Road safety issues continue to feature in Battle of Buderim
A BUDERIM road safety group has re-iterated its concern over the traffic flow impacts of the proposed McKenzie aged care facility on road users and pedestrians.
President of Buderim Safe Brian McBride said the group had identified "major safety issues" with the traffic design, including the implications of a U-turn facility on Burnett St, and the inclusion of Pine St as an emergency and staff access road.
Mr McBride, who often leads a group of up to 60 school children on the popular walk-to-school program in Buderim, said the U-turn facility would force the group to unnecessarily deviate from their normal route, crossing and then re-crossing Burnett St.
Instead of walking on the same side as the facility, they would be forced to cross the road onto the Woolworths side of the street and then cross the Woolworths carpark entrance, which has a zebra crossing but no pedestrian lights.
"It impacts the walk to school program because it will force them to cross to the other side of the road," he said.
"We can cross the traffic at the pedestrian crossing which will slow the kids down but then we have to cross that entry or exit to Woolworths at one of the busiest times of the day."
Member of Buderim Safe Don Culley said this would unnecessarily endanger children's lives.
"It will make (the walk) take longer for them and then make it more difficult to keep control of the children under those conditions whereas now we can have them marshalled quite successfully in a block and protect them against traffic," he said.
"They're on one footpath and we are always between the road, the traffic, and the children.
"This way we are going to exposed sometimes to a situation where we cannot do that."
HUNDREDS of Buderim residents will be sweating on their council fighting for them in a pending legal battle with McKenzie Aged Care over a Burnett St development proposal.
The proposed 140-bed aged care facility has struck roadblocks at present, after Sunshine Coast Council's deferral of a decision at last month's ordinary meeting.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
- Council was set to reject a 140-bed aged care facility proposal at 112 Burnett St, Buderim, over issues regarding proposed height, traffic access and stormwater management.
- Instead of following council officer's recommendations, a deferral motion put forward by Steve Robinson was supported, delaying any decision being made by councillors
- Council looked to negotiate better traffic outcomes with Dept of Transport and Main Roads
- Developers McKenzie Aged Care filed a notice of appeal against a deemed refusal by the council, essentially cutting short negotiations and proceeding the matter to mediation or legal action
That deferral, in order to negotiate better site access and traffic solutions with the Department of Transport and Main Roads sparked an appeal being lodged by developers McKenzie Aged Care on April 28 over a deemed refusal by the council.
If mediation and negotiations can't resolve the current issues which centre mainly around site access, height of the proposed development and stormwater run-off, a costly legal battle will ensue.
Central to that battle will be whether the council holds firm on the issues identified in the officer's recommendations to reject the proposal tabled at last month's meeting.
The proposed development is 4.2m above the planning scheme limit in Buderim at its highest point, while there are major concerns around site access from Burnett St, possible traffic effects on Pine St, and site water run-off management.
Nearly 400 residents made submissions against the proposal, largely focused around Pine St traffic impacts, Burnett St access and other planning issues, including height.
Alternatives to solve the site access issues have been raised, after concerns about a U-turn facility across Burnett St as well as right-turn access to the facility sparked a number of locals, including State MP Steve Dickson, into action opposing the traffic solutions offered.
Among the alternatives, the possibility of a "small roundabout scenario on Burnett St with direct access to the site" was raised by planning portfolio holder Councillor Christian Dickson.
"Obviously this comes with the proviso that no access to Pine St is granted to Burnett St and it remains a closed road," he said.
Cr Dickson also raised the prospect of property acquisition through Sage St, to avoid choke points on Burnett St and unstable traffic flows on Pine St.
Acquisition of land on Sage St may prove difficult, given the property an easement would need to run through is owned by Keith and Karen Neuendorf.
RP Data records show the site of the proposed development (112 Burnett St) was sold by Keith Neuendorf and Gail Mackenzie to Residential Process Services Pty Ltd on July 30, 2014.
ASIC documents show Residential Processing Services Pty Ltd and McKenzie Aged Care Group Pty Ltd have the same directors in Mary-Ann and Sally Anne McKenzie.
The Sage St landowner said the council had not approached him as yet and he would not entertain the prospect of an easement running through his property.
STATE OF PLAY
THE DEVELOPMENT application put forward by McKenzie Aged Care was set to be voted down by councillors at the April ordinary meeting in Nambour.
However a last-minute motion to put off making a decision was put forward by councillor Steve Robinson, to the surprise of both planning portfolio councillor Christian Dickson and divisional councillor Ted Hungerford.
That deferral could have led to a fruitful outcome for both the council and the developer if negotiations with the Department of Transport and Main Roads on better road access outcomes had been successful.
Instead it has led to McKenzie Aged Care taking action against the council, filing a Notice of Appeal with the Planning and Environment Court on April 28, based on the council's deemed refusal of the application.
That means the council will meet soon to discuss what representations it will make in future legal battles unless mediation can succeed.
THERE'S been much community angst over the proposal.
While there is little opposition to the facility being built on the site, residents have expressed serious concerns over the impacts on traffic with proposed right-turn access and a U-turn facility to be imposed on Burnett St.
Water run-off from the site and height were also issues raised by the community, but access to the facility has been by the far the biggest point of contention.
The U-turn facility was widely criticised by both business owners and residents and State MP Steve Dickson expressed his disgust at the decision to green-light the U-turn by the State Government when speaking to the Daily in early January.
Residents have also expressed concerns over the effect the development will have on Pine St, which is set to become an access road to the aged care facility, acting as a staff entry and exit point.
The main fears centred on unstable traffic flow through the residential street, especially if emergency vehicles also utilised that access point to reach the facility.
Alternatives have been floated, including the idea of a roundabout being installed on Burnett St providing direct access to the site, removing the need for right-turn access and U-turn facilities.
Planning portfolio holder Cr Christian Dickson believes that solution may enable Pine St to remain a closed road.
"I still think there's some better options," he said.
"There may be two options on the table, such as an opportunity to get access off Burnett St through a better traffic arrangement or through property acquisition through Sage St."
"I believe a small roundabout scenario on Burnett Street with direct access to the site could be a solution. Obviously this comes with the proviso that no access to Pine Street is granted to Burnett Street and it remains a closed road."
Attunga Cres resident David Feez was quoted last year, when the news of the proposal first broke, as saying Pine St access would have "devastating repercussions".
"We all live in this area because we're not living on a traffic thoroughfare," he said.
"These streets are really an exercise yard for people.
"There are elderly people with their dogs, children riding their skateboards and cycling.
"And there are no sealed footpaths, so they walk on the roads."
McKenzie Group director Sally McKenzie said at the time that they had run extensive traffic studies with local engineers and any impact on local traffic would be "minimal".
Any access through Sage St would require land resumption for a driveway easement.
The Sage St property owner made it clear they had not agreed to any discussion about creating a Sage St entry to the aged care facility and said any idea of an easement on the property would not be entertained.
The owner said no member of the council had approached them about the resumption of the land and said Sage St didn't adjoin the aged care facility land, meaning access via Sage St was not an option.
CR CHRISTIAN Dickson expressed his disappointment at the decision to defer the proposal at last month's meeting.
"Obviously I was quite frustrated and disappointed at the time when council elected to suspend or defer the application," the planning portfolio holder said.
"Obviously I was quite happy with or confident with planners' recommendations for refusal with the key issues being around height going 4.2m over the planning scheme height limit for the Buderim area and also the traffic concerns that residents had for Burnett St.
"I still believe there is much that can be negotiated for a better outcome."
Cr Dickson said he had no doubt an aged care facility was the best use of the land, but said there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed and would now have to be either in mediation or in the Planning and Environment Court.
"Council will be meeting to discuss in the near future our proceedings going forward in terms of what we will be prepared to represent in court," he said.
"I would certainly expect that council would continue to uphold some of those foundations of the planning scheme, around height and also looking at potentially a better way to get traffic in and out of the site.
"There are other ways of making the development but I certainly stand by the fact that an aged care facility is the best use for the site and council should be attempting to settle this matter and get some agreement on moving forward."
Do you think the Sunshine Coast's planning scheme needs revisiting?
This poll ended on 18 May 2016.
Yes. The number of proposals outside the scheme is evidence it needs to be amended.
No. The planning scheme is there for a reason and needs to be defended.
Why can't we look at more of a hybrid model with more flexible planning zones?
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Cr Ted Hungerford echoed his colleague's frustrations at the late change of approach by the council at the April meeting.
He was unsure whether the deferral option taken would prove to be of any advantage to the council in future negotiations or legal proceedings.
Nearby resident Paul Atkinson said he was concerned over the way the deferral had been handled at the meeting, after a bus load of local residents had travelled to Nambour.
Mr Atkinson and a number of other residents have been pushing strongly for an alternative that would see Pine St remain untouched.
He said the feeling among the group was they'd been let down by the council thus far, and were now in a position where they had to decide whether they would align with the council as co-respondents to the appeal.
"We strongly believe the only way to take the stress out of the development process is to give the community a genuine say," Mr Atkinson said on behalf of the residents.
"We felt betrayed by the process of Council as the application hadn't met a range of planning requirements. We were amazed by the decision.
"We feel all Councillors, bar one newly elected, were experienced enough to know this outcome would result."
Mr Atkinson said the group had been put off by what i felt had been a lack of transparency so far from the council and said it made it difficult to envisage working alongside the council through an appeal.
"Most submitters we have spoken to over the last few days have already been frightened off going further with the process with possible heavy costs and lengthy Court sessions," he said.
"We don't see any mention of safety in the appeal document, just a statement about the 'development not resulting in any unreasonable amenity or traffic impacts'.
"We feel insulted by this broad brush statement after 237 of the public's submissions stating 'no access to Pine St should be permitted for safety and amenity reasons'."
A spokeswoman for the developers told the Daily the Federal Government had identified the need for more aged care in Buderim, and based on their past five years managing a facility on Mooloolaba Rd, they too understood the need for high-quality aged care.
"We have presented a sound proposal for a new, government-funded aged care facility to be located at 112 Burnett Street," the spokeswoman said.
"This has included wide ranging and extensive consultation with many senior engineers both privately and within the local Council to ensure that this project has the least impact on the community.
"In earlier preparation we worked closely with the previous owners of the land, who had possession of land this for more than 60 years. The family chose to sell their land to us for an aged care development rather than to a multi-residential developer as they felt that our proposal would better serve the community."
The spokeswoman said they'd received many letters of support from the local community and were looking forward to the application being assessed on its merits, hoping the application process remained "fair and reasonable".
Given the matter is now before the Planning and Environment Court, the council have said they are limited in what it can say.
Last week a council spokesman said the deferral had been resolved to allow for negotiations between the council and DTMR on improved access to the site.
Since that, the Notice of Appeal was served to the council on May 3, meaning it was inappropriate for the council to comment further.
As far as locals are concerned, they have 10 days from when they are served with appeal documentation to decide whether to come on board as co-respondents with the council.
Planning portfolio holder Cr Dickson said he had no doubt that traffic was the main issue for locals surrounding the proposal, but said the challenge to the planning scheme posed by the proposal was also significant.
Divisional councillor Ted Hungerford said he was disappointed with the deferral decision, as it now removed the input councillors had on the process.
"We're out of the picture now," he said.
"I would've rather dealt with it on the day (April meeting).
"I'm all for us defending the town plan."
WHERE TO NOW?
While there's overall support and agreement with the idea of an aged care facility being constructed on the site, it remains to be seen whether the key issues of traffic management, stormwater and height can be resolved.
The Daily understands the council will hold a confidential meeting between councillors, the CEO and council's legal counsel to discuss its options at a date in the near future, with mediation and negotiations with McKenzie Aged Care believed to occur prior to full-scale legal proceedings.
Issues such as cost and the council's approach to any mediation or legal position taken will need to be weighed up closely by locals before they opt whether to align with the council or not.
In the event of a decision being made against the council by the Planning and Environment Court, the Daily understands no guarantee can be given there won't be some costs incurred by the co-respondents, although the council usually carries the bulk of the burden.