THE $200 million Trinity Point marina plan took a crucial step forward last night when Lake Macquarie City Council voted 7-6 to allow residential and commercial uses on the site.
The decision, one of the most controversial the council has taken in years, was made before a packed gallery.
It paves the way for Planning Minister Kristina Keneally to decide whether the development should proceed.
Developer Keith Johnson said residential and commercial uses were needed on the 3.6-hectare tourism site to make the project viable.
Lake Macquarie Tourism Association said the developer had not proven that the extra uses were needed.
The association urged the council to keep the site zoned for tourism uses only, but a slim majority of councillors dismissed the concerns.
The council had delayed its decision for a week over concerns about the site's Aboriginal heritage.
That matter took a back seat last night amid questions about the project's viability.
Cr Daniel Wallace said: "The economic viability argument is not there".
"It shouldn't happen. It's a joke."
Cr Laurie Coghlan said it was not the council's role to decide whether it was viable.
"It's up to the person putting his hand in his pocket," Cr Coghlan said.
He said residential uses were allowed in tourism zones "all over the city and the state".
The plan includes 188 marina berths, a conference centre and restaurant. Additionally, 150 dwellings are planned with 75 available for tourism and the other half for residential or tourism uses.
Accommodation will be in one- to five-storey buildings.
Cr Wallace said last night's decision was an "injustice to the community" because residents had not been consulted on building heights.
The decision on the number of marina berths, one of the most controversial aspects of the plan, lies with the minister.
Bob Cowan, a prominent Lake Macquarie businessman, told councillors that the project "must go ahead" to boost jobs and business in south Lake Macquarie.
"It's time for action," Mr Cowan said, speaking for a group called Advancing Lake Macquarie.
Mayor Greg Piper said the NSW Government should not have been able to "call in" the development.
Cr Piper hoped the council would "have some influence" on the form the development took.
Cr Piper said he would write to Ms Keneally asking that she reduce the plan's density and the number of marina berths.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.