sawmill site refused
report from the roundtable – 12 feb
This week’s council meeting had to consider an application for what’s known as the ‘sawmill site’ in Healesville. The application included a service station, takeaway food premises, 2 convenience restaurants, a car wash, and epicurean centre and a hotel with associated storage.
A last minute surprise was the electronic copy of landscape plans which revealed McDonalds and Red Rooster as part of the landscape planning considerations. I questioned the applicant, Mr Joseph Alesci, on the matter who said there were no binding agreements in place and it was irrelevant who the end user was. He was also concerned that the decision was a ‘forgone conclusion’ and that the planners report was ‘biased’. I also asked Mr Alesci if he was aware that the Victoria Police had objected to the proposal and as such council could not approve the application in its current form.
I was pleased to be able to second the motion to refuse the application. In speaking to the item I said that the application was not respectful with regard to the native vegetation on site, with no consideration of remnant vegetation which contributes to the amenity and local landscape. I did not think the application was respectful of the significant environment and landscape values of the region either, Healesville being an important tourism destination in our shire. The application was not respectful of urban design, presenting an ugly eyesore and pedestrian design not appropriate for a significant gateway site. I also didn’t think the application was respectful of cultural identity and neighbourhood character, clearly an issue in a township that plays a key part of the Yarra Valley.
I said that council had developed a Design and Development Overlay (DDO) because we recognised what a critical and important this site this was at the gateway to Healesville. Some of the key objectives of the DDO include high quality design, I didn’t think the design presented to us in this application met this objective. I didn’t think the design contributed to the region as a major scenic and tourist route in Yarra Ranges.
I did not think the design was visually unobtrusive as prescribed as part of our DDO nor did the design enhance the streetscape, landscape and environmental characteristics of the area.
I answering the views put forward by the applicant I said that the council meeting was not the time to horse trade over what was in and what was out of the application. I assured the meeting that council came to the decision making table with an open mind and the matter was not a foregone conclusion.
I said that the example of the alternative of ‘littering the site with factories’ made by the applicant, a bad planning outcome did not justify this application, another bad planning outcome.
I also talked about the importance of community aspiration, the importance of being transparent about the intention for the site as that has a bearing on issues of intensity of use, amenity and traffic considerations.
I thought the application would be a dreadful outcome for this significant gateway site in Healesville.
I’m pleased to say that the refusal of the application was supported unanimously by councillors.
nb: council is currently undertaking a Healesville Structure Planning process – what’s that you ask? It’s an opportunity for the community to think about the future shape of their town, it covers off on things like land use and built form, movement networks, public spaces and infrastructure provision.
Why is this important on this issue? Because the current zoning of this site (Industrial 3) came up as a key issue and a structure planning process looks at land zoning issues and whether the current zonings are still appropriate. As we know towns change over time and what was appropriate 20 years ago might not be appropriate now.
If you’d like to find out more click here and be part of consultation on the Healesville Structure Plan.