Councillors have backed a move to allow a contentious hybrid hotel in the heart of the Margaret River CBD against the recommendation of planners. Last Wednesday night’s Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council meeting — the last under the reigning member group — waved away significant concerns about parking put forward by Shire planners as well as residents and community groups. While the ultimate decision would be made by a Joint Development Assessment Panel due to the cost of the $8.5 million project, planners had recommended against the Adrian Fini-led project because of shortfalls in parking. A Responsible Authority Report provided to JDAP also outlined a possible lease solution to add six parking bays between the Fearn Avenue site and the Margaret River Community Centre and Soupie. However, elected members said clearing more than 100sqm of Shire reserve for six bays was pointless and the sustainability credentials of the project should be supported. “It is a unique opportunity for our shire,” deputy Shire president Julia Meldrum said. With Fini advisors in the gallery, councillors fluffed the process by first moving the planners’ recommended refusal despite no member supporting it. Cr Meldrum then moved her alternative, seconded by Cr Tracey Muir, which nixed the lease proposal and allowed the overall shortfall of 29 parking bays. “We’re strategic decision-makers here,” Cr Meldrum said. “Carparking isn’t so cool. It’s ugly . . . There are other forms of transport. “This is a nation-first net-zero circular hotel,” she said. Cr Muir said the project was “exactly what we want in our town centre”. Consultant Dane Gaunt from Urbis said a council decision to waive a 33-bay shortfall for the Margaret River Hotel redevelopment set the standard for the Fini project, though Shire planners had said heritage concerns informed the lack of mandated extra parking. Mr Gaunt said the majority of motorists would be using the hotel at night and there was ample parking in the town centre. “There would be 90 bays within the town centre that would be available during peak parking periods,” he said. Cr Brian Daniel said when the proposed supermarket opened in Rapids Landing, demand in the CBD would be reduced. “The benefit of having the hotel far outweighs any problems we face with the parking situation,” he said. The project received 110 submissions in support during public consultation, including lead tourism agencies across the South West. Touted as having a “sustainability target of being Australia’s first net-positive circular hotel”, the hybrid project will incorporate six existing 1980s-era rammed-earth units on site as well as a three-storey addition featuring 32 rooms. The complex would also host a restaurant and bar with a function space fronting the street, as well as plans for landscaping and an informal alfresco area. The existing units would be converted into “family villas” as part of the overall 37-room project which includes a lobby, hotel spa and communal lounge. Residents previously voiced complaints at the six homes going off-market during an unprecedented shortage of rentals. Cr Meldrum said it was unfortunate to lose those homes, but that was “not a planning consideration”. Shire president Paula Cristoffanini voted against the item.