A proposal to build a workers accommodation facility for up to 85 people on the former Naracoorte TAFE site has generated significant community interest.
With the prominent Gordon Street site of nearly 16,800 sq m sitting dormant since the TAFE ceased using it in mid-2017, the developers and several industry stakeholders say the project will address a major need for short-term housing, including for migrant workers.
Plans for the development are currently being displayed at the Naracoorte Lucindale Council office, and have led to considerable public interest and some opposition.
A group of about 60 concerned residents met on Sunday to discuss their concerns and formulate a joint response to the plans before the deadline for public comment on November 21.
The current proposal is for high-density living, in a current low density living area which is our main concernConcerned citizens group
A spokesperson for the group told the Herald they opposed the proposed development on a number of grounds.
"The current proposal is for high-density living, in a current low density living area which is our main concern. The application that is currently being provided to the community to consider is for 104 pillows within the existing buildings of the former TAFE site.
"However, the application is severely lacking in detail and supporting information to enable anyone to form a full understanding of the impacts of this development - not just to surrounding neighbours but the wider community."
The group's main concerns are:
- Noise pollution - from increased residence, vehicles and infrastructure required to support a high-density living community.
- Management of the facility - proper management of a facility of high density living is paramount.
- Building fire safety - neighbouring residents and the general public need to be assured that this has been adequately addressed.
- Privacy - for neighbouring residents.
- Car parking and traffic movements - are roads equipped for the proposed increased traffic?
- General visual appeal - being in the centre of Naracoorte, how will the site depict the town and area to the public?
The spokesperson said the strong turnout at Sunday's hastily organised meeting proved how concerned residents were about the proposal.
"The consensus was that information was lacking, consultation has been mute and that the proposal is not acceptable for the area. It was decided as a group that we will proceed with voicing our opposition to the plans in the proper format supported by counsel from specialist advisers."
The developers, Robe couple Tony and Marian Dawson and their sons Jaryd and Jordan, explained they had sought considerable feedback and input on their plans and were convinced the development was needed in Naracoorte.
Tony Dawson said while housing up to 85 people on one site of about 16,800 sq m sounded like a lot, the designs had been done with resident comfort front of mind, and planning requirements had been met and exceeded.
"It will be much more than just accommodation, there will be a community garden, communal eating areas, prayer rooms if needed, there will be common areas where people can interact," he said. "There will be more bathrooms than we were required to provide.
"The whole thing's been done with care and thought for the people who will live here, but also the surrounding community."
Mr Dawson said many stakeholders had made it clear that more short-term living accommodation was needed in the town. The development would see strong immediate demand from workers at Teys Australia meatworks and vineyard employees.
"The critical thing for the community to understand is that there are currently examples of up to 12-15 people living in four/five bedroom houses, three people in a room, totally unacceptable and illegal," he said.
"We're doing everything that will meet the building and planning code, the documents have all been presented and the correct processes will be followed."
People are not to be frightened of itMigrant Resource Centre coordinator Jenny Stirling
Mr Dawson's view was supported by Migrant Resource Centre coordinator Jenny Stirling, who said she was in contact with many migrants who were not able to secure housing.
"People who say there is not a housing problem in Naracoorte are not in tune with the situation," she said. "It is a very welcomed, timely intervention from a local developer. Many service providers understand there's an issue for housing.
"Tony is listening to the community, he welcomes feedback and listens to concerns.
"People are not to be frightened of it."
Jaryd Dawson said the facility would be closely and professionally managed, it would be secure for residents through a keycard system and other measures, and there would be a strict set of criteria and house rules for residents and visitors to follow. Facility management would be responsible for enforcing the rules, under strict instruction to respect the amenity of the neighbours, and further breach of the rules would result in eviction of the tenant.
"I'm happy to talk to people about any concerns," he said. "It was in a pretty average state when we first took over and we think it will be a very positive use of the residential land."
The Dawsons are currently clearing trees to open up the site, but say they intend to "leave the more significant trees in place".
The plans, proposing a change in land use to "short term worker accommodation", are on display at the council office during normal office hours. Members of the public can comment in writing to the council CEO by November 21.
(Note: There is also a proposal to have a function centre on the site, however that is a separate project and not part of the development application submitted to the council).
- Once the consultation period for the worker accommodation proposal is complete, the development application will be provided along with any public comments to the council assessment panel (CAP) for decision. The CAP can decide to approve, defer, or refuse - and can, if approved, attach various planning conditions. Elected members of the council will not have any role in considering or determining the outcomes of any development application.