Controversial Bargara high-rise could be a growth catalyst
A CONTROVERSIAL development proposed for the Bargara Esplanade could be a "key economic driver for the region", according to a council planning officer.
Yesterday Bundaberg Regional Council development assessment manager Richard Jenner told the NewsMail the nine-storey project had the potential to be a catalyst for investment and growth.
"This is the first significant building proposal of its type in the last 12 years in Bargara," Mr Jenner said.
"New development proposals of this type have the potential to increase developer confidence in our region."
The company behind the development, Esplanade Jewel, is currently in the information and referral stage of the assessment process.
Legislative steps guiding development assessment for all councils are set out by the State Government.
Mr Jenner said the Queensland Government could "call in" an application at any point during the four-stage assessment process.
If council were to approve the development, the State Government could choose to replace the assessment manager and do their own independent assessment.
However, to be of state interest the matter would have to affect the economic or environmental interest of the state or a part of the state, according to the Planning Act 2016.
The application didn't trigger any referral because it didn't have the features they deem relevant to warrant an assessment," Mr Jenner said.
And although the proposed building's height has been the number one talking point among residents, he said the referral was not based on building height.
He said the State Government regulated development across all areas of Queensland, not just in Bargara but in places like the Gold Coast, where a nine-storey building would not be considered of much consequence.
"So they don't have any direct referral assessment requirement about height matters," he said.
Mr Jenner said despite the ongoing public interest both for and against the development, the council and its assessing officers' focus was on an assessment against the council's planning scheme and in accordance with the relevant legislation, "rather than more actively on the broader public sentiment".
"We appreciate people have broader views and that there is a wide range of public sentiment on it," Mr Jenner said.
"(But) this application is code-assessable against the planning scheme; so it doesn't have a formal public notification period like an impact-assessable application would."
In favour of the development were some residents who hoped the proposed project would lead to an influx of jobs.
But, if the development was approved, council planners would not have power to direct where the work came from.
It's not really a planning matter for consideration. Obviously a development of that type would have to have a labour source, but whether that labour is sourced primarily locally or externally would be a matter for the applicant to discuss," Mr Jenner said.
One of the driving arguments against the development is the potential impact the high-rise could have on nesting sea turtles and stormwater pollution.
"The lighting from the building itself could potentially impact on the ocean, disorientating nesting sea turtles ... instead of heading to the moonlight they head to the shore and their chances of survival are diminished," Mr Jenner said.
Mr Jenner said council planners had a "nuisance code" that aimed to deal with the effects of "light spillage" .
He said the council's planners would tackle the possible environmental issues by imposing certain conditions if the development was approved.
Some solutions could include tailored lighting types and placement and using screens and tinted windows.
He said council planners would also want to ensure all stormwater was stripped of pollutants by installing on-site water quality infrastructure.
Esplanade Jewel Pty Ltd has until June 20 to answer the request for further information council sent on March 26.
This deadline can be extended if agreed upon by the council. The developers have no obligation to answer all or any of the questions submitted after the project plan was lodged.
"It is an applicant-driven process, we just put it through the assessment process," Mr Jenner told the NewsMail.
If the development is refused or if conditions are imposed which Esplanade Jewel Pty Ltd disagrees with, they can take legal action and appeal the decision in the Planning and Environment Court.
Once the developers' deadline is up and the decision phase begins, planning officers will present the full council with their recommendation.
Council has 35 business days from that time to vote and reach a decision.
Any members of the public interested in the proposal are encouraged to visit Bundaberg Regional Council and speak with a planning officer.