A MOTION to approve the development of up to 36 units on 1.414ha at 125-131 Sutton Street, Warragul, was narrowly passed by a divided council on Wednesday.
Above: the development site on Sutton Street. Image: Baw Baw Shire Council.
First published in the 27 March 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Available now from retailers across Baw Baw.
With North ward councillor David Balfour not present at the meeting, councillors were split exactly in half on whether or not to approve the development. Warragul ward councillor Joe Gauci, Drouin’s Terry Williamson, North ward’s Debbie Brown and Mount Worth ward’s Peter Kostos voted for the motion to allow the medium density development, while Warragul’s Mikaela Power and Gerard Murphy, Mount Worth’s Murray Cook and Drouin’s Tricia Jones opposed.
When a council’s vote is tied, the casting vote goes to the mayor. With Cr Brown as mayor the vote passed.
The approval followed an alternative motion to disallow the development moved by Cr Cook, which was defeated with the same vote in reverse.
In that motion Cr Cook said the development “fails to appropriately respond to the objectives and standards of Clause 55 of the Baw Baw Planning Scheme, with specific regards to neighbourhood character and infrastructure, site layout and building mass, amenity impacts, on-site amenities and facilities and detail design.”
He also said the development provided inadequate car parking, would have a detrimental affect on traffic in the area, failed to have due regard to abutting properties and its interface with the street and Brooker Park, and was an over development of the site.
A string of submitters told councillors at Wednesday’s council meeting they were concerned about parking, the increased traffic and parking on Sutton Street and a number of other issues.
One submitter said it was an “inhumane proposal” and the “population centre will not work.”
Another said “it takes the council’s planning to the extreme” and was “out of kilter with the neighbourhood.”
A neighbour said she was concerned about the height of fencing. “I don’t want to live in a jail,” she said.
But a representative of developer South Eastern Homes Py Lty, Lois Lowe, said the development was appropriate for the site.
“This site is within an established area, it’s an in-fill site relatively close to the town centre. It ticks the boxes for medium development in an area quite well serviced,” she told councillors.
“This land has been vacant for many years so what residents experience now will change.
“The development is in part in response to the slope of the land and meets the requirements for public open land.”
Asked by Cr Cook what the average amount of open land per dwelling was, Ms Lowe said 55 square metres.
Cr Murphy in his questioning said “I’m looking at the plans and I’m trying to see the footpaths,” the response to which from Ms Lowe was “they’re not public roads, so it’s quite usual to have roadway shared paths.”
Speaking for the approval of the development, Cr Gauci said it complied with all state and local regulation, especially after plans were modified in response to community concerns.
“Does it comply with state regulation, local regulation, do our officers recommend it? Yes it is legal,” he said.
“The original proposal was 46 units, came back with 38, reduced to 36. All that consultation was with planners for successful outcomes.
“Council planning indicates we need to have alternative housing for everyone. Does this comply and satisfy that need? Yes. We already have facilities in place.
“We need, as a council, to take on the recommendations that have been taken on by our officers.
“We are going to get more and more and more of these. We can decide whether we’re going to put them in the too hard basket.”
But Cr Cook said while high density was needed, this was not the right approach and could put the community off-side.
“I’m not against medium or even high density dwellings, but it has to be the right development in the right place,” he said.
“My view is that this is in the wrong place. It’s sloping. Already some of the neighbours have expressed concern on the storm water.
“Allowing this development to go ahead may jeopardise further medium and high density development. If we get it right at the start, we bring the community along with us.
“You do what’s right for the site, and you do what’s right for the community, and that’s where you stand.
Cr Cook said an argument made by other councillors that the two years spent planning the development justified its approval was unsound.
“We should not get weak at the knees after two years,” he said.
“The fact it’s two years tells us it’s a difficult situation.
“Why, if it’s so close [to being right], can’t we side on behalf of the community and good planning and get it right?”
Cr Murphy said “it could look bad for us in three, four or five years’ time.”
Cr Brown questioned why other councillors considered the site inappropriate.
“If we can’t infill and build in our major town in the shire and have the diversity of housing, I don’t know where we’re going to be able to do this,” she said.
“It’s so central into the town we do need to look at it as something we need to do.”
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