By Kirra Grimes
THE proposal to build up to 900 new homes at Cape Paterson is officially “back on the table” as Bass Coast Shire Council announces it’s received authorisation to prepare the necessary planning scheme amendment.
The amendment (c136) would rezone 53 hectares of land to the north of the town centre, and within the existing settlement boundary, from Farming Zone to General Residential Zone Schedule 1, giving developers one less hurdle to clear in a longstanding proposal to subdivide the land.
Announcing it had received authorisation from Planning Minister Richard Wynne last Friday, Bass Coast Shire Council said it had not yet determined the timeframes for public exhibition and feedback on the planning scheme amendment, but that this was “expected to get underway soon”.
The announcement has raised more than a few questions and concerns among Cape Paterson residents, many of whom objected to the subdivision proposal when it first came before Council in March 2017, and remained unconvinced even after the developer came back with a revised proposal a year later, which included significant compromises such as reducing the number of proposed lots from 900 to 480 and pledges to vary block sizes and donate land to local community groups.
John Coulter, secretary of the Cape Paterson Residents and Ratepayers Association (CPRRA) and a 20-year resident of Cape Paterson, was one of over 70 residents to make a submission to Council regarding the proposed rezoning when it was first put on the agenda, and remains staunchly opposed to the plans, saying they threaten to “overdevelop” Cape Paterson and “no one in the community wants that”.
“We’re not saying [there] shouldn’t be any development, but that development of this scale is inappropriate, especially given we’re already getting another 200 houses at the eco village,” Mr Coulter said.
The CPRRA believes “a couple of hundred houses to the north” is all that would be needed to the meet need over the next 10-20 years, Mr Coulter said.
Adding 900 houses would “turn Cape Paterson into a town rather than a village,” he said.
“And it will be 900. Saying they’ve reduced it down closer to 500 just means it’ll be 500 now and then another 500 further down the track.”
Any infrastructure developers provided would not match the “disadvantages” the development would bring to the community, Mr Coulter said.
“Cape Paterson is already stretched over the summer period and this would just put enormous pressure on what we’ve got here,” he said.
The CPRRA has also questioned the timing of the Minister’s decision to authorise the preparation of the planning scheme amendment, which comes hot on the heels of the announcement of Bass Coast’s inclusion in the Distinctive Area and Landscapes (DAL) project – a state government initiative which aims to “protect and conserve” the unique features and special characteristics of distinctive areas and landscapes “for generations to come”.
In March this year, Minister Wynne resolved to defer authorisation of Amendment c136 until the Bass Coast Distinctive Area and Landscapes project was “sufficiently advanced,” saying “the decision to reconsider the authorisation will be dependent on the progress of the project, and timing and alignment with the distinctive area and landscape work program”.
Bass Coast Shire Council said last week it had been authorised to prepare Amendment c136 “with regard to the ‘Bass Coast Distinctive Area and Landscape project and in particular, any impacts on settlement planning for Cape Paterson and the environmental and landscape significance of the land subject to the amendment”.
Mr Coulter says it remains unclear how a development of the scale proposed would support the Distinctive Area and Landscape project, and that CPRRA members were “shocked” by how soon the Minister’s announcement came after the declaration of the DAL project.
“There’s no clarity as to how this links in with the Distinctive Area and Landscape project and why they’ve decided to proceed with the authorisation at this stage,” Mr Coulter said.
“The strategic work for that project that was talked about, and that CPRRA was planning to contribute to, hasn’t happened yet. The process has only just begun, and we don’t understand how the two things are going to happen at the same time,” he said.
The CPRRA will continue to fight the rezoning proposal, but Mr Coulter wasn’t holding out much hope of community members being able to sway Council’s ultimate decision on whether or not to let the development proceed.
“The common line councillors and planners take is that [the planning scheme amendment] goes on exhibition and then community gets to have their say, but it’s usually a foregone conclusion because community members can’t match the developer’s resources,” Mr Coulter said.
He believed there would be “many” objections from Cape Paterson residents and that the amendment would go to a hearing, but that these hearings “disadvantaged” community members.
“It’s really difficult, complex stuff, and the developers will come in with barristers and expert witnesses and 100-page documents on why it’s a great idea.
“We don’t have thousands of dollars for all that, so we have to rely on councillors and our local members to represent community, and unfortunately, councillors often defer to the recommendations.
“That’s why I’ve always said that once an amendment process starts, it’s like a steamroller going off the top of a hill – you can tinker around the edges, but the steamroller always ends up at the bottom of the hill,” he said.
Fellow Cape Paterson resident and local PBE real estate agent Rahnee Skate was far more optimistic about the potential benefits of the proposed rezoning and development, though she was the first to acknowledge her bias.
“People will say ‘oh, she’s a real estate agent, of course she’s in favour because she wants to make money,’ but I live here, I’ve got a young family, and I want more in the town for young families, not just for people with beach houses,” she said.
Ms Skate said developments could bring improvements to infrastructure such as roads and drainage as well as other amenities lacking in small towns like Cape, pointing to the recent eco village development to the west of the town as a good example.
“Residents were initially opposed to that development – they spent a lot of years battling that – but since that’s been built, they’re enjoying the walking trails, the dog parks, the wetlands,” she said.
“So as what’s next is controlled and sold gradually, on a supply and demand basis, I’m all for it and what it could inject into the community.
“We could get more parklands, and a few more cafes and restaurants in the Market Place, which has always been a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario with business owners not wanting to invest somewhere that becomes a ghost town over winter.”
With her real estate hat on, Ms Skate said there was “definitely” demand for more residential land in Cape Paterson, with only one block currently available for sale that was beyond most families’ budgets.
“There’s not one affordable block available at the moment. And the last one that went up for sale, sold within a week,” she said.
The Sentinel-Times asked Bass MP Jordan Crugnale about the relationship between Minister Wynne’s authorisation of Amendment c136 last Friday, November 1, and the declaration of Bass Coast as a Distinctive Area and Landscape just a week earlier, on Thursday, October 24, and she responded: “The Minister thought it appropriate to defer the authorisation to prepare an amendment until the DAL was declared and public consultation underway.”
Ms Crugnale encouraged local organisations, community groups and individuals to make submissions when the development formally goes out for exhibition.