The City of Busselton council has officially refused the contentious multi-aspect project at Smiths Beach — though its decision on Wednesday night still faced being overruled by the WA Planning Commission. The 7-2 council decision backed an alternative motion by Cr Sue Riccelli which strengthened the officers’ recommendation putting forward numerous changes instead. Cr Riccelli said concerns remained around the extent of native clearing, encroachment on the beach, waste and stormwater management, Aboriginal heritage, traffic, amenity, and most seriously of all, bushfire risk management. The project posed an “extremely high level of bushfire risk” and the plan to shelter in place was not feasible with potentially 1500 guests and visitors during peak summer. “Quite simply, the proponent has not demonstrated … an acceptable bushfire safety outcome,” Cr Riccelli said. Cr Anne Ryan voted against the motion, acknowledging problems with the application but preferring the officers’ stance. Mayor Grant Henley also voted against without making comment. Consultant Anneke Brown, a Tourism WA commissioner who also represents developer Adrian Fini, urged the council to defer the item if they did not understand the complex thousand-page development application which came with about 15 technical reports. However, multiple elected members said they repeatedly asked for more information which was not provided. “I see it as a refusal on the grounds we don’t have sufficient information,” deputy mayor Paul Carter said. “It doesn’t exist for us to consider. “It (the resolution) gives a clear indication to the special development unit that we do not support it, but not that we don’t support it — because again we don’t have enough information before us.” The meeting also heard the neighbouring resorts — Canal Rocks Apartments, Smiths Beach Resort, and Smiths Beach Villas directly across the road — all shared serious concerns about the scale and footprint of the development as well as the potential for beach erosion posed by a 60m access ramp referred to as a “rock sea wall” during proceedings on Wednesday night. Smiths Beach Villas owner Sally Chandler also said the proponents had not once made contact to discuss the project. Cr Riccelli said that lack of communication was another factor sparking the City’s stronger position to refuse the bid. However, the WA Government’s State Development Assessment Unit set up to adjudicate multi-million-dollar projects deemed of State significance would have the final say. While councillors accepted the site would be developed, several members said the City’s planning guidelines, past Environmental Protection Authority rulings, and the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge Statement of Planning Policy all showed the project was unacceptable. “What we see before us doesn’t seem to be in line with those development guidelines,” Cr Jodie Richards said. Cr Riccelli also said the project failed to meet the SDAU’s “shovel-ready” criteria. “This project was never development-ready,” she said. “It’s still not development-ready and was never going to be development-ready given the complexities of the environment on which it sits. “I firmly believe it seriously undermines the existing planning framework and does not allow adequate local government and community input.” Ms Brown said the project was led by a trusted developer who had delivered high-quality tourism assets across the State. Planning consultant Samantha Thompson said the project offered a “bespoke and co-ordinated approach” which minimised environmental harm and fell far short of the potential development capacity for the site.