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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

VCAT tells residents, 'Pay for developer's drain'!

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has just told residents of the Central Road area of Drysdale that they must pay the cost of a developer's drain.

DCSCA has been supporting Central Road residents who have been fighting a unanimous decision by City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) councillors to compel them to pay for a drain for a developer's proposed retirement village. The residents must pay a 'Special Charge', because the council asserts that they will gain a 'special benefit' from the drain, i.e. the potential to subdivide their property and sell it for a profit.

On February 6, the residents took their case to VCAT, which reserved its judgment on the issue. (See ‘Council’s “Special Charge” not cut and dried’ on drycliftdays 8 February)

VCAT has now decided in favour of the council, saying that the 'Special Charge' would stand unless residents could prove that they would gain NO ‘special benefit’ from the drain - showing that there would be little ‘special benefit’ was not enough. Further, the VCAT judge accepted that the proposed drain is a public health issue because the 2 words ‘public health’ were in the initial report to council. CoGG described the drain as a matter of public health only after residents pointed out that, according to local government law, a scheme can't proceed if a majority of residents oppose it ... unless it's a matter of public health!

In an article about the Central Road issue in the Independent (3 February), CoGG's Manager of City Services, Gary Van Dreel was reported as saying that CoGG would levy the 'Special Charge' only when properties were sold or developed; and local ward councillor Rod Macdonald was reported as saying that existing owners could defer the ‘Special Charge’ if their properties remained undeveloped. However, neither of them mentioned that owners who defer paying the ‘Special Charge’ will face an even higher bill, because CoGG will charge them compound interest on the outstanding amount - at 5% for the first five years and then at 9 to 10% thereafter. So CoGG’s ‘benevolence’ in allowing residents to defer payment is, in fact, a means of compelling residents to pay even more money, even though when they do so, CoGG will have long acquitted itself of the debt.

Elections to the council will happen later this year. It will be interesting to listen to sitting councillors as they defend their unanimous decision to compel pensioners and retirees in the Central Road area to pay thousand of dollars per household for a developer's drain.

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