THE Sunshine Coast Council has finally formed rank on a controversial aged care development in Buderim, and could be preparing to "vigorously defend" its stance in court.
At its June 16 Ordinary Meeting the council passed a unanimous resolution against the Burnett St development, citing height, traffic access, and stormwater concerns.
The resolution, moved by Division 7 councillor Ted Hungerford and seconded by Division 4 councillor John Connolly, is a showing of unity by a council which only two months ago voted 6-5 to defer making a decision on the development.
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This deferral back in April triggered a legal right for the developer to appeal the 'deemed refusal' - opening the door for a costly legal battle for the council.
The resolution gives some insight into the council's official position should any future legal proceedings go ahead, with the council stating there were "no reasons" to approve the development as it currently stood.
- Council was set to reject a 140-bed aged care facility proposal at 112 Burnett St, Buderim, over issues regarding proposed height, traffic access and stormwater management.
- The state government approved a controversial U-turn facility out of the development earlier this year
- Instead of following council officers' recommendations, a deferral motion put forward by Steve Robinson was supported, delaying any decision being made by councillors
- Council looked to negotiate better traffic outcomes with Dept of Transport and Main Roads
- Developers McKenzie Aged Care filed a notice of appeal against a deemed refusal by the council, essentially cutting short negotiations and proceeding the matter to mediation or legal action
- Residents sought a judicial review over the council's decision-making process to defer the decision
- Council has now passed a unanimous resolution saying there are "no reasons" to support the development. This will serve as an indication of the council's official view should the matter go to court.
It comes after weeks of uncertainty as to the council's view on the proposal, following a "frustrating" and "disappointing" Ordinary Meeting on April 21 during which two councillors were "blindsided" by their colleagues.
Cr Hungerford and Division 6 councillor Christian Dickson were set to recommend refusal of the application when it came before council in April but were silenced by a late deferral motion carried which cut short debate and triggered the deemed refusal.
Councillor Steve Robinson, who put the motion for deferral forward, said the deferral had been promoted in a bid to further negotiate with the State Government to overcome site access issues, however those negotiations were cut short by the developers who filed their appeal against the deemed refusal soon after the deferral motion had passed.
Developers McKenzie Aged Care exercised their right to appeal the council's 'deemed refusal' by lodging an appeal with the Planning and Environment court on April 28.
Though the matter may still culminate in court proceedings, Cr Hungerford said the resolution united all councillors into a collective position and would now allow the council to "vigorously defend" the matter. "Council is now committed to fully defending the refusal, because all those issues have to be dealt with," he said. "I was very pleased to get that (resolution) finally there."
He described the April Ordinary Meeting as an "ambush".
"That deferral the other day, I was ambushed, that was nonsense," he said.
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- Battle of Buderim begins as developer appeals 'deemed refusal'
- Residents seek judicial review of council process
It remains unclear why why councillors voted 5-4 to defer the matter at its April 21 Ordinary Meeting, only to fall into line by June 16.
It means the council's official position is now identical to the position originally advocated for by Buderim councillors Christian Dickson and Ted Hungerford in April.
"We should have recommended it for refusal and got on with it because we've ended up there anyway," Cr Hungerford said.
He said any potential legal case would be costly. "Every time we've got a court case coming up we budget for $50,000 straight up. "It usually goes to much more than that but that's your starting figure.
"These things don't happen overnight, it could take until December to be resolved."
Developers McKenzie Aged Care declined to comment for this story.
Cr Hungerford said the key next step now would be getting the department of Transport and Main Roads to be involved in negotiating traffic access to the site.
"We need to have them at the table because it's critically important to be control of the issue there," he said.
"Because it's their road, council can say that we don't deem it appropriate, but if Main Roads aren't at the table we can't force anything onto their road system."
The department of Transport and Main Roads did not provide a comment before deadline.
"They've got to be there to be part of the negotiations."
A TMR spokesperson said there had been no formal negotiations with the council since December last year and the State Assessment Referral Agency was responsible for determining any conditions of approval.
"TMR's role is to provide advice and recommendations about safe access to the proposed development, under SARA's procedures," the spokesperson said.
The Sunshine Coast Daily has requested comment from Main Roads on its willingness to be involved in future negotiations, which has not yet been answered.
The McKenzie Group developers said they would not be commenting at this stage.
Member for Buderim Steve Dickson said there was "no better" outcome than the council's official resolution.
"I couldn't have asked for anything better," he said.
"It will now give the council the opportunity to also... come up with a negotiated outcome (with the developer).
"The judge always sends both parties away (to negotiate). Is there a better solution, let's look at a better way to get in and out of that property."
Buderim resident Paul Atkinson said residents living near to the development, especially those who had decided to join council as co-respondents to the proceedings, were pleased at the outcome.
The development has been controversial in Buderim since it was first proposed in June last year, with main concerns about the development's proposed access onto quiet cul-de-sac Pine St as well as a U-turn exit onto Burnett St.
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