Tuesday, March 04, 2014

call outs and transparent decision making

report from the roundtable – 25 feb

At the last meeting of council I happened to ask about an application as we’d received a petition objection to the application that night. I was concerned about the length of time it was taking for the application to come back to council as it was, for all intents and purposes, a repeat application with revised acoustic treatment (for a Go Kart facility in Chirnside Park). 

It was advised that the application had been ‘called out’ by the Ward Councillor, Cr Andy Witlox, meaning that the application would not come before council for a decision and the decision would be made by planning officers who through the call out had been given the ‘delegated authority’ to make the decision.

Given 11 households were represented on the petition I went on to ask whether objectors would be notified that the application had been called out and wouldn’t be coming to council for a decision as per the expectations of the objectors. Usually any application with more than 5 objections would come to council for a decision. It was confirmed that objectors would only be notified once a decision had been made and would have appeal rights through VCAT. 

I went on to ask if objectors had been notified or were aware of the call out. This could not be confirmed.

This is of concern to me, in terms of being in the spirit of open and transparent decision making. I’ve also discussed call in/call out powers with councillors from other councils and it seems that different councils approach delegations in many different ways, some not having any ability to call out planning applications at all.

Next time council reviews its delegations and call in/call out powers I’ll be suggesting some policy changes to ensure we have a more open and transparent process that both considers the needs of the applicant and the objectors. 

Here’s an extract of our minutes from the night:

12.1 Petition - Objection to Planning Permit YR-2013/1026, 238-240 Maroondah Hwy (Part Lot 1 LP88498) Chirnside Park.

Cr Dunn referenced a petition received by Council objecting to a go kart application in Chirnside Park. Cr Dunn asked the following questions to Andrew Paxton, Director Planning Building & Health:

When will the application be brought back to Council?
Andrew Paxton advised that the application had been called out by the Ward Councillor for a delegated decision. 

Will the objectors listed in the petition be notified of the application coming to Council as part of the planning process?
Andrew Paxton advised that the 11 objectors to the application would not be advised of the callout of the application by the Councillor, but would be notified of the decision and would have 21 days to appeal the decision. 

Had there been any meetings or correspondence with objectors in relation to the call out?
Andrew Paxton advised that he did not know the answer but would be able to obtain the information and advise Cr Dunn.

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