JEWEL: Mayor sends development decision to CEO
AFTER a dramatic ordinary meeting full of contest and allegation, the council is still no closer to making a decision on the proposed nine-storey Bargara Jewel high-rise.
The vote was made by just eight councillors after Bill Trevor and Scott Rowleson removed themselves from the decision making process, and Greg Barnes was found to have a conflict of interest, following a business trip to China where they met with developer Sheng Wei.
The application in discussion, which was interestingly moved by Cr Jason Bartels after the room fell silent waiting for planning and development portfolio councillor Ross Sommerfeld to speak up, was a recommendation made by council planners to keep the height limit to 20m.
The 20m recommendation would have restricted the highrise to a maximum of six storeys.
Crs Bartels, Wayne Honor, John Learmonth and Judy Peters voted for the application to keep the current height restrictions.
Crs Sommerfeld, Steve Cooper and Helen Blackburn voted against the 20m height recommendation, with Mayor Jack Dempsey using his casting vote, which effectively gives him two votes, to swing the decision five votes to four.
Chief executive Steve Johnston now has power under delegation to determine the matter after the council failed to make a final decision on the application, which he has until Friday to do.
After the meeting Cr Dempsey said it had been a display of passionate opinion.
"It's great to see the community involvement," he said.
"People from all sides of the issue are putting forward their views about the issue.
"What it shows is that council certainly has different views and it's about people respecting those different views.
"Today what we saw was councillors being able to show those different views."
George Martin is a former town planner and is opposing the nine-storey development.
"The meeting was bizarre to say the least," he said.
"There were two events we didn't really anticipate, where initially councillors voted to remove the divisional councillor from the vote and then the Mayor used his casting vote to reject the town planners' recommendation."
Mr Martin conceded there was probably a lot going on that most in the gallery didn't fully understand but said many of those opposing the nine-storey height were deflated.
"They feel as though their vote has been lost," he said.
"So they feel quite upset about the events that unfolded because Cr Barnes's vote would have likely supported the recommendation from the town planner."
Mr Martin said the Mayor had made a "bold move" in using his casting vote but ultimately said the lack in community consultation was the most disappointing part of the whole situation.
"The problem with this development all the way through is that the community has been left out of it and we continue to be left out of it," he said.
"I think there's a hollow victory in getting to this point but, as one of the councillors pointed out, we're still in the exact same position as we were when we arrived at the meeting this morning.
"Many of us in the opposing camp would be happy if it went to a process which provided input from all members of the community rather than trying to side-step the planning recommendations, side-step the planners' recommendation and approve it without going through any proper community consultation at all."