A bigger, better Bunnings store is still on the cards for Inverell as council move to their public consultation phase.
Public agencies are currently being consulted by Inverell Shire Council about the plan to change the zoning on the Jardine Road and Gwydir Highway parcel of land, a change necessary for Bunnings to build and relocate.
Community consultation for Inverell residents will then begin, allowing people to have their say on a decision which has caused controversy from the moment the plan was aired publicly.
In their Gateway Determination requested by council, the Department of Primary Industries and Environment (DPIE) have recommended changing the current residential zoning in the Local Environmental Plan (LEP).
This rezoning would create a parcel of B5 zoned land approximately 3.24 hectares, perfect for the larger store, which would secure approximately 45 new jobs and come close to doubling the size of the current Oliver Street Bunnings.
Early in July this year, the DPIE issued an alteration to their original October 2020 determination, removing the need for council to consult with the NSW Division of Biodiversity and Conservation.
It also extended the deadline until April 1, 2022, to amend - or not - the LEP.
That exemption sat uneasily with Cr Anthony Michael at the July ordinary council meeting.
However Civil and Environmental Services director Brett McInnes explained that the information it would provide had already been ascertained by another report provided by the proponent.
"It's interesting that the planning organisation helps big businesses pretty well, but then the local businesses are trying to build a garage and in the end the council put enough restrictions on there to have them pay an extra 10 grand on there to do the inside of their shop, so its a bit of a 'look after the big boys and don't look after the small boys'," he stated.
"You might note [the report] refers to the requirement to provide an updated biodiversity study, which the proponent has completed," Mr McInnes replied directly.
The proponents for Bunnings, Insite Planning Services Inc, updated their ecological assessment report by May as well as making minor amendments to the Planning Proposal.
"That's gone back to the department of planning who coordinate the referrals in this matter and as a result of that, they no longer deem that particular referral to be required based on that updated information."
Cr Michael also queried whether or not the responses from surrounding residents would be taken under consideration when the final report came before council.
"I'm showing some concern because it is going to impact on a number of houses in that area of town... if 60 to 70 per cent of people are against it, does it still go through?"
Mr McInnes said ultimately, the decision to alter the LEP would be made by the council sitting at the time.
"[Residents] will be notified, receive direct notification when [the public exhibition] commences and then ultimately... a report will be prepared for council to consider the outcome of the public exhibition."
Councilors expressed their concern mid-2020 when the idea was floated at council, that Bunnings had exceeded the space it had on Oliver Street and required a larger building.
Their concerns lay around de-centralising business outside of the CBD.
"Our town is never, ever going to become a major industrial area," Cr Stewart Berryman said.
"The land up there [Jardine's Road] is good residential or rural area. I'm just afraid down the track we are going to snooker ourselves when people who want to retire here aren't going to get the block of land with a view they want,".
Cr Anthony Michael pointed out that online shopping was on the rise and worried if a bulky goods retailer was to build in the location, they may not need a retail space in years to come.
Mayor Paul Harmon spoke against fragmentation of the CBD, and the issue of being labelled as "anti-development' by the community.
But the proposed rezoning has received support from the Inverell Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber agreed to submit a letter of support for Bunnings Inverell for their future development plans at their June meeting.
Nicky Lavender, Chamber president at the time, encouraged the community to listen to the council committee meeting and has asked for wider community feedback on the matter.
"At the June Chamber Meeting we were addressed by a representative from Bunnings Inverell, who are a member of our Chamber.
"They presented that their company is well underway in preparing a planning proposal to rezone land in this location to allow them to submit a development application to build a new Bunnings Warehouse store for our town and region.
"This development would secure approximately 45 new jobs and go close to doubling the size of our Bunnings store. In a period of time where large national companies are pulling out of smaller regional communities we have one that wants to invest in Inverell," she said.
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