not exactly what we want it is very close,’’ he said.
‘‘We have sought two minor amendments... and if they are removed we can get on with the development in early 2014.’’
Mr Charles said this would result in an investment of $25million, as well as creating 75 jobs and injecting $2.5million a year into the Austinmer community.
Submissions regarding the Stevens Group development application for the Headland Hotel site close on October 23.