Ex-councillors recall lead-up to crucial Sekisui decision
Former Coast councillors tasked with deciding the fate of the controversial Yaroomba Beach proposal by Sekisui House have spoken out after revelations planners had been set to recommend refusal of the billion-dollar development.
The five former councillors who took part in the all-important vote in June, 2018, were Tim Dwyer, John Connolly, Greg Rogerson, Jenny McKay and Steve Robinson.
Mr Rogerson and Ms McKay voted against the proposal after officers had recommended its approval while Mr Dwyer, Mr Connolly and Mr Robinson voted in favour of the development.
Ms McKay, the former Division 5 representative, said she would not have known officers had been considering a refusal recommendation as she was not involved in the planning department.
She said she didn't know which way planners were thinking in their assessment prior to the report coming before councillors.
She said she'd always had a "lot of concerns" about the proposal and said if she had her time over again she wished the council had purchased the site.
"At the end of the day I just thought it (proposal) was all too much," Ms McKay said.
She said public access issues had remained a major hurdle in her mind.
Former deputy mayor Tim Dwyer said he too had not known officers had been contemplating recommending refusal ahead of the report that was provided to councillors recommending approval.
He said he commonly met with supporters and opponents of proposals in the lead-up, but once proposals were in the assessment phase he "kept his head right out".
"I had no idea where they (planners) were at," Mr Dwyer said.
He said he felt officers had been sitting on the fence to a degree, given the level of public interest in the project.
"To an extent it doesn't surprise me," he said.
He said he didn't think his vote would've changed had he known officers had been set to recommend a refusal just weeks before the project was given the green light.
Mr Dwyer said he'd been more focused on the long-term benefits of the project, with tourism and economic impacts coupled with the Infrastructure Agreement strong enough to justify its approval.
Former Division 4 councillor John Connolly said it was not uncommon for proposals to go "backwards and forwards", particularly ones of the scale of Yaroomba Beach.
He said he understood the project had moved between approval and refusal in a series of meetings before the decision was made, as was expected with such a high-profile project.
Mr Connolly said it wasn't unusual for projects to "fluctuate" back and forth, given the number of issues involved.
"It was never going to be an easy approval," he said.
He said the bureaucratic arm worked through the assessments then handed the reports up to the political arm to make a decision.
Mr Connolly said he'd been satisfied with the environmental and height issues but traffic had caused him some concern.
"I was incredibly comfortable with the economic outcome," he said.
He suggested several councillors would've known the proposal had been shifting between approval and refusal during assessment, but at no stage did he feel there was any influence being applied to deliver an outcome either way.
Former Division 10 councillor Greg Rogerson said he was not aware officers had been preparing to recommend a refusal.
He said he estimated if the council officers had recommended refusal there were some councillors whose vote would've followed and the proposal may not have received the tick.
Mr Rogerson said initially he had been supportive of a five to six star resort, but when he became aware of the number of lots proposed between the resort and the dunes he felt convinced the proponents were not serious about delivering an iconic resort at the site.
He said he felt the resort had been a way of getting a "major residential development into that facility" which prompted him to vote against the proposal.
He said he didn't believe the height was an issue but traffic management had been and still remained a major concern for him.
Former planning portfolio holder Cr Christian Dickson earlier this week said he was not aware at any stage that a refusal had been "proposed and reviewed by senior staff including those from Strategic Planning and Economic Development", prior to the presentation of the council officer's report which recommended approval in June, 2018.
The Daily was unable to contact former Division 9 councillor Steve Robinson for comment.