A close look what Sekisui's newest plans mean for Coolum
JAPANESE developer Sekisui is confident its latest proposal to build a new "coastal village" at Yaroomba to accommodate 1600 people has strong support.
On May 4, the plans for the $900 million development to develop on the 19ha site were officially lodged with Sunshine Coast Council.KATHY SUNDSTROM: Why I can't decide about Sekisui's plansKATHY SUNDSTROM: Why I can't decide about Sekisui's plans
Yaroomba Beach Project Director Evan Aldridge firmly believes this time the developer has "got it right".
But Coolum Beach is a close-knit community that has a long history of fighting to preserve the village feel of the town those who live there hold dear.
Sekisui's original plans for 10-storey buildings on the site met enormous community protest as posters were put up across the town making it clear locals didn't want the development there.
The council knocked back needed changes to the planning scheme in April 2015 and Sekisui was forced to go back to the drawing board.
The Daily met with Mr Aldridge to take a close look at the latest development plans to investigate what has changed since 2015 and what benefits the massive development could have for those who live in the area.
The economic and jobs benefits are obvious. It is a $900 million investment into an area that hasn't seen any major investment in years.
It would create 360 direct jobs when it was completed, 260 of those would be at the Westin Resort, the first five-star resort to be introduced to the Sunshine Coast "in 30 years".
The development was expected to contribute "$120 million to the local economy per year" and it would generate 90,000 new visitors to the Sunshine Coast.
Perhaps the biggest benefit for residents was that it would also open up and area otherwise locked to the public with the creation of new roads and pathways into the village and a new, 6000ms community park equipped with playgrounds and an open area for the public to enjoy.
Mr Aldridge said the park was "bigger than the open area at Kings Beach" and could house about 5000 people for open-air events like "jazz concerts".
A new surf tower with beach access would also be established so people could safely swim at another location around Coolum Beach. The now closed surf tower once used by the Hyatt Regency further down Yaroomba beach would also be re-opened.
The existing "300 metre long" lake on the site would be extended to create a scenic backdrop and potential venue to practice stand-up paddleboarding.
A major concern with the development has always been its height, with the existing development approval for the site allowing for a maximum of four stories.
Sekisui's original plan envisaged, seven 10-storey towers. The new plans show two seven-story building, for the Westin Resort and a seven-storey serviced apartments, with the other buildings a maximum of four storeys.
Mr Aldridge said none of the buildings would be visible from the beach front or Point Arkwright as they were set behind the dunal system.
Talking to locals living in the area, it appeared many were divided on the issue.
Development Watch President Lyn Saxton and Coolum Residents Association's Mark Bissell remained opposed as they concerned about the size and scale of the development.
But Wayne Porter who has lived in Yaroomba for 40 years, told the Daily he thought the new plans were a better compromise.
Ms Saxton said the primary concern was the seven-storey building was outside the town plan and this would set a precedent in the area.
She was also concerned there was no guarantee Sekisui would not sell the land designated for community park in the future.
There was no doubt the development would have a major impact on traffic, with two new traffic lights and a roundabout earmarked for the section of David Low Way between Warran Road and Suncoast Beach Drive. One traffic lights at Tanah Street was being installed by Main Roads amidst safety concerns and the other, off Suncoast Beach Drive was an obligation by Sekisui as part of Lend Lease's original approval for the Hyatt site.
A petition against the height and scale of the development on Change.Org already has more than 1900 signatures. Clearly Sekisui still had work to do to convince some in the community its new vision had overwhelming benefit.
Mr Aldridge did not expect the development application to go before councillors for a decision until "the end of the year", with construction expected to start in "early 2019" if approved.