Popular Bus Stop shop-stop fears over zoning issue

AN APPLICATION for a material change of use (MCU) for a popular coffee vendor/local produce outlet on Cooroy’s town fringe has received qualified support from Noosa councillors, despite a staff recommendation to refuse it.

Bus Stop Espresso on Mary River Rd, which opened a year ago and has attracted massive local support, is seeking to adjust its status on the basis that it be allowed to continue to sell coffee and basic hot food items.

The venue features a 1948 Melbourne omnibus, which has become somewhat of a tourist attraction in itself, and the premises’ open-air environment has encouraged local friendships and proved a sanctuary for some otherwise isolated residents during the Covid pandemic.

The application was made following a complaint which resulted in council staff visiting the business to assess it compliance.

Under its current permitted status as a ‘roadside stall’, selling drinks such as coffee constitutes ‘dining’ and is thus in breach of its current permit.

The primary concern of council planning staff is that to allow it to continue selling coffee (which is manufactured only three properties away from the bus location), it could set a precedent where it would “open [the doors] to lots of coffee shops all over the hinterland”.

Additionally, without an impact assessment, the applicant has deprived the community of an opportunity to have its say, development assessment manager Kerri Coyle said.

Councillors at Tuesday’s Planning and Environment sub-committee meeting asked staff to look at options for how to add conditions in order for the business to meet Noosa Plan guidelines, following a motion by Cr Brian Stockwell, however it is still likely the business will need to apply for an impact assessable approval.

Cr Stockwell’s motion, unanimously passed, asked for council staff to explore whether the business could qualify under rural tourism applications and to “liaise with the applicant to determine its priorities”.

Councillor Tom Wegener said fears of the business setting a precedent for coffee shops across the hinterland would be unlikely as the Bus Stop business was in a completely unique setting, located in a gazetted cul-de-sac on private property, with ample off-road parking for more than 20 vehicles.

Cr Amelia Lorentson asked how much “weighting” was made by aspects such as community popularity in deciding the merits of an application; Ms Coyle replied that it was considered “when the correct application is being made in the first place”.

It is likely the business will meanwhile be able to continue operations while processes are followed through.

On Monday, councillors visited the site to evaluate its merits and talk to customers. 

A large number of residents and users have emailed council to declare their support for the business, including two car clubs who are regular attendees, who value the ability to be able to park their vehicles safely on the site and avoid traffic congestion if they parked in urban areas.

As things currently stand, under a ‘roadside stall’, the business would have to give up selling coffee and other drinks unless they were merely ‘tastings’, and customers could not sit down (thus constituting ‘dining’), and a new, local sourdough bread manufacturer would have to cease delivering its products to the bus.

The application will be discussed by the full council at its general committee meeting next Tuesday, April 19.


Leave a Reply