The sale by Eurobodalla Shire Council of 40 hectares of land in Dalmeny causes consternation among some residents who believe it should be kept in its natural state.
The land has been sold to developer and manager of Heppa Constructions Andrew Scarano in Sydney, and is expected to be used for real estate development.
However, the sale has sparked controversy among some Dalmeny residents who say the bush is home to many native species and a popular place for families to enjoy bush walks and picnics.
They had asked that part of the site be kept in the bush, but the entire block was sold. It has been zoned R2 which allows low density residential housing.
Sales contracts were exchanged between the council and Mr Scarano earlier this month, and the land is expected to become the site of its first development on the south coast.
“It’s very early and there is a lot of planning to do, but I intend this to be a quality development,” said Mr Scarano.
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Eurobodalla Shire Council Planning Director Lindsay Usher said interest in the land was extremely strong, which only reinforced the wisdom of selling it at that time.
“The parameters are in place to ensure that this will be a good development result,” Mr. Usher said.
The number of houses to be built on the land is unknown, however biodiversity, landscape and heritage, the provision of open spaces and infrastructure such as roads and services, will need to be taken into consideration.
Mr. Usher said community input would be sought to enable residents to have a say in the development aspect by contributing ideas to the development control plan.
However, a popular Facebook group, Dalmeny Matters, has already started an online petition in an attempt to save the bush, saying development should not continue.
So far, the petition has attracted over 4,000 signatures.
Sally Christiansen, owner of the Facebook group, says the Dalmeny community is upset to learn of the sale of the land.
“This bush means so much to our community, especially during the lockdown,” she said. “It’s a place where people can recharge their batteries and reconnect with nature. “
Ms Christiansen said residents of Dalmeny use the area for bush walking, cycling and bird watching.
Now that the land has been sold, Ms Christiansen believes it is up to the people of Dalmeny to closely monitor how the council drafts a control plan for the entire bush area.
“We will ensure that the council abides by all the protocols it has in place,” she said.
“But also for the future, these protocols will either be approved or denied by a new board coming in for 2022, so the elections are going to be a very big deal for us.”
Ms Christiansen said the bush is home to some endangered species, including cockatoos and yellow-bellied gliders.
“This species (gang cockatoos) has experienced an almost 70% decline and is now endangered,” its website says.
The site further states that other endangered species such as yellow-bellied gliders and glossy black cockatoos also call this land.
“Habitat loss is the biggest threat to these species.”
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The Council believes that the new housing area will relieve pressure on the housing supply as Eurobodalla County faces a shortage at all income levels and types of housing.
The shortage has been exacerbated by the Black Summer fires and pressure from city residents moving to regional areas.
There has been a 21 percent increase in the expected number of housing requirements in Eurobodalla County over the next 15 years.
The Council did not disclose how much it received for the land, or how the proceeds will be spent.