A marathon meeting to decide a development application for Wakefield Park raceway has been adjourned for three weeks for more information.
Almost 100 people attended Tuesday night's extraordinary council meeting, which lasted for nearly six hours.
It included 18 public forum speakers from both sides of the debate.
Benalla Auto Group wants to demolish a pit lane building, construct a new one for corporate functions and room for commentary and race control boxes, administration space, a medical area and 14 additional garages.
The company has also applied to build an off-road experience area, hold 12 markets a year and use part of the site for short-term camping.
But its bid to additionally formalise the terms of a January, 2020 noise prevention notice struck stiff resistance from nearby residents. Seven speakers questioned the accuracy and transparency of Wakefield's noise data. Several said they had tried and failed to secure a consultant's figures predicted for their homes.
One of the closest neighbours, Jane Reardon, said none of the residents wanted to shut down the circuit but could not get the proponents to the negotiating table.
"The key point is that nowhere in those hundreds of pages does it indicate what the noise levels will be at affected residences. This is of course the starting point for all legislation and policy in this area," Mrs Reardon said.
She and others pointed to the race track's 1993 approval which dictated that noise at nearby residences couldn't exceed 35 decibels plus five decibels. But Mrs Reardon claimed this had been continually breached.
Landowners said they were "reasonable people" who were prepared to strike compromise but Wakefield Park had ignored their concerns.
They called on councillors to reject Mayor Bob Kirk's alternative motion to approve the DA with conditions, saying it defied "due process" and a staff recommendation to refuse it.
Nearby landowner Robert France said it should be "put in the bin."
Councillors closely questioned Wakefield Park noise consultant, Dr Renzo Tonin, on his noise findings. Cr Sam Rowland told The Post that the conclusions were based on predictive levels with no explanation of their basis.
But Dr Tonin rejected this, saying he had "absolute confidence" in the data and a council consultant's peer review found no problem with it.
'An economic and social boon'
While the DA had its critics, others spoke in favour. These included two-time Australian Superbike champion, Tom Toparis who said Phillip Island in Victoria and other circuits around the world sat in far more urban settings.
Motor sport business owners also spruiked the raceway's economic and social benefits and described it as the most stringent on noise in NSW. Cars at Wakefield were being "black-flagged" or stopped from competing for exceeding 95 decibels 30 metres from the track but were permitted to race at other circuits.
Legend Cars owner and director John Dennehy told the meeting he relocated his business to Goulburn four years ago due to Wakefield Park's presence.
"Any town or city in NSW would love to have a facility like Wakefield. It is very well respected," he said.
Mr Dennehy tendered a 6800-signature petition supporting the development.
Goulburn Chamber of Commerce president Darrell Weekes urged compromise and claimed Wakefield's local economic injection was closer to $30 million annually.
"Take that money away from business and see what impact it makes," he said.
Canberra Police Community Youth Club president Cheryl O'Donnell spoke of Wakefield's social benefits and its 'transformative' effect on the disadvantaged and people with disabilities.
"I'm grateful for Wakefield Park and everything they do to support the community sector and charities," she said.
The circuit's operations manager Dean Chapman told councillors the complex had heavily invested in noise monitoring infrastructure.
"We have gone above and beyond (with our noise management plan)," he said.
"We thought it was very important to manage noise on a permanent basis and we can confidently say we can do that eight hours a day."
But he called for some amendments to Mayor Bob Kirk's alternative motion to approve with conditions. Mr Chapman claimed the raceway would be "unviable" without changes.
Benalla Auto Group CEO Chris Lewis-Williams conceded before his Wakefield Park hadn't been vigilant in complying with noise limits in the original 1993 DA.
"But it wasn't a good document," he said.
"...We are doing our best to be a good neighbour (but) we also recognise that the facilities are dated and need to be developed into something more viable."
Councillors discussed the matter for 90 minutes. Cr Alf Walker said he required greater clarification given "conflicting information" on noise monitoring methodology.
He told the meeting that nobody disputed the circuit's economic benefits but councillors had to weigh up their role as a planning body. At the same time, re wanted clarity around Cr Kirk's suggested approval conditions.
Councillors believed it could be approved if real-time noise data was made available to residents and if agreement could be struck on a colour-coded operational regime. This would set out various limits and the number of days they would apply.
After the meeting, general manager Warwick Bennett said the planners' report recommending refusal would go to a July 13 meeting. But so too would a supplementary report with suggested consent conditions if councillors wanted to approve the DA.
The meeting earlier heard that planning staff could not defend any subsequent Land and Environment Court appeal by residents because they had recommended refusal. In this case, a consultant would have to be engaged.
Councillors have asked for more information on 18 points. These include:
- Investigation of Phillip Island race track noise issues;
- Investigation of signage on the site;
- Clarity on pre-race activities and start times;
- Changes to the operational regime;
- Providing sound data to the community via the Wakefield Park website;
- Changes to static noise testing;
- Location of monitoring equipment;
- Compliance conditions;
- A condition to nullify the 1993 consent.
Cr Rowland said his support was conditional on this clarification.
"Councillors are taking the issue seriously and are trying to find a middle ground balancing Wakefield Park and residents who have had legitimate concerns about noise for years," he said.
"...No one wants to see it close and we're working towards a compromise but whether Wakefield Park wants to accept that is up to them."
Mayor Bob Kirk told The Post he was happy with the adjournment because it would allow councillors to make the right decision with all the information.
Mr Chapman said while he would have preferred an outcome, he was comfortable with supplying the extra information.
"i won't lie. There will be a lot of number crunching going on in the background," he said.
"There's an $8m to $10m asset there that needs to be turned over every 10 years and infrastructure upgrades we need to bring it into the 21st century. So we will balance what council is proposing and how we can stay viable in the long-term."
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