Monday, October 17, 2011

no maccas for tecoma - council refuses application

Report from the roundtable - 11 Oct

It's been awhile since I've done a report from the roundtable dispatch, it's been a very busy time, but this item most definitely needs reporting.

At the last meeting of council, we considered an application for a McDonalds in Tecoma.

The application has been highly controversial with over 1,100 objections received by community members (along with 8 letters of support). This is the highest number of objections Yarra Ranges council has had to any objection in it's history.

Because it was clear the application had enormous public interest council decided to move our meeting to a larger venue to accommodate interested community members. It was just as well we did, over 600 people attended the meeting, a Yarra Ranges record number at a council meeting.

Council heard from objectors (3) as well as supporters (1) of the application. After all the presentations I moved a motion to refuse the application.

I had a significant number of concerns in relation to the application. It must be noted that the application is for a building and works permit, not for the use of the land. As the land is zoned Business 1, it can be used for a convenience restaurant. However my concerns were in relation to the impact of that building should it proceed.

It was around the intensity of traffic and congestion the proposal would create by attracting a significant number of cars and people to an already busy location in Tecoma.

Tecoma is one of the unique villages of the Dandenong Ranges, a small scale village with a population of 2000, it is the gateway to Sherbrooke Forest which forms the backdrop of Tecoma, considered to be so special that the National Trust says the forest is of cultural significance to the state of Victoria and it's views must be protected both in and out of the forest.

The design itself, presents a bulky, blocky building, with a flat roof and wide frontage, completely out of character with the township of Tecoma. The design has poor articulation to the street frontage, as well as the west wall (the one facing Upwey) which is completely blank.

Although there is already a concrete slab building in Tecoma, we shouldn't be repeating mistakes of the past.

I have extensive concerns about the interface with the residential areas, a 2.4mt or 3mt high fence of perspex is a very poor outcome for surrounding residents and proves just how noisy this site will be. I also had reservations about the acoustic report, for anyone who lives in the hills knows the tricks of sound across the valleys.

The proposal had insufficient parking for both cars and bicycles. It was my view that the drive through configuration was dangerous given the amount of North/South traffic crossing the East/West carriageway easement. The intensified traffic would create greater safety problems for cars and pedestrians using the site.

I was appauled that there was a lack of dedicated space for pedestrians to access the site from the rear carpark, particularly if they had mobility issues (or prams). I was equally appauled by the siting of the disability carpark, it didn't even meet Australian Standards.

I had concerns about the hours of operation and did not gain any clarity about this from the submitter for McDonalds. However should the proposal operate 24/7 I have no doubt it will be a target for antisocial behaviour and create a feeling of compromised safety for local residents.

I thought the signage was excessive and created visual clutter in the area. I was also concerned that signage was proposed to close the drive through during the evening as well as prevent right hand turns into Burwood Highway. Any local knows how ineffective this signage is as we constantly see people turn right into the highway at Reynolds Lane in Belgrave.

The greatest concern to me was traffic. All locals know how busy Burwood Highway already is, the proposed configuration of a right hand turn into the BP Service Station, right hand turn into the proposed McDonalds site and the already existing right hand turn into McNicol Road will be traffic chaos. A 4 metre long line marked traffic island gives me no confidence to separate traffic driving head on into each other.

Given the proposed traffic configuration with 60% of traffic to exit the site via Sandells Road, I have no doubt that traffic will be forced into residential streets throughout Tecoma, which is a poor outcome for residential amenity.

I am staggered that McNicol Road, Tecoma's busiest local road, has not been factored into the traffic report even though it carries 3,500 motor vehicles per day. Burwood Highway is already a dangerous road, a look at the crash stats confirms this. With volumes of 23,000 motor vehicles a day on Burwood Highway, 2,700 on Sandells Road and 3,500 on McNicol Road, this is a very busy and chaotic piece of road space. I am amazed at the suggestion to increase the Green signal timing on Sandells Road due to the impacts on traffic on Burwood Highway, which already banks back 400mts in peak hours.

The proposal is also inconsistent with our Regional Strategy Plan in that it does not seek to protect the role and function of Tecoma.

It would be wrong not to mention the community, their aspirations are important. It should also be noted that Tecoma PreSchool and the Tecoma Primary School Council also objected to this application. They are key parts of the local Tecoma community. The objectors which number over 1,100 are not the usual suspects but include hundreds of people who have never been involved in a planning application, but they are concerned for their local community.

My colleague Cr McRae also spoke in support of the refusal and quoted from a letter sent to us by McDonalds earlier that day.

"Should Council override the recommendation of the officers of Council, and resolve to refuse the application the matter will be the subject of a VCAT Appeal. As you know significant resources will be expended by Council and objectors in contesting the Appeal. It is understood that the objectors to the proposal may raise the necessary funds for this appeal from donations from the community. This is disappointing given the many more important community projects that do not have sufficient funds."

Cr McRae's suggestion that perhaps McDonalds would like to contribute to more important community projects met with enormous approval from the crowd in attendance. If you'd like to read a full copy of the letter you can find it here.

In summing up to my councillor colleagues I talked about past applications on Burwood Highway where officers had recommended approval, council had refused those application and those refusals were upheld in VCAT. With a car entering the site every 21 seconds in peak, taking 3.5minutes to serve can only equal traffic chaos for the area. It is important to understand the nature of this section of Burwood Highway, it has enormous impact on the functioning of our townships already, we don't want to exacerbate already negative impacts with building and works that will create a town centre that is unworkable and has enormous traffic and amenity impacts.

I'm pleased to say my colleagues voted unanimously to refuse the application to an enormous response from the crowd, which you can hear here.

I have been swamped with letters of thanks from community members who are keen to know the where to from here. All I can say is watch this space, it will be up to McDonalds to determine if they think they have a viable business proposition and whether they want to pursue it at VCAT.

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At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Bill Wellington said...

Urgent Announcement.....Yarra Ranges Council recommends that 24/7 McDonald’s in Tecoma go ahead despite 1200 written objections..... numbers at Tuesday's 11th October meeting can exert pressure on Councillors to reverse that decision. Take your video are merely "taking notes" on who is voting which way, forever recorded & YouTubed for their electorates.
Greens Councillor, Samantha D...unn says, "Just by the way, it's the officers who've recommended approval not council, Councillors have not made a decision, but will tonight".

Officers? Council, State, Federal??? Geez, we have a surplus of administration and not one of them with a functioning ear between them. And this in the face of "OCCUPY"?? What does it take to get fair democratic representation? This is bluddy infuriating! Hanging over this issue, have always been the words, 'fait (or should that be fat?) accompli' and 'foregone conclusion'.

If it's anything like what the "gang of four" male councillors did to our town of Seville then Tecoma doesn't stand a chance. I was there for the final vote,and the Save Seville Group were 13 votes ahead against the huge Supermarket devel...opment which will ruin our town, but the Yarra Ranges Shire obviously wanted money from rates,so they voted to change residential land to business to allow Coles to take over 50%of our shopping area.The residing Mayor policeman Terry Avery even went to the extreme position of using his second vote,which councillor Samantha Dunn stated in an E-Mail to me, said that was NOT normal procedure in Yarra Ranges voting. The vote was 4 and 4, therefore the shopping complex should NOT have gone ahead, in fact a status quo should have existed as per normal procedures..............corruption???!!


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