“We are not Melbourne”, council rejects apartment living a second time

A developer’s fight to build the first apartment living in Macedon Ranges is not over despite councillors rejecting the proposal for a second time.

The Gisborne development included 10 townhouses, one dwelling and 18 apartments at 22 Calthorpe Street, but was challenged for its density and differing neighbourhood character.

The battle now heads for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in what some believe to be a ‘test case’, with fears of setting a precedent rife among community objectors.

Local resident Fiona Corke warned councillors voting on the decision last Wednesday that “a number of developers would be waiting in the wings”.

“If this is approved it will then become the neighbourhood character of the street, and then the area, and then the town,” she said.

It wasn’t just the aesthetic causing concern but also the 400 daily traffic movements predicted and lack of on-street parking to meet the demand.

While council officers entered negotiations with the applicant in a compulsory VCAT conference, not all were convinced the resulting changes were significant enough to support the development.

Some claimed it was “the same plan denying a semi-rural township” with only “minor changes that were cosmetic”.

Senior statutory planning coordinator Robert Szymanski admitted that some of the 10 points marketed as part of a mediated outcome were not new but reiterations of already agreed upon terms.

Defending the development, Mr Szymanski said it was a unique case and came down to how it fitted into the landscape.

Cr Helen Radnedge spearheaded council debate with the upheld motion to refuse the development on the same grounds as the council’s February decision.

“I do not believe the application is in keeping with the semi-rural look and feel of Gisborne,” she said.

Cr Radnedge said real estate agents confirmed a lack of apartment living in the immediate metropolitan area including Sunbury, Diggers Rest, Melton and Bendigo.

Density was the main point of contention when the mayor Cr Jennifer Anderson, Cr Mandi Mees and Cr Andrew Twaits questioned suitability.

“We are not in Melbourne,” Cr Anderson said. “We should protect the character of the area.”

Cr Henry Bleeck spoke in favour of approving the development, suggesting the negotiated outcome was a good one that would provide affordable housing options.

The development was knocked back in a 6-3 vote and will now go before VCAT where there is no certainty the negotiated amendments will be upheld if the development is given the green light.

*Published: Midland Express, July 31, 2017.