Planning rules could be loosened to allow former Tauranga MP Bob Clarkson to build a thousand fixed-price affordable homes at Tauriko.
The Tauranga City Council has swung its weight behind a review on whether to allow development outside the city's urban limits.
Councillors were debating their response to some of the key issues driving the review of SmartGrowth - the planning document that sets out where residential development can occur in the Western Bay in order to protect fertile soils.
Although the majority of the council supported retaining the controls on how far housing was allowed to spread, it also agreed to reconsider whether, in keeping urban limits, the correct balance has been struck between certainty and flexibility.
The council has asked that SmartGrowth's implementation committee review the criteria for ongoing urban development.
Council growth funding and policy advisor Andrew Mead said the review of the criteria should apply to exceptional circumstances, such as if Mr Clarkson was able to convince the council that there was no other land for heavy buildings except his land.
Mr Clarkson told the Bay of Plenty Times that he was quite excited by the decision. "But I am getting older all the time and it needs some quick action."
He said his meetings with SmartGrowth officials had seen them ask him questions, rather than the other way around. "I have noticed a change in the last six months. I am getting the feeling that maybe someone is listening."
Council environmental policy manager Andy Ralph told the recent council that urban limits provided a high degree of certainty that infrastructure investments by the council and other authorities like the New Zealand Transport Agency would not be compromised by growth occurring in areas where it was not expected.
He said urban limits also promoted a more compact city with shorter travel distances, greater use of public transport and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Although there was an argument that urban limits drove up the cost of land where demand exceeded supply, he said this was not the case in the Western Bay of Plenty where there was enough residential zoned and serviced land to meet demand for many years. There was also land zoned for future development.
Councillor Rick Curach said removing urban limits would be a good move politically. It meant a developer outside the boundary could come to the council with a proposal that was currently in the "too hard basket".
He was supported by Councillor Larry Baldock who said that "urban limits" was an old planning phrase.
Cr Baldock said he was not suggesting getting rid of planning controls. "Let's look at more flexibility ... let's be at the cutting edge of new thinking."
He said he did not want to throw all the fertile soils away but there had to be some flexibility. "Not an awful lot of ground will be gobbled up."
Mayor Stuart Crosby said he was "quite nervous" about a carte-blanch removal of urban limits, saying it could send the council broke and create chaos.
"Is there a better way of doing it other than sequential development?" he asked.