HUNTER-based developer Johnson Property Group has taken what it hopes is the first step towards resolving a long-running standoff with Lake Macquarie City Council in a bid to boost housing supply and community infrastructure.
JPG is developing the last 46 blocks it has approval for at Watagan Park, Lake Macquarie's largest new residential subdivision, but cannot go any further with the planned 2500-lot subdivision without council approval.
As reported previously by the Newcastle Herald, council and JPG have been locked in a dispute over a voluntary planning agreement (VPA), that sets out JPG's commitment to invest in infrastructure.
JPG director Keith Johnson submitted a proposed amendment to the VPA last month, that he believes offers a way forward.
"We have delivered to council a solution that we believe unlocks those problems and will deliver crucial infrastructure for the community," he said.
"We are hoping the councillors will call it up so it can be put on public display and then be voted on."
Watagan Park is a 350-hectare housing estate at Cooranbong which has concept approval for 2500-residential lots, with 499 lots already approved.
JPG and council have been in negotiations to modify the VPA since 2017.
A council spokeswoman said the revised plan was being assessed, but any amendments had to be approved by council before being made available for public comment.
She said the amendment proposed to delay the delivery of some infrastructure, remove bank guarantees on key delivery items and make some projects dependent on future land approvals.
Mr Johnson said unless the impasse over the VPA could be resolved, the development and community infrastructure would stall.
"We need this sorted out before we can go any further and we need to keep going so we can deliver the infrastructure the community is calling for," he said. "We are excited that this offer provides certainty that the infrastructure is able to be delivered."
Under the proposed plan, JPG is offering to spend $5.5 million, an extra $3.72 million compared to the original plan, on upgrading and installing traffic lights at a notorious Cooranbong intersection at Alton and Central roads and Freemans Drive, near Avondale Shopping Village.
Residents have been campaigning for an upgrade of the intersections for more than a decade after an elderly man, Charles Pointon, was hit by a car and killed in 2008.
There are two aged care facilities on either side of Freemans Drive and no safe way for elderly people to cross the busy roads.
The proposal also offers to provide a "more scenic and safe" 6km cycle and pedestrian pathway through private land.
According to JPG, the revised agreement increases the developer's contribution to $32,128 per housing lot, which is $13,602 per lot more than the contribution other developers pay in the area under the Morisset Developer Contributions Plan.
Apportioned over 2500 lots, Mr Johnson said that equates to $34 milllion in additional infrastructure and contributions that Watagan Park delivers for the community.
"Over the next 150 lots, our offer proposes in the order of $18 million of infrastructure compared to the current plan that offers around $10.5 million," he said.
"Of course it's not just above the value of money though, it's about certainty that the infrastructure can be delivered."
Council's spokeswoman said JPG had met its current obligations. She said the current agreement required the town common sports facilities to be completed before council approved the 500th lot, the development application was approved in April.
"The cost of providing infrastructure for new housing urban release areas is often more expensive in comparison to in-fill development," she said.
President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific, Pastor Glenn Townend, said the subdivision was crucial for the development of the area.
The church is a joint partner in the development and owns the majority of land.
"Through the Watagan Park development we are pleased to bring further substantial long-term benefits to the local community, including affordable housing, new sport and recreational facilities, and improved roads and pathways, while at the same time helping us to support the future of Avondale University College in becoming a university," he said.
"We are working toward making Cooranbong a university town."
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