Council to proceed with another unwanted scheme
By Gav Ross
CONCEPT plans and cost estimates will be drawn up for the next major road and drainage scheme on Bass Coast Shire Council’s laundry list, despite a high number of Sunset Strip residents already indicating they don’t want to pay for it.
Following a significant decision at last week’s council meeting, it’s all systems go for the next stage of formulating the controversial special charge scheme, with Mayor Kimberley Brown stating it would be “irresponsible” of the council to do otherwise.
“I’m not prepared to leave this estate in the condition it is in,” Cr Brown said
She also said the $69,000 of ratepayers’ money that will now be spent on the planning phase “will not be wasted”, even if the project is ultimately abandoned.
“We understand the majority of the community who have responded to our surveys aren’t willing to pay for a special charge scheme,” she said.
“Those plans, however, can be used to support potential funding applications to Melbourne Water or VicRoads for drainage or major intersection improvements raised by the Sunset Strip community.”
Results of a second survey posted out to residents late last year were revealed in a new report discussed by councillors last week.
Around 72 per cent of those who answered the questionnaire indicated they would not be willing to contribute financially to road and drainage improvements.
However, council officers referred to this figure as 47 per cent in the report because 132 property owners did not respond to the question, and therefore the percentage is expressed as a total.
But whichever way you spin it, the survey figures prove a large portion of the community would likely formally object to the proposal when it came to crunch time.
On the flipside, though, close to 50 per cent of those surveyed said there was a ‘need’ for improvements at the estate, with community consultation sessions last year recording many areas where drainage is a major issue.
Council’s infrastructure department will now compile plans covering three alternatives:
• A drainage upgrade only
• Drainage plus improvements to estate roads with high traffic volume
• A full road and drainage scheme for the entire estate
Cr Bradley Drew was the first to support moving forward with the project at last week’s meeting.
“There comes a time in council where the hard and tough decisions have to be made,” he said.
Cr Phil Wright, who traditionally votes against any and all special charge schemes, admitted he’d changed his mind on the matter only hours earlier.
“In a discussion led by (Cr Drew) it became obvious that we’re going absolutely nowhere with special charge schemes,” Cr Wright said.
“The money is usually just going to the benefit of a few landowners and there’s no broader benefit.”
He argued that Sunset Strip, like several estates in his ward including Smiths Beach and Surf Beach, does play a significant role other than just being a residential area.
“Areas which carry a great deal of tourism traffic should be elevated to the top (of the scheme list) because the benefits of the scheme go beyond just the roads for locals and holiday home owners.
“On either side of Sunset Strip are VicRoads roads which take our visitors to Cowes, the Grand Prix and the Penguin Parade.
“And they are absolutely impacted by how council manages (Sunset Strip’s) roads.
“We have to do something.
“Regrettably, we haven’t got the support of the community yet; we’ll have to overcome that at the next stage.”
Cr Andrew Phillips noted that the push from the community “isn’t as great as I’d like to see”.
“There’s still only 15 per cent of people who’ve actually responded saying they want to contribute.
“I’ve always said that with special charge schemes, the push needs to come from the community.”
Cr Phillips further noted that by moving into the planning phase, council will have the opportunity to source external funding for other traffic management improvements in the area, including an upgrade of the crucial intersection at Phillip Island and Back Beach Roads.
Cr Jordan Crugnale was the only councillor to argue against further work on the scheme.
“If we look at figures, 72 per cent (of respondents) said they don’t want to contribute,” she said.
“It’s kind of pretty clear cut to me.
“I’m voting against this because the community has said they really, really don’t want it.”