Mooroolbark planning application divides council

Woodville Road has had a planning application knocked by a number of councillors. Picture: MIKAYLA VAN LOON.

By Mikayla van Loon

Councillors were divided over the submission of a planning application to build three townhouses in Mooroolbark.

The council meeting held on Tuesday 27 July saw five councillors oppose the planning application for 10 Woodville Road, Mooroolbark.

Three two storey dwellings were proposed for the land in question but a number of concerns were raised by local residents and from councillors.

John Graham, who is a resident of Woodville Road and lives on the north boundary of the site, spoke to his objections during the meeting.

“It is very disappointing that the council agenda recommends approval of this application in spite of 10 objectors registering their concerns,” he said.

“A perusal of this agenda item regrettably reveals issues of partiality which leaves its credibility in question, it also contains a number of incorrect statements both in respect to the application design report and also objectors concerns.”

The major concerns raised by both residents and councillors included the built forms of the new dwellings, viewline obstruction, the need for two crossovers, parking and vegetation removal.

“[A] major concern is the crossover because Woodville Rd at this point is a busy road, it’s on the crest of a hill and this is a safety issue because one of the reasons being the Blue Cross Aged Care centre, is serviced by many vans that use Woodville Rd to access that venue,” Mr Graham said.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Duncan van Rooyen said there were many other examples of smaller blocks of land having similar builds take place, with the land size being just under 1000sqm.

Under the general residential zoning, Mr van Rooyen said a more dense proposal could have been submitted and approved.

“It’s our view that this application is not only appropriate but somewhat modest in the context,” Mr van Rooyen said.

Councillor Sophie Todorov expressed concerns about the built form of the dwellings and whether they were going to suit the character of the residential area, as well as the zoning of the houses which are on the fringe of a consolidation area.

“I’ve taken a walk there and there is not one single dwelling that resembles this proposed design on that stretch of road,” she said.

She also raised concerns about the excavation of the land and the steepness of the block.

“The proposed dwellings will also tower the residential properties below, as well as on each side and will affect adjoining neighbourhood privacy and obscuring neighbouring viewlines.”

“In order to fit the three dwellings on the slope of land, a healthy 50 year old yellow box gum, which is 60cm from the boundary and home to plentiful habitat will need to be destroyed.”

Also speaking in opposition to the motion was councillor Richard Higgins, who was gravely concerned about the lack of parking along Woodville Road, which was supported by councillor Len Cox.

“There are three, three bedroom units there that are going to have cars that aren’t going to be able to be parked out the front,” he said.

“When are we going to start getting it right about where we are going to park cars and when are we going to start building places within the Yarra Ranges of our consolidated areas, where we have sufficient parking for everybody that isn’t going to upset the local residents that have to put up with not being able to park somewhere else.

“Councillors we have our guidelines and if some of our guidelines had been followed with this particular application, we probably wouldn’t have lost a nice big gum and we not have had a double crossover.”

Mayor Fiona McAllister spoke of the role of councillors when planning applications arise and said while she understands the concerns, she could not see how under the planning scheme the council could refuse this application.

“I fully appreciate the Graham’s concerns and I know if I had lived in that street for a long time I would certainly be having a voice on changes and growth,” she said.

“However, it is allowed under the planning scheme and it is a moderate development on a site that under the planning scheme would allow much greater density.”

During the final vote, five councillors opposed the motion and Cr Todorov put forward an alternate motion to refuse the application.

Mayor McAllister said advocacy around better parking provisions in the Yarra Ranges Shire needed to be high on the council’s agenda and questions needed to be submitted to the State government.