The proponent of a 239-lot camping ground/events site near Mullum has defended his proposal and claims that Byron Shire Council staff unfairly placed his development application (DA) before the public before all reports and documents were completed.
Located on Coolamon Scenic Drive just north of Mullum opposite the SES HQ, residents have been active in highlighting potential impacts on traffic, amenity, along with fire and flood risks.
But property owner Mark Franklyn told The Echo that potential impacts on traffic, amenity, along with fire and flood risks, are all adequately addressed in his DA, including his vision for a ‘vegan camping ground.’ He says it would cater largely to non-residents seeking spiritual healing/awakening. As they would be mostly bussed in from airports, Franklyn says that will help reduce the impact on traffic.
Remarkably Franklyn says that after receiving a letter from Council staff on March 10 requesting more information on his DA, it was then advertised almost immediately for public submissions.
‘Presenting to the public an incomplete DA has created a lot of angst, he said, adding he provided all the information within 21 days, as requested by staff. Franklyn says traffic and flooding concerns have now been addressed in the updated DA, which also includes a short connecting bike path to the town.
With public submissions closing on April 26, The Echo asked Council staff for confirmation of Franklyn’s claims and whether there will be an extension to public submissions, given the additional information was supplied later.
Acting director sustainable environment and economy Sharyn French told The Echo, ‘It is standard practice to exhibit all DAs as soon as possible.’
She said, ‘The onus is on the applicant to provide all the required information at the time of lodgement. More information can be requested before or after a DA is exhibited and up until the DA is determined. Staff also extended the period for submissions for an additional two weeks for this development application.’
Franklyn told The Echo there won’t be ‘casual camping’ on the property, and denies the size and scale is too large for the area.
He said, ‘All campers will undergo a “presentation process” and this space will only be for people on the inner journey. It’s aimed at attracting events such as Spirit Fest, the Path of Love and Rainbow Yoga, the largest organisation of its kind in Australia. The visions is to offer a range of accommodation for these organisations.’
‘The land has dictated this development – it’s not me,’ he said. ‘There creek that runs through is overgrown with camphor, and I want to invite people to come here and do karma yoga, which helps with rehabilitation. This will be a vegan site, which means there is no ingestion of sorrow, which is a result from eating and killing animals.
Regarding the main yoga building, Franklyn said it designed ‘so 150 people can do yoga in one place,’ and will be soundproofed and air-conditioned. He said, ‘There is a quantum leap in consciousness going on across the planet right now.
And while Franklyn says there will be around 450 capacity, a neighbour told The Echo, ‘239 campsites by law is capable of accomodating 2,800 people’.
‘He can’t believe the town are against it,’ they said. ‘It sounds more and more like it’s a commune.’
Franklyn told The Echo he held a very constructive meeting with around 30 residents last Sunday, yet Missy Moore, who attended, told The Echo, ‘He had an expectation that everyone would accept his vision, but when that was clearly not going to happen, he became unhappy when asked questions.’
‘There is a lack of transparency of what is going on,’ she said. ‘When we were trying to understand what is in it for the community, he said, “You will be able to drive past and see how beautiful the place is.”
Local solicitor Wroth Wall provided The Echo with an objection he prepared for a neighbour, which supports the claim of the number of visitors that could be accommodated.
He wrote, ‘Up to 2,868 visitors could be entitled to stay, along with those in the cabins and staff dwellings. In other words, almost as many people would be entitled to stay on this land at any one time as the number of people that currently reside in Mullumbimby.’
Additionally, local architect/urban planner David Brown challenged the DA’s claim it is ‘small scale rural tourism’. He told The Echo, ‘It’s in a RU2 Rural Landscape zone. Council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP) states one objective is “…small scale rural tourism uses associated with primary production and environmental conservation…”’
‘Can anyone explain how 239 camping and caravan sites, a large yoga hall, a day spa, six cabins, a kiosk, around 70 separate visitor parking spaces, substantial excavation and grading and an oversized “manager’s residence” could, even in the wildest imagination, be considered small scale?
Brown also took aim at the planner’s report in the DA that concludes with, ‘It is recommended that Council approve this blending development which does not alter the rural character of this area…’
‘Please, give me a break! What does “blending development” mean? Is it just another “buzz word” intended to bemuse the public and assessing officers alike?’
As for the applicant’s $1.8 million cost estimate, Brown said he suspects it is ‘well short of reality’.
‘DA 10.2018.110 for 1897 Coolamon Scenic Drive is a bad, inappropriate development. It must be rejected and, if necessary, Council must strongly defend its decision if Land & Environment Court action is a consequence.’