THE wrangle over a mystery privately-owned beachfront block in Quindalup is heading for a costly outcome.
Busselton City Council decided unanimously at a special meeting on Monday night to reject a development application for a house on the 2.97ha site.
Though recommending that course of action an officer’s report to council said refusal was likely to result in continuing proceedings at the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT), which would result in a significant cost to the city defending the decision, which was likely to be tens of thousands of dollars.
Though acknowledging the lot (which has trebled from its original size of 1000sqm through beach accretion, as it is to the high water mark) is privately owned the city found itself in a difficult situation.
A history of the land, which had been designated as a reserve for recreation has shown it took around 40 years to surface that it was privately owned, and it had been considered a public reserve over that time.
If the council had approved the development application by lot owners Commercial Estates, which acquired the lot in 1970, it may have encouraged the owner to seek a higher density residential outcome down the track, the report indicated.
Representatives for the owners approached the city last August seeking a response to a development concept illustrating the creation of 11 lots on the block.
The city outlined this in a response to objections to approving the development application.
“Should development approval be provided on this proposal there is some potential for the owner/future owners to apply for a greater density of development (such as the 11 lot subdivision proposal initially submitted in 2011).”
According to the officer’s report, when the lot was first designated as a reserve for recreation in the shire’s Town Planning Scheme there was no freehold title to the land.
However, it was appropriate for the council to assume that there was a valid freehold title to the land and it should set aside any consideration relating to the tenure of the land.
The consultant for the owners, former Busselton shire CEO Michael Swift, said there was no assumption the land was privately owned; it should be acknowledged, as Landgate had issued a certificate of title for it.
He said the proposed residence was a stock standard two storey home typical of others in the area and there was nothing unusual about it.
His role was to provide professional advice to open up dialogue between the owners and city, which he thought he had been “spectacularly unsuccessful”.
Mr Swift said there was no claim for compensation.
He indicated two outcomes, either the city resuming the land if it “couldn’t tolerate” any development on it or approve the application, otherwise it would remain in limbo.
All councillors at the meeting endorsed the officer’s recommendation that the application for a single house be considered to be inconsistent with the city’s TPS and the orderly and proper planning of that locality and the preservation of the amenities there.
“This issue will now be considered at a SAT directions hearing (August 17) where it is likely that both parties will be referred to mediation,” city CEO Mike Archer said of the outcome.
“There may be scope for a negotiated outcome, but the city will be working through the process in strict accordance with its statutory obligations. It’s important to note that of all the submissions received during the public consultation period, not one supported this planning application.”