Thursday, April 1, 2010
Landowners to pay for developer's drains?
The City of Greater Geelong has agreed with Melbourne-based Pinnacle Living to share the estimated $1,492,827 cost of a new main drain for a retirement village in Clifton Springs and expects local landowners to pay most of it.
Around thirty local residents met on Wednesday 31 March and stated unanimously that they believed that Pinnacle Living should pay the cost of the drain, as only they would benefit financially from it. The proposed retirement village is in Central Road, Clifton Springs and the new drain will serve an area bounded by Jetty Road, Ada Street, Thomas Street and Central Road in Clifton Springs and Drysdale. Owners of the 39 blocks to be served by the drain face bills depending on their block size, with most of them facing bills of between $3,000 and $256,888.
CoGG estimates that the project will cost $1,492,827, but states that the true cost will be unknown until work is completed. At its meeting on 23 February 2010, the Council resolved to declare a 'Special Charge' on local landowners to cover the cost, to invite their comments on this proposal and to decide the matter at its meeting on 8 June 2010 (or at a subsequent meeting).
Money down whose drains?
Pinnacle Living have applied to the Council for permission to build a retirement village on their property at 101 Central Road, but have been told that this would require a new main drain to be built. Subsequently, the Council has rezoned some of the properties in the surrounding area to 'R1' (high density residential) and says that the remainder are 'in the process of being rezoned' to R1. This rezoning - together with the new drain - will enable land owners in the area to subdivide their land and sell it if they wish. Without the drain, subdivision can't occur, even if the land has been rezoned.
The Council's justification for levying a 'Special Charge' is that each landowner in the area served by the drain could profit from selling their land. However, the Council has provided no evidence that the sale of any of the blocks of land will even cover the proposed 'Special Charge', let alone create a profit and anyway, many landowners have stated that they have no wish to sell-off part or all of their land. Further, many local residents facing a 'Special Charge' of tens of thousands of dollars will simply be unable to pay it and are nervously awaiting the consequences.
Are ratepayers furthering developers' interests?
The Council report proposing this 'Special Charge' makes it clear that it is the result of extensive discussions between the Council and Pinnacle Holdings which have resulted in a legal agreement between them to divide the cost. Pinnacle Holdings will pay approximately 23% of the cost, the Council will pay the remaining 77% and will then attempt to recover that money from local landowners.
These extensive discussions have involved ratepayer-funded CoGG resources (officers’ time and expertise) being made available to Pinnacle to further its interests. In contrast, local people are left to deal with the outcome - the 'Special Charge' - and with the daunting bureaucracy of the Council by and for themselves, with no ratepayer-funded resources at their disposal.
The Council's relationship with Pinnacle in this matter is very similar to its relationship with another Melbourne-based property developer with interests in Drysdale & Clifton Springs - Urban Land Development (ULD). The Geelong Independent reported recently (26 March 2010) that ULD had had 'a substantial amount of dialogue' with Council officers about the wording of a proposed Planning Amendment that would rezone ULD land near Drysdale's Murradoc Road. ULD Director Ross Closter told the Independent, 'Council worked with us to make sure we addressed any problems. It was important we understood the requirements, so we've been consulting with the council on all the key issues.' The significance here is that Council resources were made available to ULD, but no equivalent resources were made available to local people who either support or object to the proposed Planning Amendment. Further, the fact that Council resources have gone into ULD's application casts doubt on the Council's ability to take an objective and unbiased decision on that Amendment.
Property owners in the Central Road area who will be subject to the proposed 'Special Charge' have until 5 pm on Monday 26 April 2010 to support or object to it in writing to the City of Greater Geelong, Engineering Design Unit, PO Box 104, Geelong, Vic 3220.
People who will not be affected directly, but who wish to support local landowners who are objecting to the proposal should write to their local Councillor and send a copy to CoGG's Engineering design unit at the above address.