Contentious plans for a tourist accommodation development in Wilsons Creek have been knocked back in dramatic circumstances by Byron Council.
Mayor Simon Richardson initially voted to approve the Development Application for seven cabins and a swimming pool at 58 Montecollum Road at Thursday’s council planning meeting.
But when the councillor vote was locked at 4-4, Cr Richarson used his casting vote to refuse the proposal on the grounds that this better reflected ‘the wishes of the council’.
The owners of the property and their supporters, mistakenly believing that their DA had been approved, burst into spontaneous cheers and applause when Cr Richardson cast the final vote.
But the celebrations turned to anger and disbelief when they realised their plans had been thwarted, with one shouting ‘this is bullshit!’.
Cr Richardson said he changed his vote because he believed that councillor Basil Cameron, who was absent due to ill-health, would have voted against the proposal had he been present.
‘It is my view that the casting vote should reflect the wishes of the council as a whole, not my personal wishes, and I believe Cr Cameron would vote against this, so this is my decision,’ Cr Richardson said.
Earlier, the meeting had been told that the developers had agreed to reduce the size and scale of the proposed development in a bid to gain approval.
This included reducing the size of the pool deck by 30 per cent and reducing the number of cabins from eight to seven.
This was designed to limit the number of guests congregating around the pool at any one time, thereby minimising the potential for excessive noise.
Council staff recommended approval of the development, declaring that it was ‘in accordance with the relevant planning controls that apply to the site and is unlikely to result in significant adverse impacts on the natural or built environment’.
But a group of around 30 Wilson’s Creek residents who attended the meeting strongly disagreed.
Speaking during the public access section of yesterday’s meeting, resident Ben Fawcett said there were ‘numerous anomalies and discrepancies’ between what was proposed and Council’s own policies for development of rural tourist cabins.
This included the location of the cabins on a steep, south-facing slope, the presence of a swimming pool just over 100 metres from neighbours, and the number and clustering of the cabins.
He also said that the rough, poorly-maintained road accessing the proposed development was unsuitable for the amount of traffic it would have to take, the impacts of which would be most keenly felt by neighbouring properties.
Independent councillor Cate Coorey put forward a motion that Council refuse consent for the development, and this was ultimately passed using the mayor’s casting vote.