A $95 MILLION eco tourism resort dubbed a game-changer by developers has hit a major hurdle with council officers recommending refusal of the project as it's too risky.
The Badderam Eco Luxe Resort and Spa is proposed to be built across a 4ha site at 24-26 Box St, Buderim, by 2025.
The 125-room, 7-star project proposed for the southern escarpment of Buderim Mountain has been touted as an economic game-changer for one of the Sunshine Coast's most historic villages, with Badderam creative director and land owner Heidi Meyer tipping the proposal to bring in as many as 55,000 visitors a year, delivering $35m to the local economy.
But Sunshine Coast Council officers have recommended refusal of the project.
Sunshine Coast Division 6 Councillor and planning portfolio holder Christian Dickson said the officers' report, which was yet to be made public, outlined a number of issues with the proposal, which he said would become the single largest geotechnical development in Buderim's history.
"It's the biggest excavation exercise ever in terms of development," he said.
Landslip risks were at the forefront of Cr Dickson's mind and he was concerned the council would be liable if it approved the development, in the event of a future disaster.
"This is a huge risk for a potential landslide," Cr Dickson said.
He said traffic on the "small" Box St was also an issue, as was the "size, bulk and scale and visual amenity" of the project, which he said would dominate the escarpment.
"Most of the site's over 20% (slope), which is pretty risky," he said.
In a series of emails to the Daily, Mrs Meyer said the site was not a geo hazard, as they'd employed Geoff Hurley - a man she said the council had used five years ago to write the Buderim Land Slip and Geo Technical Hazard codes - to carry out testing of the site.
"The site has undergone extensive geotechnical testing, and the proposal will be low risk, stable and suitable for purpose," she said.
"In fact, the escarpment will become more stable as a result of the Badderam development."
She also explained they would upgrade Box St, providing a "safe turning area and a footpath".
Mrs Meyer and her husband, Kim Carroll, purchased the block in March, 2014, for $2.3m, according to RP Data.
In an updated economic benefit report submitted to the council last month it was estimated 290 full-time equivalent workers would be employed during construction, with a total wage and salary base of about $21.85m.
Up to 200 resort workers, including casual and part-time, were expected to be employed each year once operational, while turnover and economic benefits to the region were estimated at $25m a year.
Three restaurants, three lounges, a 10-room wellness day spa, gym, yoga studio, pools, wine tasting deck and cellar, function and conference facilities, library and on-site parking for 177 vehicles were included in the proposed development.
Mrs Meyer said via email the resort could "quite possible (sic) be the safest resort sitting on a hillside, in the world. Far safer than if Badderam were to not proceed" if built to the right specifications.
She took a swipe at the council, saying Badderam was "so far out of the box they don't know what to do with it" and feared Buderim would now be inundated with "more of the same" flats and nursing homes.
"If we are going to have traffic let's put something here that we and our guests, our kids, our families can benefit from economically, enjoy and be proud of," she wrote.
She called on divisional councillor Ted Hungerford to bring the development to a public council meeting to be voted on.
"Ted is more concerned with what the Buderim public have to say, than our team," Mrs Meyer wrote.
Cr Hungerford said he'd fought "tooth and nail" to protect the Buderim escarpments in the 2014 Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme, and had been surprised to see the developers lobbying councillors now to approve the project.
"It's so far outside the town plan it's not funny," Cr Hungerford said.
"If I was to go against the town plan I would only do it on sound planning grounds."
He said the risk of landslip was weighing heavily on his mind.
"I've had a whole swag of landslips around Buderim on old DAs (development approvals)," Cr Hungerford said.
"They're only small-scale compared to this."
The proposal is being assessed under the Maroochy Plan 2000, which Cr Dickson said allowed only limited development on the site and nothing of the scale being proposed.
He said the updated 2014 planning scheme had gone a step further and ruled out any development on the site.
"It's called erring on the side of caution," Cr Dickson said.
He said the proposed bulk of the building, which included up to 55m of vertical built form on the side of Buderim Mountain, did not align with the desired treatment of the Buderim escarpment.
Cr Dickson said the development was inconsistent with the maximum density envisaged for the Buderim Non-Urban Precinct.
He added the development would require "extensive earthworks with large cuts and retaining walls of up to 8.9m".
"The development proposes 110,000 tonnes of material to be excavated and removed from the site within a 30-month construction period," Cr Dickson said.
"The extent and scale of earthworks and ongoing geotechnical requirements to protect against landslip present a level of risk to council that is not able to be accepted at this point."
Project Urban director and town planner for the Badderam proposal, Kari Stephens, said their consultants had estimated the scale of earthmoving to be only about 45,000 cubic metres.
She said another leading geotech consulting firm had also supported the findings of Mr Hurley that the project was a low-risk one in terms of landslip potential.
"It's a landmark building... a unique development that the Sunshine Coast has never seen before," Ms Stephens said.
A number of townhouses and units have been approved on adjoining properties and supporters of the project have been making themselves known to councillors.
Long-time local Alan Thornton has been a vocal supporter of the project, and others, including individuals and the 4556 Chamber of Commerce have also urged the council to approve the project.
Both Crs Dickson and Hungerford said they had no intention of bringing the proposal to a council meeting, allowing councillors to vote on the project and possibly ignore the advice of council officers.
Mrs Meyer said the project was one borne out of a desire to serve the local community and provide it with significant infrastructure and employment opportunities.
She said everyone from 16-year-olds to 80-year-olds had been consulted in hatching the plans for the eco resort, a project they decided to explore after development approvals were granted for properties next door, and their desire to see more than just residential development unfold.
She said Mr Hurley, a vastly experience geotech expert, had his findings that the project was low-risk backed up by another leading firm, and she couldn't understand why the council had decided it was too high of a risk.
"There is no geo hazard," Mrs Meyer explained.
She said they'd spent three years and $600,000 on developing the project and had a team of 42 people working on the proposal.
"We're in shock," she said.
"Why was our project handled that way?"
She urged the Buderim community to band together and show its support for the project by emailing councillors, asking one of them to bring the proposal to a public council meeting and allow a vote on it.
She said if the community desire for the project was still strong they would probably explore legal action options to see the eco resort brought to fruition.
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