A Land and Environment Court battle is looming over plans for a sprawling wellness retreat centre and campsite on the edge of Mullumbimby.
The owner of the Coolamon Scenic Drive property, Mark Franklyn, wants to create a retreat complex with a day spa, hall, 12 cabins and 122 campsites on the 16.6 hectare site.
But Byron Council has refused his development application on the grounds of ecological impacts and bushfire risk.
The council also says the proposal is inconsistent with the Byron Local Environment Plan (LEP) which specifies that rural tourism can only be approved if it is ‘small scale’.
Mr Franklyn has now appealed this decision to the Land and Environment Court.
In a report to Council’s planning committee meeting, council staff recommended in favour of defending the appeal, setting the scene for a what could be a long and costly court battle.
‘Not defending the appeal will allow it to be determined solely on the applicant’s case,’ council’s major projects planner, Rob Van Iersel said.
‘Given the significance of the issues associated with this application, this option is not recommended.’
Mr Van Iersel notes in the report that the external solicitors engaged by Council to act on its behalf in the matter provided a fee estimate of $43,900.
Council’s General Manager has the authority to pursue legal proceedings on the council’s behalf in matters where the cost will not exceed $50,000.
The matter has already come before the courts once, on January 21, when Council was successful in a pre-trial dispute.
While Council deems the current development proposal to be too large, it is a significant reduction in size from Mr Franklyn’s first application, which involved 239 campsites and a day spa building with a different design.
Both applications were the subject of hundreds of letters of objection from the community while on public exhibition, with the most recent proposal drawing 269 letters of objection and 28 letters of support.
Council’s planning committee meeting will consider the matter on February 21.