Launceston's reputation as a city that supports investment is at risk, after several proposed developments have been delayed, or scrapped entirely due to, in part, strong opposition from resident groups.
Business, industry and development stakeholders agree that at a time where significant investment may be the key to kick-starting the Launceston economy on the road to recovery from COVID-19, setbacks on developments have a significant cost.
However, head of resident group Launceston Heritage not Highrise Jim Collier said their main objections to proposals stemmed from a desire to see Launceston uniquely remain a "low-rise city".
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"We don't want Launceston to become just another city, another Sydney or Melbourne," Mr Collier said.
"Launceston is a unique heritage low-rise city."
The latest casualty of resident opposition is likely to by Singapore-based developers Fragrance Group, who may face an appeal process for their Launceston hotel, after a lengthy representation was made against it by Launceston Heritage not Highrise.
LHNR submitted a representation that outlined seven elements of the development application they saw as problematic, which included height, sewage, shadowing and the impending environment assessment.
Fragrance Group's hotel has not yet come before the City of Launceston council, but is expected to be on the agenda in the coming months.
Launceston Chamber of Commerce chief executive Neil Grose said delays, appeals and representations all cost a council both money and time.
"It costs [local government] significant resources, each representation has to be followed up," he said.
A string of delays, appeals, objections or refusals would make developers see Launceston in a different light, Mr Grose said.
A potential delay to Fragrance may put the hotel in the same stable as a string of other multi-million-dollar developments that have been delayed, scrapped, appealed or rejected.
One of the most defining ones of the past 12 months was the appeal of a $50 million hotel proposed by the Josef Chromy Group - the Gorge Hotel.
The hotel was proposed by Launceston developer Josef Chromy and would be located adjacent to Launceston College, on the TRC site.
The appellant was a neighbour of the proposed hotel, Susie Cai, who waged a public campaign against the development based on height and shadowing.
Launceston Heritage not Highrise was formed in support of Ms Cai and assisted her in her campaign against the proposed development.
As a result of the decision by the tribunal, Josef Chromy Group has said publicly it no longer has any job-creating projects planned for Launceston and is expected to take its developments elsewhere.
Other projects that have been in varying stages of delay or scrapped altogether, include a delay on the now under-construction Verge Hotel and the rejection of a car park planned for the former Gasworks site.
Launceston's Verge Hotel, proposed by Stay Tasmania, was delayed significantly due to resident backlash against the design.
Developers had to withdraw the application, re-design the building and re-submit it for approval, before it got the green light from both residents and the council.
Ross Harrison's twin development applications for the Gasworks site was delayed after the $7 million car park was refused by the Tasmanian Heritage Council, a decision that was upheld by the council.
An art gallery, restaurant and retail space, which was submitted under a different development application but was twin to the car park, was approved for the Gasworks gasometre structure.
Prominent Launceston developer Errol Stewart also withdrew his development application for two residential towers near the Tamar River, citing difficulty with council planners to get the projects to approval stage.
City of Launceston chief executive Micheal Stretton said land use planning was complex and council planners and staff considered all representations equally.
"Tasmania's planning approvals system invites public comments into significant planning decisions, which is why discretionary applications are advertised for representations," he said.
"There is no additional weight given to representations simply because they happen to come from a particular group or individual; only to the relevant requirements of the planning scheme.
Mr Stretton said Tasmania's planning legislation provided pathways for people to appeal the decisions of councils acting as planning authorities and it was important such a system existed to provide checks and balances to the approvals process.
He said as a consequence, appeals took place, but each appeal cost varied.
"Planning matters can often be divisive and emotive, but it's a requirement of councils when they are acting as a planning authority to consider only the relevant planning matters relating to the application," he said.
Building heights have remained a divisive issue for Launceston, after the council commissioned the Paul Davies report last year and completed extensive community consultation.
Mr Stretton said work was underway to draft amendments to the planning scheme with regards to heights to "provide clarity to developers and the community."
While everyone has a right to have their say, Northern Tasmania Development Corporation chief executive Mark Baker questioned whether interest groups' opinions were representative of the people they represent.
He said it was often the case that resident groups were given equal standing to other bodies, that were more highly regulated and governed, and these groups' opinions were disproportionate to the number of people they represented.
"What is concerning is that Northern Tasmania might be seen as too risky a place to invest if these groups continue to oppose development."
Mr Baker said the decision on the Gorge Hotel was disappointing for several people because the developer had worked hard with the community to present something good, it had been passed by the council but the decision to knock it back was not made on what the appeal was originally based on.
He said that people who declared the Gorge Hotel did not fit in with the character of the area was yet, there are a handful of historic buildings there but they are not the only ones in the area.
"There is also a modern restaurant and apartments, buildings built in the 1980s on a former quarry made to look like Tudor England, a sewage treatment plant, an art deco hotel and a college that has all the aesthetics of a giant brick box," he said.
"Do we want Launceston to develop as a modern city or do we expect it to be only erect faux Georgian or Victorian buildings?"
LHNH coordinator Jim Collier said the group had a couple of hundred supporters and were formed on a collective concern over the changing skyline of Launceston.
The group has significant concerns over "highrise buildings" proposed for Launceston and the impact it has on the heritage landscape.
The group said heritage values such the Albert Hall and City Park, should not be dwarfed by modern buildings like the hotel proposals for Verge and Fragrance.
A vital part of the group's objection to the Fragrance Hotel, is that the developers plan on conducting an environmental site assessment after construction had started, but there are concerns that there is contaminated soil in the area.
"I can't stress enough the importance of the environmental site assessment, there have been precedents on the mainland where councils have been sued because developers have found contamination after approval has been given," Mr Collier said.
Launceston Heritage not Highrise compiles its representations on "expert advice" but the group does not have planners working for them, Mr Collier said.
However, even hotel proposals that are approved, such as the Verge, which is under construction on Cimitiere Street, have not appeased the group, because it exceeds their optimum height levels for the CBD.
Mr Collier said the group supported development, ideally not over 12 metres, which was consistent with the Paul Davies building heights report submitted to the council last year.
However, he did acknowledge the Verge, which sits at 24 metres, had set a new precedent in that area.
Mr Baker said interest groups such as Launceston Heritage not Highrise were not subject to the same level of governance as bodies such as the NTDC or the Property Council, which was important context.
"It is worth noting that Heritage Not Highrise said in October last year it had no problem with Fragrance Group's hotel proposal and would be unlikely to object but in April has done just that."
However, when it came to objections or appeal, Mr Baker said the law was clear.
"Of course when it comes to an objection or an appeal, the background or standing of an interest group doesn't come into it and the matter needs to be decided on the law or regulations," he said.
Property Council chief executive Brian Wightman said the organisation supported free democracy but said it had to be within reason.
"The Property Council believes residents deserve to have their views heard. However, that doesn't mean people living in different council municipalities should have the right to object to projects which have zero impact on their amenity. Demonstrating how a project directly affects individuals should be a key component of any appeal," he said.
"Heritage not Highrise and other un-elected or unrepresentative bodies such as Hobart not Highrise present a narrow description of our community's views. Most residents deeply value projects that create jobs and don't pay much attention to minority groups unless they directly impact desired economic stimulus."
Mr Wightman, who has long been an advocate for a Tasmanian statewide planning scheme, said the coronavirus pandemic would mean multi-million projects would be "critical for our future".
"We are amid a crisis unlike most of us have ever seen. As a result, major job-creating projects will soon be like hen's teeth," he said.
"To have a multi-million-dollar development from Fragrance Group on the books for Launceston is critical for our future.
"Therefore it is incredibly disappointing, gut-wrenching, in fact, that the first stop will be the offices of lawyers and an appeal process, placing the development at significant risk."
Job-creating projects will be vital to the future, which has been identified by the state government, when Premier Peter Gutwein announced legislation on major projects would be slated for discussion in Parliament by May.
However, that deadline was created before the coronavirus pandemic truly taking hold, and with Parliament suspended next week it is unknown when the major projects bill will be back on the agenda.
Mr Gutwein recalled parliament to April 27 as part of the response to COVID-19.
Planning Minister Roger Jaensch said the government believed in increased investment in major projects and infrastructure will be vital in supporting jobs and helping the state economy recover from the unfolding coronavirus pandemic.
"While the government is in the final stage of delivering Australia's first statewide planning scheme and working on a range of measures to streamline approvals, new projects must still comply with all relevant planning and environmental regulations," Mr Jaensch said.