Panel hears from community on Shellharbour City Hub

Too expensive, too extravagant and against the wishes of the community was the message sent by angry Shellharbour residents to the Joint Regional Planning Panel at a public meeting on Thursday evening called to discuss the controversial $57 million Shellharbour City Hub project.

The meeting was hosted by the southern region JRPP to hear issues regarding planning matters surrounding the building's development application, with concerns raised over traffic volumes along College Avenue and the fact part of the building exceeded height limits in the area.

However, more than 25 speakers vented their frustration on a lack of consultation on the hub project and the contentious sale of the Warilla Library, the council's rate rise of 44 per cent over four years and the method of electing Shellharbour's mayor.

About 75 people gathered at the Shellharbour Club to hear the issues raised.

Stop the Hub convener Diane Quinlin told JRPP representatives they had collected a petition of more than 11,500 signatures - one in four Shellharbour City voters - opposing the development.

Shellharbour resident Dennis Chalker said the council's last-minute decision to add the Warilla Library to the sale of the former Warilla Council chambers was evidence of "policy on the run".

Former Shellharbour mayor Ray Clay said financing the hub would leave the city facing "a future tsunami" of debt, while long-time council critic Russell Hannah said Shellharbour Council had "an obsession with building monuments" and said the hub should be put to a referendum at the next council election.

The concerns include sadness at the loss of a war memorial as part of the Warilla Library sale; the "secret agreement" to sell the council's current administration building, and rejecting the option to renovate the council's headquarters and build extra facilities on the vacant land adjoining land known as Lot 3000.

Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba and Councillor John Murray, who both support the project, also addressed the meeting, while JRPP chair Pam Allan was forced to intervene to keep the predominantly anti-hub audience quiet.

Cr Saliba said that councillors were making their decisions based on facts. "We believe we are doing the right thing," Cr Saliba said.

Cr Murray said by combining different facilities into the one building, using funds already collected for the purpose, made the project "very affordable".

"This building will serve the community well for the next two generations," Cr Murray said.

At the start of the meeting urban planner Helen Mulcahy gave a 10-minute outline of the application, including recent variations.

However, this too caused concern for some, including Councillor Kellie Marsh, who said even councillors had not been made aware of recent changes to the development application.

The next step in the planning process will be to create a summary of planning issues raised during the exhibition period and at the meeting. The JRPP will meet again in Shellharbour to determine the development application on a date yet to be fixed sometime in October .


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