AFTER going behind closed doors for the second time since being sworn into office, Mayor Clare Stewart found herself being outvoted 6-1 as council refused a Noosa Heads a flood-prone subdivision which did not comply with the Noosa Plan.
There was unanimous councillor support for her motion to close the special meeting session due to the Mitti St lot having been the subject of a legal appeal for a council refusal last year.
“This is unusual and let me reassure the public that as a council we are committed to transparency,” Cr Stewart said.
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She said the close door option was “a necessity due to the fact that the matter that we considering is subject to current legal proceedings”.
“Rest assured that no decisions can be made in a closed session, but it is an opportunity to get advice on legal proceedings without disclosing that advice to other parties in the appeal,” the mayor said.
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The original refusal for a subdivision of one lot into two was to be heard in the Planning and Environment Court in April this year, but was deferred after the applicant proposed a number of potential flooding solutions.
The latest application is for the same subdivision but also seeks approval for a detached house.
Cr Brian Stockwell moved the refusal motion.
“What we’re looking at is an existing single dwelling that had recently had a large extension into a very low section of the lot,” he said.
“Council has previously had reports in the last term of council that raised issues … the staff suggestion was that it was being used as two separate dwellings and therefore in breach of the scheme.
“It is a case of making the hard decision to refuse to hold the principles of the planning scheme in high regard,” Cr Stockwell said.
Council has also raised concerns about possible impacts on the endangered oxelyan pygmy perch and vulnerable aquatic honey blue eyes species which may live nearby.
Cr Stewart said this decision was “a really difficult one, this is a head and a heart one”.
“My heart says absolutely support it (the refusal), my head says no,” she said.
“And this is why, the application in front of us today when assessed against the state planning policy and planning regulation 2017 is consistent.
“The reconfiguration of the lot has no effect on the flooding behaviour of the land.
“The engineering solutions proposed by the applicant would improve the existing flood hazards on the land and reduce off site impacts,” she said.
The mayor was convinced the applicant’s proposals would result in a good outcome “without having to go to court and incur unnecessary costs”.
“If we go to court or if this progresses it will incur potentially significant costs to our community.”
She hoped for a more cost-efficient negotiated settlement might “eradicate the need to spend further ratepayer money” but acknowledged it was important to defend the new Noosa Plan.
“In this case I’m looking at it from a ratepayer cost perspective,” Cr Stewart said.
Cr Amelia Lorentson said: “This is a complex matter and the question to refuse or approve the application is a difficult one.
“What concerns me is how flood amenity has been addressed in this proposal by filling and the fact that the proposal simply does not apply to the outcomes of the new Noosa Plan or the current Noosa Plan,” she said.
Cr Lorentson said to approve the application would be contrary to the planning scheme and “create problematic precedence”.
“This does not sit well with me,” she said.
Cr Joe Juriseic said: “I cannot support the ways and means in which this development proposal’s come before us to be exempted.”
Cr Wilkie said it was very important long term that ratepayers have confidence council will always defend the principles of the planning scheme.
He said this was basically a subdivision in a wetland and he would not like to see Noosa Council “get in the practice” of such approvals.
“I think it’s definitely worth refusing because of the message it sends to the development industry generally,” Cr Wilkie said.
“This is a council that will always defend the planning scheme.”
Council development assessment manager Kerri Coyle has since confirmed the applicant has now reactivated the original appeal with a hearing set down for the first week in June.