Resort compromise flagged

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Residents rallied earlier this year against the Gnarabup resort proposal.
Camera IconResidents rallied earlier this year against the Gnarabup resort proposal.

The Preserve Gnarabup protest group could surrender its fight to block a resort proposed for the coastline after the volunteer lawyer behind its proposed scheme amendment flagged a compromise to Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillors this week.

Lawyer Clare Gleeson, who has lodged the bid to have five development lots owned by Luke Saraceni rezoned to parks and recreation, on Wednesday said councillors had the option to drop the contentious lodge site from the application.

“The State Government is very passionate about seeing the resort site developed, as is a big range of our community,” Ms Gleeson told councillors. “I am open to the reservation of four lots only and see the resort site developed. That would be in line with the State Government’s vision for that site.”

Ms Gleeson said halting the village centre development on the adjoining four lots — which would include a commercial centre, backpackers, mixed-use apartments and holiday villas — would still be “a really good outcome if the council members were mindful to come up with a modified version of what I’ve proposed”.

Ms Gleeson also told councillors the Shire had the option for outright compulsory acquisition of development parcels, even without the scheme amendment’s success.

As a former Shire lawyer herself, Ms Gleeson cited experience working on the fallout from the Shire’s Supreme Court battle against the previous lodge site’s Gnarabup Beach Estate incarnation.

Questions to Shire legal officer Ian McLeod heard Mr Saraceni could still opt for arbitration or a Supreme Court challenge, with either option likely to cost about $100,000 in legal fees.

“That’s a conservative hypothetical amount to be looking at for legal costs,” Mr McLeod said. “It’s always going to go down some legal route. There’s always ways they can challenge the decision.”

Mr McLeod told councillors he could not put a revised compensation estimate on the acquisition proposal with the lodge site removed. Outside of council, Preserve Gnarabup spokeswoman Beth Carlessi said ideally all the development lots would become a nature reserve.

“Preserve Gnarabup understands that this is a big decision for the council to make,” she said.

“We believe the land should be reserved and encourage councillors to consider the full value of the land to local people and the environment. Development of this site will detract from a world-class natural eco-tourism attraction.”

The council briefing on the scheme amendment was to prepare for a decision at its December 9 meeting.

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