Australia's largest residential developer has gone public with its bid to transform Michelago, despite concerns the village 60-kilometres south of Canberra could become a satellite suburb.
With a plan to construct a mix of higher and lower-density residential buildings in the town of around 500, Geocon's proposal would require major investment in Michelago, which currently has no connection to water and sewerage services.
Michelago General Store co-proprietor Sally Connolly has lived down the road in Bredbo for more than 27 years.
She said with no household waste collection, free-to-air television, national broadband, or a reliable telephone provider, basic service provision of existing residents should be a priority.
"The local roads are really quite atrocious, as it does develop there's more vehicles and they need more maintenance which isn't really happening," Ms Connolly said.
A major Michelago landholder, Geocon's plan for the village was presented this week, despite Snowy Monaro Regional Council currently undertaking community consultation for development.
In its draft plan, Snowy Monaro Council warns Michelago is under pressure from developers seeking to create another Royalla or Murrumbateman, to meet demand for housing near Canberra.
"Michelago is at a crossroads where it could either remain a rural village or grow into a small town," council notes.
"Above all else, any future development must be appropriate in both density and scale to avoid over development of the town."
Connected by the Monaro Highway, the region bordered by Queanbeyan in the north and Cooma in the south is expected to have the largest population increase of any area within the municipality, largely concentrated in Michelago, council analysis has found.
If water and sewerage issues can be addressed, around 2000 of the projected population of 2660 for the "Canberra Corridor" could be located in Michelago.
While a projection to make Geocon's plan profitable was not provided by consultancy firm Cardno this week, a spokesperson for the Michelago Region Community Association said it forecast 5000-10,000 people in previous meetings.
Association member Brent Wallis said the consultants had announced they were there to listen to the community.
"They advised that that they could not answer any questions about potential population numbers, lot sizes, or other details requested by attendees," Mr Wallis said.
"Many residents expressed disbelief that a developer had not considered population numbers and lot sizes."
Snowy Monaro Council development coordinator Gina McConkey said the community consultation process which had taken place so far had found people valued the small village feel.
"Higher density types of developments is not something that they'd be looking at," Ms McConkey said.
"In terms of Geocon themselves, they've presented a high-level concept plan to the community which is an alternate to what council was looking at.
"My understanding is that it's been met with mixed reactions."
While Cardno representatives told residents they were examining options for water supply, including deep drilling, Ms McConkey said water was one of the major obstacles to any type of growth in Michelago.
The ACT government shared the concern, flagging in a submission to council it was not in a position to supply the Snowy Monaro region.
In its submission, the ACT government has also warned of the potential environmental impact of developing the corridor, including higher emissions due to residents commuting to Canberra, damage to Namadgi National Park as a result of population growth and increased bushfire risk.
"The proposed areas of growth close to the ACT border would result in potentially increased ignition risk, and increased reliance on the ACT fire management capability to protect properties," the submission states.
"The ACT government supports appropriate levels of expansion for existing towns in the Canberra Region, however the [Planning and Land Use Discussion] paper notes that there is demand to grow Michelago 'possibly even to a town that would rival Cooma'."
"The proximity of Michelago to Canberra (a one hour journey by car) presents initial concerns with respect to its proposed expansion.
"We note that as the rates would go to the region while the residents would benefit from Canberra's services, from an ACT perspective it is important to consider the associated revenue implications of Michelago residents requiring many services from Canberra."
In notes taken at the meeting, the community association said it had been calling for a Michelago masterplan to ensure the future direction of the village takes into account community sentiment, rather then be left to developers, for more than a decade.
Ms Connolly said it was a positive that consultation was underway and the needs of the community were being taken into account.
"Being so close to Canberra, I think most people who live and work in the area know that it's going to grow," she said.
"The positive thing is that we've got communication with one of the major landholders which is Geocon and with council."
In the last six weeks, Geocon has settled about $130 million-worth of apartments across two buildings, Dusk and Republic, at its Republic precinct in Belconnen. It is Australia's largest residential development under construction with about 1300 apartments.
A spokesperson for Geocon, whose current projects include Dusk and Republic in Belconnen, initially denied a plan was presented to Michelago this week, before conceding their consultant had held a community meeting.
The consultants told residents there was currently no plans to develop the large land lots along the Monaro Highway, also owned by Geocon.
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