'Unique application': Fee discount approved for eco-resort
THE council has approved a $101,000 infrastructure discount on a "unique” nature-based tourism resort at Agnes Water despite being advised against it.
The proponent, Zone Planning Group, had its original development application approved in 2017 but the application has since undergone numerous amendments.
One amendment related to Gladstone Regional Council's Infrastructure Charges Economic Development Incentive Scheme Policy.
The policy was adopted in July last year and allows a 50 per cent discount on development applications which "deliver economic development and growth outcomes that align with council's Economic Development Strategy and Planning Scheme”.
The policy allows a maximum concession value of up to $500,000 and comes with set criteria. The proponent failed to meet two of the three criteria.
However, despite not meeting the prerequisites of the policy, the council agreed on the discount due to the development being a "unique application”.
The two criteria the proponent failed to meet related to the timing of the application, and that it needed to be within a Priority Infrastructure Area.
The proposed 74-site eco-resort would feature bungalow-style accommodation built across three stages on land at 2546 Round Hill Rd.
The biggest issue facing councillors involved the location - 1.8km from the nearest boundary of the PIA.
Cr Kahn Goodluck raised concerns about giving a ratepayer subsidy to a development outside of the priority area, although acting mayor Chris Trevor argued that "it's for eco-tourism not a shopping centre”.
"My argument ... is that it's an eco-tourism enterprise and from my view, after reading the documentation, is that it will have a minimal impact on our infrastructure because it's being built in the bush,” Cr Trevor said during yesterday's meeting.
"You would expect an eco-tourism resort outside the PIA because eco-tourism is built in the bush not in the middle of the city.
"I could understand the objection regarding the PIA if we were building a supermarket on that block of land (with) requirements to build a better road, sewerage and water.
"Given the particular development they are seeking a reduction on, and given that community relies almost entirely on tourism and this is a tourism development which is going to improve the amenity in the area and hopefully stimulate some extra visitors, I'm arguing for it.”
Cr Trevor argued that it can be "looked at as an exception to the rule when dealing with matters outside the PIA because of the particular speciality of the project they're proposing” and said he couldn't see an impact on the council's infrastructure.
Cr Goodluck argued a request for a 1.8km footpath from the proposed site to the Agnes Water township could come before council in the future, therefore putting additional strain on ratepayers if it were to be constructed.
An alternative motion was raised - listing the application as "unique application as a nature based tourism project”, which was voted on and passed by four votes to three.
Mayor Matt Burnett (absent) and Cr Desley O'Grady (conflict of interest) did not vote on the matter.
The applicant has not yet submitted the Operational Works or any Building, Plumbing and Drainage Works applications that are required to action the existing 2017 approval.
In order to maintain eligibility for the discount, Stage 1 must be completed by March 12 next year.
The developer was contacted for comment but didn't wish to respond until informed by the council on the decision.