Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has said the council will not bow down to a campaign to rezone 18 hectares of industrial land at Kembla Grange, despite a new social media push to allow the change to go ahead.
At last week's council meeting, long-running plans from Sydney property giant Leda Holdings to alter the Wyllie Road site's uses to pave the way for a $110 million retail precinct were narrowly voted down.
On Monday night - after a heated debate at the meeting - someone created a Facebook page called "Petition for retail outlets at Kembla Grange".
The page had received just over 1500 likes by Sunday afternoon, with supporters spruiking tourism, new shopping opportunities and an increase in retail jobs as the main reasons the rezoning should go ahead.
But Cr Bradbery said he believed most people had been "sucked in by the idea they would get a bargain" when the real intention of the developer's proposal was to rezone and profit from the sale of higher-value land.
He said allowing "B6 Enterprise Corridor" zone uses, like bulky goods or outlet retail, would dramatically increase the value of the "light industrial" land.
"There's plenty of B6 land available in Wollongong - I think we have about 25 hectares that hasn't even been built on, so any bulky goods retail outlet could easily go there if that's what they wanted," he said.
"But I believe that the real intention is that they are pushing to have this land's possible uses to allow this bulky goods outlet ... therefore increasing the land's value."
Cr Bradbery said he would welcome extra factory outlet retailers interested in investing in Wollongong, but only if it was on appropriately zoned land.
"I'm not against a factory outlet or bulky goods operations in Wollongong, I want to make that clear, but if we just start rezoning things because a few people want to put operations in place in certain areas, then we'll create an uneven playing field," he said,
"This council stands firm on its zonings and will not be subject to the campaigns and whims of certain people," he said.
It is not known who started the Facebook petition, however the Mercury attempted to contact the page's administrator and did not receive a response.
Leda Holdings development manager Gemma Wawn said "it definitely had nothing to do with us", but welcomed the community support from the page.
However, some urged better support for existing retailers.
"Why do we need this when we have so many shops closing down? Shop local and support our smaller retailer," Gail Bezzina said.
"I don't know exactly what is being proposed but I'm not convinced that we should fill every possible space in the Illawarra with shopping malls or retail outlets. We have Figtree, Warrawong and Dapto very close by, and Wollongong and Shellharbour are not that far away either," Facebook user Sarah Kanodia said.