TWO Bass Coast councillors vented their frustrations over a lack of communication from council officers when a briefing was held last week to detail the progress of the Woolamai House development at Cape Woolamai. Cr Brad Drew said a link in the communication loop was missing after it was noted at the briefing council’s planning staff has been meeting with representatives of the developer every fortnight, with councillors unaware of the details discussed. “At the moment’s it’s like we’re mushrooms; kept in the dark and fed on bullsh**,” Cr Drew said in brusque fashion at the meeting. His fiery comment came after a series of probing questions from Cr Phil Wright and, in particular, Cr Drew was dissatisfied to learn that, as the Churchill ward councillor, Cr Wright wasn’t even aware that newsletters penned by the developer were going to be sent out to keep Cape Woolamai residents abreast of development updates. “We just find out there’s a newsletter today….we’re being reactive instead of proactive,” Cr Drew said. Clarifying his comment later in the week, Cr Drew said open communication “so we all know what’s going on in our wards” is needed, especially when it comes to critical planning issues. “You want to have those dot points down so if someone comes up to you on the street or there’s an email, fax or phone call you at least know what’s going on,” he explained. However, Cr Drew admitted councillors “can’t be over everything all the time”. “But I think we should be informed of critical matters, like what was discussed the other night,” he said. “We’ve been elected by the people to represent the people, and there has been a lot of community angst regarding (the Woolamai House) development.” After Wednesday’s briefing, council’s acting planning and environment director, Alison Creighton, said the fortnightly meetings between planning staff and representatives of the developer were “purely operational” and included such details as where drains would be placed. Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Clare Le Serve, attempted to resolve arguments at the briefing by suggesting that Cr Wright be invited to the fortnightly meetings. But council’s CEO, Allan Bawden, said a councillor would not be permitted to attend such a meeting. “I can understand (Cr Wright’s) frustration, but he has been kept in the loop,” Mr Bawden added. Mr Bawden pointed out that Cr Wright has a better understanding of the history of the development than the other, newly-elected councillors. Cr Le Serve said after the briefing that if Crs Wright or Drew feel like the lines of communication aren’t up to scratch, it’s her role to “make sure those questions are asked”. “We’re working towards having a clearer understanding of communication issues,” she said. “There have been a few, but it’s a big organisation and we as a council need to know what are operational matters and let (officers) get on with their job and what is the governance role of us as a committee.”
Hitch in subdivision plans
PROJECT managers for the Woolamai House development, Peter Hood and Andrew Jones of Verve Projects, last week presented Bass Coast Shire councillors with an update, which has seen the historic eight-acre estate at Cape Woolamai, owned by the Grollo family, subdivided into 69 lots. Following a VCAT hearing in September, planning approval for the subdivision was granted last October. Construction of homes is due to begin this June, with the magnificent heritage homestead retained as a private residence on its own 1.7 hectare lot. Mr Hood said eight lots, each with a starting price of $249,000, have been sold since a marketing campaign began in January. “We are getting the sales rate we anticipated,” Mr Hood said. However, there is a hurdle for the developer, with CFA and DSE approval still needed before Stage Two can proceed. The central issue revolves around 11 lots at the northern end of the development, bordering Cleeland Road. Due to a change to more stringent planning controls following Black Saturday, the developer will need a separate permit before being able to construct the 11 dwellings. CFA requirements include a non-combustible fence and removal of vegetation from the nearby road reserve to create a fire break. “We know there’s work to be done, but we’ve broken it into two stages so we can continue development,” Mr Hood said. Cr Wright said he believed one of the “design weaknesses” for the development revolved around the Cleeland Road entry point. “I don’t think all cars should be traveling out that one site,” he said. And although the developer has incorporated two public reserves, measuring over 3000 square metres, into the plans, Cr Wright thinks it isn’t enough. Echoing comments he made at a briefing for the project 18 months ago, Cr Wright once again said he believes a section of the private historic homestead land fronting the foreshore should be turned into a public reserve. “Surely we should think of future generations,” Cr Wright said, adding that it’d be a great spot for council to place 19th century park furniture. “That’s a question for Heritage Victoria,” one of the project managers replied. Cr Wright said he’d asked already. “They classified me as a person not of significance,” he said. Cr Wright also took umbrage at developer plans to create new public access to the foreshore. The project managers said a north-south coastal walk is being designed in consultation with council to manage foreshore access, and Ms Creighton pointed out that if access points aren’t created, the public will simply make their own. Alex Scott Real Estate agent Greg Price continues to take care of sales enquiries.