Despite an impassioned speech by Cr Amelia Lorentson, an application to approve a 32-dwelling community and affordable housing project in Cooroy, Noosa Council voted 5:2 to reject it, following the staff recommendation.
The proposal was designed to offer affordable accommodation for vulnerable women and children, which would also ensure the houses and units would remain in the hands of not-for-profit organisations.
But while councillors at the August 14th General Committee meeting all acknowledged the design, intent and wisdom of the proposal, the Carpenters Rd location, situated behind Cooroy’s main industrial estate, fell short of numerous provisions of the Noosa Plan, not least for the location being on rural residential land, outside the designated Cooroy urban area.
Cr Lorentson put an alternative motion to the staff refusal, asking that councillors seek a further report on how to overcome the application’s shortcomings, pointing out that more than 300 properly made submissions were received in support of the proposal (Twelve objections were also received).
“The sobering facts are that there are more than 2800 people in the Sunshine Coast on the waitlist for housing, with more than half high-need,” Cr Lorentson said.
“One in four applications were from single parents, and the average waiting time is two-and-a-half years”.
“Women over 55 [comprised] the biggest group.”
She said staff were not wrong in their assessment but “we can’t take no for an answer”.
“A bed anywhere is better than sleeping on the floor of a toilet,” she said.
But councillor after councillor, while extolling the virtues of the proposal, expressed concerns identified by staff, including fire hazard with only one road entry, flooding potential, isolation with the potential for crime, no lighting, no opportunity for social integration into the wider community and access to shops, transport and services.
Deputy mayor Frank Wilkie said the proposal was a “wonderful concept – but it is in the wrong place”.
He spoke of the work already advanced in the creation of social and affordable housing across the shire in tandem with state and not-for-profit housing organisations.
Cr Tom Wegener said he had walked the road to the site in the dark and said it wasn’t something he wished to do again in its current form.
Cr Brian Stockwell said the proposal was “a great product” but did not sit well from a longer-term planning point of view.
Mayor Clare Stewart gave the amendment her support, saying Cr Lorentson was merely trying to approve an additional report, “highly conditioned” to cater for its shortcomings and compared it to other projects in the making.
“These [projects] are plans; we have something right here and right now,” she said.
The amendment was defeated 5:2 (for: Crs Lorentson, Stewart); (against: Crs Wilkie, Stockwell, Finzel, Wegener, Jurisevic). The staff recommendation to refuse the application was endorsed in the same vote split.