By Chris Grounds
Erowal Bay is a residential village community of 600 people on the eastern shore of St Georges Basin or Bherwerre in the Dharug language.
It is surrounded on three sides by either Jervis Bay National Park or properties destined to go into the Park.
Residents and holiday home owners treasure the quieter, down-beat family living. It is a community with strong Aboriginal, Greek and ‘Skippy’ threads. It has its own community hall and tennis courts. There is even a community notice board. People say “gidday” to people. It has a boat-ramp, a park and a shop, which is one of those old-fashioned multipurpose businesses- petrol, plonk, post office and papers.
There are very few two storey houses and when the first of the modern versions was being built a local wit hung a sign on the security fence announcing the arrival of the ‘Erowal Bay RSL’.
What could go wrong?
The entire village is zoned to ‘Low Density R2 Residential’ with the shop site zoned to ‘Local Centre – B2’. There is no use of that site ‘permitted without consent’ but a range of housing, tourist and commercial uses permitted but needing consent.
Now imagine a three storey, over height limit, 17 dwelling units, 24 undercover carparks, two commercial premises; monstrosity with a $12 million price tag.
It is what we call ‘development’ in the Shoalhaven and an example of what communities like Erowal Bay are sick and tired of in the picture of their future.
Where do the residents stand? Well, the Council advice about the Development Application [DA] didn’t go to the whole village when council miscalculated that the DA only concerned near residents. Big mistake! Being the place it is, it only took two days for everyone to know, including absentee owners, as the word spread across fences, on roadsides, on phones; along faithful gossip lines.
Then the ‘Mouse Roared’.
Council received 204 Submissions against the development, and these represented at least 320 people, equivalent to half the village population. The call ‘not on our patch’ rang out and feelings have run very strongly. The DA proponents, shop owner and three partner proponents SET Consultants, ADM Architects and Hotondo Homes South Nowra seem not to have recognised the likely community reaction or perhaps don’t care.
The proponents were advised the design “does not respond to and enhance the qualities and identity of the area, streetscape and neighbourhood”. Neither was the “proposed scale, bulk and height appropriate to the desired future character or surrounding buildings”. Planners weren’t finished there as they advised the applicants that “the density is not appropriate, and the design does not positively influence external amenity.”
Council planners requested the proponents to consider submissions and redesign the development. Council also had to request that it be made clear who exactly was the applicant.
The proponents are now busy redesigning a concept that is totally unacceptable to the local community and have been given an extension to October 2nd to provide their intentions.
Shoalhaven Council is currently developing its Growth Management Strategy-2041 and the likes of the Erowal Bay DA fits squarely in the category of, to quote council, “an established area not undergoing significant change or identified for change.”
The village waits with bated breath and Councillors need to take heed of their stance. If councillors haven’t been taking notice they need to and follow their own mantra, so often heard, that they are listening to the community.
Chris Grounds is a long term Erowal Bay resident and Committee member of the Basin Villages Forum.