When Matt Wheeldon bought land in Chinamans Lane on Goulburn's fringe some years ago, he was hoping that one day it would be his superannuation.
But now he fears all that is being jeopardised by proposed changes to local planning laws. Others with land on the city's fringes are expressing the same sentiment.
Consultants have completed a draft Urban and Fringe Housing Strategy for the council. But just where Mr Wheeldon's land and its RU6 (rural) transition zone fits into it is unclear.
Mr Wheeldon said if a separate Planning Proposal for the RU6 zone, currently on public exhibition, was passed, he could have to pay up to $20,000 extra for an application to subdivide his property for residential blocks. He says it would require a planning proposal all of its own, a lengthy and costly process.
"If it were to be changed it would make things much harder. They're trying to change the goalposts," he said of the council.
But the council says this is not true and the only intention of the planning proposal, amending two clauses in the 2009 Local Environmental Plan (LEP), is to close a statewide legal loophole and prevent "ad hoc" smaller lot subdivisions on the city's fringe that are difficult to service.
The change was suggested after several community title and strata subdivisions in the Marys Mount area. Councillors passed the controversial developments in the typically larger lot zones, despite neighbourhood objections, but said they had little choice under the existing LEP.
In a March, 2019 report, planners cited another DA for 24 lots on Marys Mount Road for blocks ranging from 590 to 620 square metres on RU6 transition land. Under Torrens title, the property would have a 100 hectare minimum lot size and one dwelling entitlement.
They said the council was sending a "mixed message" by allowing "unrestricted" strata and community title subdivision in a rural zone. Environment and Planning director Scott Martin said it was important to close the loophole.
Mr Martin told The Post it emerged after the Department of Planning and Environment's changes to the standard LEP instrument and a NSW Land and Environment Court ruling.
"This had the effect of allowing community title subdivisions across many zones," he said.
"Compared to Torrens title subdivisions, community title subdivisions do not have to meet the minimum lot size dictated by the LEP. Given that this was contrary to the objectives of the RU6 zone, Council saw fit to close the loop hole and protect the integrity of the LEP."
Let's be translucent here.Matt Wheeldon
If the planning proposal is passed, developers in the RU6 zone would have to abide by the minimum lot size mapped for their land.
Mr Martin said it wouldn't necessarily preclude future rural residential subdivisions in the zone but they would have to meet the minimum lot size.
The Housing Strategy, currently underway, will help determine areas suitable for rural residential subdivision, among other aspects.
The planning proposal, incorporating the changes, was placed on public exhibition from June 4 until July 5.
But Mr Wheeldon said few people knew the document was on exhibition. He called on the council to hold a public meeting to explain its full implications.
"Let's be translucent here," he said
Mr Wheeldon also challenged planners' justification that services such as water were not connected to some of these areas. He told The Post that Chinamans Lane, for example, did have water connection.
The draft Housing Strategy identifies a zone to the north of Marys Mount Road, between Middle Arm and Crookwell Roads, as a proposed urban release area. Land west of Crookwell Road, off Chinamans Lane, is flagged as a 'future urban release' in the longer term.
The study predicts the need for 2636 more houses in the period 2016 to 2036 for Goulburn and 3359 across Goulburn Mulwaree to cater for population growth.
Mr Martin said the Strategy would be refined and re-exhibited in light of 47 public submissions during the exhibition period. These raised issues such as soil capability, water runoff, native vegetation, infrastructure constraints and the ability to service some areas with water and sewer.
"The response and the information was really good," he said.
"We've zeroed in on that information and taken it to State agencies to get a better understanding of what it all means...We are also working with the (Strategy) consultants.
"We're confident it will be quite a different looking document and that comes down to the quality of submissions."
He said the council needed to be sure that if it rezoned land, it could support the use with infrastructure. This was not simply about extending services like water and sewer, but ensuring there was capacity in the network to maintain pressure and quality.
Despite scrutinising various planning proposals as part of the draft Housing Strategy he said the council was not looking to go "backwards" and make it harder for people.
"It's more about looking at what their opportunities are in the future," he said.
Mr Martin expected a revised Strategy to be placed on exhibition in a few months for the same period as the first draft.
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