GATEWAY Island could one day become the site for a hotel much larger than planning laws now allow.
That is the hope of Wodonga councillor Rod Wangman after the council this week agreed to address the issue under its planning laws.
The North East Catchment Management Authority asked the council in 2009 to amend Wodonga’s planning scheme to limit the use of land on Gateway Island to a maximum of 200 hotel rooms.
Such a hotel can be built only on the eastern side of Lincoln Causeway. That makes the council-owned site next to the St Ives tavern, often used for circuses, a prime site.
Cr Wangman said a vital element in going beyond 200 rooms was to have emergency evacuation procedures to deal with flood and fire.
Councillors backed Cr Wangman’s move to update a Gateway Island master plan with emergency evacuation procedures for accommodation facilities greater than 200 rooms.
Cr Wangman said the circus site was “a beautiful piece of land” that would suit a hotel.
The authority said in 2010 it would not allow more than 200 hotel-motel beds on the island “in total” because of its concern about extreme flooding.
One developer said this was the major reason it had put on hold plans in 2011 for a 150-bed lakeside hotel west side of the causeway.
The council said in mid-2011 that it was talking to a possible buyer for the 9114 square metre circus site for about $800,000. It remains unsold.
Cr Wangman’s motion was part of a five-point recommendation the council adopted.
It will now ask state Planning Minister Matthew Guy to allow “ongoing planning discretion is afforded to tourism and leisure businesses”.
That is because of the businesses and other operations on the eastern side of the causeway, such as Hothouse Theatre, art galleries and the farmers’ market.
Such use is “in conflict” with the master plan.
The council further agreed with a fifth point from Cr Wangman that, as part of the plan update, it further investigate more public access to the river.