Archive:   Restructure Overlay

Last Updated  13/5/12

 

See also Amendment C92 (Restructure Overlay, Macedon)

See also Background to the Restructure Overlay

Macedon / Mt. Macedon Restructure Overlay:  Council Fail #2 -  Never Take 'No' For An Answer

(13/5/12 - P)  MRRA message to community:  Say "NO' Louder - Submissions close May 16  

Remember the 'survey' Macedon Ranges Shire Council ran in March, the one with the beautifully biased questions trying to get people to inadvertently support removing Mt Macedon/Macedon Restructure Overlay provisions? 

 

Even the biased questions didn't get Council the result it was looking for.  Here are the survey results:

 

1  What do you most value about living at your current address? (top 4 results): Rural lifestyle (21.4%)
Vegetation setting (17.8%)
Allotment size (17.4%)
Sense of community (13.6%)
2  What do you think is needed to improve the quality of the areas in which you live? (top 5 results): Weed management (17.3%)
Maintain verge/footpaths (17.2%)
Increase fire hazard safety (12.5%)
Improved public transport (12.3%)
Upgraded roads (12.3%)
3  Do you think the planning controls should be simplified to make it easier to obtain a permit to build or extend a house or other building? Yes (33.6%)
No (64.6%)
Unsure (1.5%)
4  Do you occupy a property which will be affected by the removal of the Restructure Overlay? Yes (71.8%)
No (28.1%)
5  If you said you occupied a property which may be affected by the removal of the Restructure Overlay (Q4), would you anticipate seeking to subdivide and/or develop your land if you are able to obtain a planning permit? Yes (24.1%)
No (52.4%)
No Answer (24.3%)
6  If you told us that you do occupy a property which may be affected by the removal of the Restructure Overlay (Q4), would you oppose the owners of properties affected by the restructure overlay being able to develop their land? Yes (34.6%)
No (29.4%)
No answer (35.9%)

 

These results mirror community views previously expressed during consultation for the Macedon Ranges Small Towns Study 2006, and the community workshop held for preparation of the Mt Macedon / Macedon Community Plan 2012, where the Macedon and Mt Macedon communities are recorded as saying they wanted existing planning controls enforced (or strengthened) and priorities were for protecting/maintaining the existing rural and environmental aspects of those townships. 

 

So these latest survey results should have been the end of it.  But no, clearly these aren't the community views Macedon Ranges Shire Council is listening to.  It instead appears to be listening to 'feedback' from a few landholders who would benefit from removal of the Restructure Overlay controls. 

 

Council is also taking risks when it has been told not to, potentially exposing ratepayers to liability: for starters, Macedon is one of 52 'extreme fire risk' towns in Victoria, and then there's the Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy which says, despite sewer the scale of other constraints at Macedon justifies a 'no growth' scenario.   What is it Council doesn't understand about that?

 

Council is not taking the broader community 'no' for an answer, and is now exhibiting a 'Review' of the Restructure Overlay - for which ratepayers are paying $20,000 - in another attempt to get the answers it wants.  The Review puts up 3 options:

Option 1: (also shown as (a) in the Executive Summary):  No Change (keep the Restructure Overlay)

Option 2: (also shown as (b) in the Executive Summary):  Modify the Overlay to allow more development

Option 3: (also shown as (c) in the Executive Summary):  Remove the Overlay (to allow more development).

 

The only credible option is Option 1 - no change, keep the Restructure Overlay as is.  

Tell Council that by putting in a short written submission (submissions close May 16) supporting Option 1.

 

Address submissions to the Director Planning and Environment, Macedon Ranges Shire Council, PO Box 151, Kyneton VIC 3444, or email to strategicplanning@mrsc.vic.gov.au.

 

Click here to see MRRA's Letter to the Editor, published this week in the Kilmore Free Press and Midland Express newspapers.

 

 

MRRA Says:

 

Well done, community, but your Council isn't listening to you, so you will have to say it louder. 

 

Council's skewed priorities and processes on this issue are symptomatic of deeper and darker problems that are commonly present when a Council retreats behind closed doors, narrows its exposure to public scrutiny to the bare minimum, begins to put individual interests before the public interest, and can't provide a legitimate (as opposed to plausible) explanation for what it is doing.  Secrecy, individual interests and illogical (and unjustified) change are also features of Amendment C84, and Council's explanation of that dramatic amendment was 'trust us, it changes nothing".  Yeah, right....

 

Someone is going to a lot of trouble to not only get rid of the overlay, but sell getting rid of it, and all at ratepayers' expense. 

Who?  Why?

 

The Great 2012 Macedon/Mt. Macedon Restructure Overlay Fail

(18/3/12 - P)  Council not open and honest as ratepayers bank-roll new development opportunities for the few.  Why is Council even going there, and why are we paying for it? 

 

Action Required  Closed 19 March

 

GO HERE: http://www.mrsc.vic.gov.au/Page/Page.aspx?Page_Id=3916; 

GO TO QUESTION 3: CLICK "NO";

CLOSE WEBSITE.

 

Macedon Ranges Council has announced that it is 'reviewing' the Macedon/Mt. Macedon Restructure Overlay [RO].

Ratepayers are footing the bill, already to the tune of $20,000 just for the "review", and possibly twice that much again to actually remove the Restructure Overlay through a planning scheme amendment.  

 

Council is claiming that now Macedon is sewered, everything has changed. Yet sewerage came to Macedon in 2006, six years ago, to alleviate public health and environmental concerns (raw effluent was flowing in the streets).  See 2006 State government media release.  Until now, no-one has said sewerage was there to support development.

 

Council also says its action responds to "community feedback" but doesn't reveal what feedback, received when and by what process, or from whom.  What is known is a small group of Macedon landowners are pressuring Council to remove the Overlay, claiming it treats them unfairly because for almost 40 years it has blocked development of lots they own.  One of the emails MRRA received from 'disadvantaged' landholders advised: "removing the overlay would affect 20 allotments where there are absentee land owners that canít build".   Sounds sad, but it's a long way from the full story.

 

What's not being said is that the restructure controls enshrined in the Restructure Overlay have been effective in producing outcomes that have served served the rest of the community, the public interest and the environment well.  They were introduced to address the inappropriate speculative subdivision in Macedon and Mt. Macedon that had produced substandard lots which, if all developed, would seriously and detrimentally affect the natural environment of the area, particularly the general rural character and high landscape value.  Therefore the restructure controls addressed both lack of sewer, and restricted development density to protect the environment and character of the area.  Note: restructure controls were preferred over relying on planning scheme zones because the controls were much more specific, and produced a permanent and equitable solution.

 

Costing $660,000 in 1977, the restructure controls included a comprehensive buy-back and compensation program, were regarded as visionary in providing both equity and certainty, and were embraced by the local community which "overwhelmingly" agreed to pay extra rates to help compensate landowners of land classified as undevelopable. 

 

Which lots could be developed, and to what extent, was identified by the Shire of Gisborne's review of each and every lot in Macedon and Mt. Macedon.  The review produced controls in the (then) Gisborne planning scheme that required multiple lots to be consolidated into one title before a dwelling could be considered.  Where a house already existed, if on multiple lots in one ownership, those lots were also required to be consolidated (with no further development, as development 'rights' had already been exercised).  State funding supported loans being made available to help landowners buy neighbouring undevelopable lots.  Not a single substandard allotment was to remain, and no-one was to be unfairly disadvantaged.  These restructure controls became the Restructure Overlay in 2000 in the new Macedon Ranges planning scheme.

 

What's also not being said is that hundreds and hundreds of landholders have consolidated their land in line with the restructure controls, but not everyone has.  Some landholders still own multiple substandard lots in individual titles.  Are these the lots that 'unfairly' can't be developed while the Overlay remains?

 

Council (including the Administration) has for its own reasons chosen to back claims that the Overlay is inequitable for some and is an "impediment to development", and has commenced a "review" process as a forerunner to removing the Overlay.  

 

Not given weight in this simplistic thinking is the inequity removing the overlay creates for those who have consolidated their lot titles, or have chosen to live in the area because of the absolute future certainty the Restructure Overlay provides.

 

Not explained is: 

 

Why the Restructure Overlay has priority over far more urgently needed planning projects, such as applying Heritage overlays to hundreds of heritage sites in the Shire, landscape studies, flooding controls (for example, the Gisborne Flood Report warns of potential risk to life), outline development plans for Woodend and Riddells Creek, character studies to underpin development controls, etc. etc., some of which were recommendations associated with introduction of the new planning scheme in 2000 and unfunded for 12 years.

Why Council, after adopting a NO GROWTH scenario for Macedon and Mt. Macedon out to 2036 in its recently completed Settlement Strategy - a scenario said to be based on sound strategic planning principles - would think any planning control is an impediment to development when Council itself has said no growth.

Why, in towns listed amongst the highest fire risk in the State, controls which were introduced before Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday to limit development density, and which support the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission's recommendations for limiting development in high risk areas, could even be contemplated for removal to allow more development.

Why Council thinks "there are lots of titles that exist in Macedon without a house on them and it's conceivable to put a house on those allotments" (as attributed to Ms Sophie Segafredo, MRSC Director of Planning and Environment, Weekly newspaper, 13 March, 2012).

Why this particular Council, alone of some 12 Gisborne and Macedon Ranges Shire Councils since 1976, supports more development in the most sensitive areas of the Shire, and is prepared to overturn 40 years of solid strategic planning and take the Shire in the opposite direction to Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 - Macedon Ranges and Surrounds (Clause 22.01 in the Shire's current planning scheme).

 

The mock 'consultation' process underway provides further confirmation of Council's preference for a restricted, lightweight, divide-and-conquer, don't-tell-us-we'll-tell-you brand of consultation that misrepresents or omits important facts (remember the 2011 public meeting last year in Woodend where the public was gagged?). 

 

In this tradition, Council's explanation of the "review" and the Overlay controls doesn't honestly or fully explain what Council is doing, the origins and purpose of the Overlay, or the consequences of removing it. 

 

Some things Council doesn't say include:

'Consultation' for the review consists of:

Council's version of what it is doing http://www.mrsc.vic.gov.au/Page/Page.aspx?Page_Id=3914

A low quality online Questionnaire (closes March 19) https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/72J2SFP

that smacks of 'push polling' and for which no-one seems to have a good word. 

The Questionnaire appears to invite comment only from Macedon residents.  It asks leading questions that misrepresent the real situation, and appear designed to give Council the answers it wants. 

For example, instead of asking respondents if they do or don't support removing planning controls that protect rural character and environment, and control development density, the Questionnaire asks whether planning controls should be "simplified" to make it easier to build or extend a house, and whether respondents would be likely to subdivide or develop their land if they were able to obtain a planning permit (which does rather contradict Council's claim that removing the Overlay would result in minimal new development).

Council is even offering a prize for participating, and the requirement for contact details to be provided to go into the lucky dip for the prize could well be misinterpreted as those details having to be provided as part of the survey.  Note: MRRA has printed and scanned the Questionnaire form into PDF format, so its content is preserved for posterity.

 

A two hour 'community information / drop-in session' to be held on 25 March 2012 at Jubilee Hall, Macedon from 3pm Ė 5pm to present the outcomes of the survey [Questionnaire?].

With Council presenting Council's information, this doesn't sound like a community or public meeting, and as Council also wants residents to email confirmation of their attendance, it is not clear why the session is called either a 'community' information or 'drop in' session.

 

MRRA Says:  

 

Council's performance over the past year or so, particularly on planning and governance matters, has deteriorated rapidly.

 

Council has retreated from public scrutiny in that time, and appears to have become (too) comfortable with operating and making decisions behind closed doors. 

 

This latest off-road deviation from best practice, accountability and transparency isn't an isolated instance, and suggests a Council that seems to think it can do whatever it likes without explaining itself, particularly to the community it is supposed to represent. 

 

The Restructure Overlay issue builds on other actions that could be seen as attempting to 'cleanse' the Shire's existing planning scheme of long-standing requirements which some might see as an impediment to development and economic development - lots and lots of it.  And to get there, Council is being less than open and honest about what it is really doing, and where it is steering the Shire.

 

This Council's performance, actions and priorities must be challenged, at both representative and administrative levels.