Wollondilly Council will proceed with a planning proposal for a Government Services Building in Picton potentially up to 16 metres tall after a divisive council meeting this month.
Councillors voted 5-3 in favour of supporting the proposal which would allow the new building - which would address capacity, accessibility and maintenance issues with the existing council building, while providing potential for further government services (like Service NSW) to operate as well - to have up to four stories.
Wollondilly Council is both the owner of the site and the proponent for the Planning Proposal. The council engaged Keylan Consulting to provide an independent assessment of the proposal.
The building is part of a plan to create a new community, cultural and civic precinct in the heart of Picton, which would also include additional parking, a green civic square and a library and learning centre.
It is planned for the area at the junction of Colden Street and Corbett Lane, currently occupied by a car park.
Existing height restrictions under the DCP only allow for developments up to nine metres.
Councillors were divided over whether or not to proceed with the proposal at this stage, with Michael Banasik, Simon Landow and Matt Gould speaking against the proposal, and Judith Hannan, Matthew Deeth, Blair Briggs and Noel Lowry speaking for it. Mayor Robert Khan also voted in favour.
Cr Banasik said he was concerned with the heritage impacts to surrounding buildings like the old post office, Picton Hotel, The George and more.
"The concern is precedent," he said. "Someone could buy the old hardware store and vacant block, and then ask for a a four-storey building. I appreciate the other point of view, but I don't believe we should set this precedent. We should set an example and adhere to our DCP."
Cr Landow accused the council of "bully boy" tactics in attempting to progress the proposal, and said the plan would set a "dangerous precedent".
"I can't understand why this council would want to sit here and allow this beaurocracy to go to up to 16 metres in such a historic town in NSW," he said. "It's so hypocritical. Had this been a private developer wanting to come in on this particular site and go to four stories, the council would, I guarantee it, refuse it."
Cr Gould said he did not wish to support the proposal in its current form, before learning more about updates to heritage controls in the DCP which are yet to be presented to the council.
"It it was a commercial development, I'd be asking for this to be sent back for further work around the draft controls," he said. "As the council is the applicant here we have an obligation to be a model applicant."
Cr Hannan urged the council to take note of the fact that the particular motion of debate was not about approving a building design yet, but about approving the planning proposal for the space.
She said the council didn't want to do "half a job" and learn their new building was not large enough and have to build again down the track.
Cr Deeth requested further consultation of residents on Colden Street and Keable Close before endorsing the proposal. He said he had "never seen such an extensive review" of a proposal.
Cr Lowry said the opponents of the proposal made "some really strong points that are quite correct" but he believed "Argyle Street [would] be relatively unchanged".
"The heritage character of the town as we know it, I think we can get away with a four-storey, 16-metre building on Colden Street," he said. "I think with this development there's going to be more good than harm."