Posted 22/12/15




See also Councillors and Council Performances File



Council Meeting On 16 December Didn't Disappoint - So, So, So Many Reasons To Sack And Investigate A Council

( 22/12/15 - C)  What a farce our "local government" has become.  Why are Macedon Ranges' residents still waiting for someone to take action?   16/12/25 Council Meeting Report  Council & Councillor Performances File 

There wasn't even standing room as over 100 people packed the small Norma Richardson Hall last Wednesday night. The gallery wasn't allowed in until 6.55pm and then found, even before the meeting began, most of the 'boys' (male Councillors) huddled together in chamber, apparently sorting out tactics, which held up the start of the meeting by 10 minutes. 


On this occasion, nine agenda items (all of them reports to Council, including Council's Investment Policy) were approved all at once via Council's dubious "en bloc" motion (i.e. approved in a single motion, no debate allowed).  That left only six planning issues and two notices of motion to be dealt with in Chamber. 


Even though Council apparently has around a dozen Economic Development personnel, it apparently only has the one Governance Officer, and he was on holidays.  As a result, CEO (Peter Johnston) announced amendments to draft minutes and read out "en bloc" agenda item numbers; Council's Director of Finance (Glenn Owens) took the meeting minutes.


The first planning issue dealt with, Item PE1 was recommended for approval:  a two storey boundary-to-boundary commercial and retail development and waiver of all planning scheme requirements for parking and loading, at 65 High Street near the proposed Coles supermarket.


The applicant spoke to the meeting, saying she had already signed a Section 173 agreement with Council to pay for parking elsewhere (at Collier Street, a block away).


Coles had objected to the proposal over parking (Coles had met all parking requirements for its supermarket) and particularly the proposal's failure to provide loading requirements for deliveries.  Coles' representative asked if Council has a formal requirement in its planning scheme that allows cash-in-lieu transactions for parking.  [Council doesn't.]


Cr. Jennifer Anderson moved an alternative motion (seconded Cr. Piper) to refuse the application on the grounds of it not satisfying parking requirements; impacts of commercial on-street parking on residents; and lack of off-street delivery provision.


Cr. Jukes thought it was a fine development and Council needed to consider commercial viability, but Cr. Piper thought the car parking arrangements may not be suitable.  Cr. Anderson pointed out Amendment C98 (Woodend Town Structure Plan) proposed a Design and Development Overlay over the site which requires parking provision to be maximised. 


Crs. Anderson, Piper, Mowatt, Connor and Hackett voted for the alternative motion to refuse.  Crs. Ellis, Letchford, McLaughlin and Jukes voted against.  The application was refused.


The second planning issue, Item PE2, was an application for (another) house on rural land, once again associated with keeping horses, this time in a Farming Zone at Goldie. 


Officers recommended the application be refused.  Council officer  Rick Trafficante advised a key sticking point was the lack of infrastructure to support the proposed "farming" (equine) activity, which was needed to connect the dwelling to "farming".  He advised Council that despite the argument that there were other houses in the area, once this proposal was approved there was no chance of reversing rural land fragmentation.


The applicant spoke, then was questioned by Councillors, which revealed she did not live in Macedon Ranges, didn't own the land, wanted to run a business, participated in eventing and agricultural shows, and had 2 breeding horses.  During this discussion, Cr Ian Ellis revealed he had helped the applicant with her application, and advised that the applicant was aware of an alternative motion [i.e. to approve] for this proposal.


The meeting was then suspended to allow the 'boys' group to again huddle while they apparently worked out how to assist the applicant.  Remaining Councillors and the gallery waited.  After about a 15 minute delay, most of the gallery - already reeling from the conflict of interest admitted by Cr. Ellis - was thoroughly disgusted by proceedings. 


The meeting resumed with Cr. Ellis moving a motion that the application be deferred (seconded Cr Letchford), saying the applicant had agreed to discuss the application further with planning officers and opportunity existed that the matter could be resolved amicably.  Cr. Letchford pontificated about eventing and showing horses being agriculture, also stating twice that the "war was over" in that area re minimising housing, and it would be natural justice to allow a person to have a say. 


Cr. Piper spoke of the inappropriateness of delaying the meeting to discuss this application, saying Cr. Letchford's comments were ridiculous, and she objected to the delay when Councillors already had a full meeting in front of them. 


Council officer Rick Trafficante's advice, and Cr. Anderson's comments, that Amendment C110's conversion of so much land to small lot rural living was intended to stop further housing approvals in rural land, fell on deaf ears.  Cr. McLaughlin acknowledged Cr. Piper's irritation, and while agreeing the proposal was more suited to Rural Living, said Council wasn't there yet.  He said the applicant needed to work with Cr. Ellis and planning staff to see if the application can be considered - then let's look at it again. 


The motion to defer the application succeeded on the votes of Crs. Ellis, Letchford, McLaughlin, Connor, Hackett and JukesCrs. Anderson, Mowatt and Piper opposed.


The third planning issue, Item PE3, illogically and inappropriately rolled 5 Town Structure Plan planning scheme amendments into a single agenda item, a single recommendation and a single decision.


Called "the omnibus  amendment" by Council, this item addressed Amendments C98 (Woodend), C99 (Kyneton), C100 (Riddells Creek), and C103 and C105 (both Kyneton).   This meant that Councillors could only vote on all of these amendments at once, not individually.   Council's Responses to  Submissions (244 total submissions) in the item's attachment were likewise presented as a single "omnibus" agenda attachment, necessitating having to search through all of the amendments to find each specific one.  Apparently the CEO determines agenda items, and although Councillors could have voted to address each amendment  individually, they didn't.


All three West Ward Councillors - Anderson, Connor and Jukes - declared a conflict of interest and left the Chamber. 


After referencing "chain emails", Cr. Letchford moved an alternative motion (seconded Cr. Mowatt) that the amendments be forwarded to a panel, and that Council resolves to:

Reverse proposed C99 rezonings from Industrial 1 zone at two locations in Kyneton, and (to an audible intake of breath and groans from the gallery)

"Request that the Panel give serious consideration to the following item:  (a) C98: Key issue K, submission 53 [i.e. Villawood's submission] - The benefit of resolving the long standing issue of potential development of the land north of Golf Course Hill through a reconfiguration of existing titles." 


After again supporting Villawood over community interests (as he has on two previous occasions), Cr. Letchford stated Council will continue to work with the community.  


See MRRA Davies Hill Archive  1. The Stench Of Villawood Assaults Woodend Yet Again With Yet Another (Amendment) Development Proposal Outside The Town Boundary  and 2. Woodend Community Prevails As Council Rejects Villawood's Latest Development Proposal On 7 to 1 Vote


 Cr. Piper expressed disappointment the motion was not split so Councillors with conflicts for one amendment could have voted on other amendments, and said she had major issues with making policy on the run.  She said because of the motion's changes Council will now have to spend more money defending its strategic work when it should have been a developers' battle, not a Council battle.   She saw no point in last minute changes. 


Cr. Mowatt said he had to be open-minded.  Council had already rejected three rezoning requests for the land.  He felt reconfiguration of existing titles was not unreasonable, although the applicant would have to argue at a panel to get it.


Cr. Letchford said the changes had been discussed in the briefing and the alternative motion had been submitted on the day of the Council meeting, adding there had been an "email chain" from the "town of no" and negativity towards Council but despite detractors and negative people, the result was well-crafted and well thought out.


 Crs. Letchford, Mowatt, McLaughlin, Ellis and Hackett voted for the amended motion, Cr. Piper voted against.  With that, the motion to forward the amendments to a panel [and to have Council once again work on Villawood's behalf] was carried.


As the excluded West Ward Councillors again took their seats a member of the gallery, Dr. Max Winchester, asked the Mayor to hear a point of order relating to the inappropriateness of alleged coercion used against those Councillors who declared conflicts of interest, saying under the Local Government Act there was no conflict of interest.  The Mayor refused to hear Dr. Winchester's concerns and he was 'shouted down' and told he would have to leave the meeting, which he did.   Dr. Winchester subsequently lodged a letter of formal complaint calling for an investigation, also raising Cr. Ellis's conduct, with various offices of the State government.


The fourth planning issue, Item PE4, related to seeking authorisation to exhibit Amendment C109, a re-hashed version of elements of a previous amendment (C89) plus new "minor amendments", one of which rezones Daly Nature Reserve in Gisborne.  


In Amendment C109, Council disregarded its resolution at the very first meeting of this Council's term (November 2012) to apply an appropriate conservation zone to the Reserve.  In C109, Council instead treats the Reserve, which has high conservation and cultural values including a species listed on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee, as a recreation space by proposing a Public Park and Recreation Zone. 


Cr. Jukes moved (Cr. Letchford seconded) the officer's recommendation to seek authorisation to exhibit, as is, saying it was a simple amendment of minor amendments to the planning scheme. 


Cr. Mowatt moved an amendment (seconded Cr. Piper) to Cr's Jukes motion, the amendment being that the proposed Public Park and Recreation Zone [PPRZ] for Daly Nature Reserve be changed to Public Conservation and Resource Zone [PCRZ].  Cr. Mowatt argued that it was a unique piece of bushland and there was support in numerous formal documents for it to be recognised as such and protected. 


[Prior to the meeting, there was talk that the Reserve couldn't be zoned Public Conservation and Resource Zone because it would detrimentally affect the operation and potential expansion of the scout hall on the Reserve.  There were also claims that the hall, being a Place of Assembly in planning terms, was a prohibited land use in the PCRZ zone, but it's not.]


Cr. Mowatt said the alternative PCRZ zone would have no effect on the hall, Council is the public land manager, and that the scout group had a lease until 2035 and fully supported the alternative PCRZ zoning. 


Cr. Anderson agreed with Cr. Mowatt, saying this was an opportunity to get the zoning right. 


Cr. Letchford countered saying he understood the principle but asked on whose advice PCRZ was put forward.  A difficult-to-follow ramble followed where he [somehow] considered the old i.e. Shire of Gisborne zones less prescriptive than today.  He said although the scout hall would have existing use rights, it may find it had to go somewhere else if the Public Conservation and Resource Zone was applied.  He said the officers' views were more plausible and until Council found more planning tools, it needed the Public Park and Recreation Zone. 


Cr. Piper endorsed Cr. Mowatt's comments, and to Cr. Letchford, said the Reserve is a conservation area. 


When initially put to the vote, Crs. Anderson, Piper, Mowatt, Connor and Hackett supported Cr. Mowatt's amendment, while Crs. Jukes, Letchford, Ellis and McLaughlin opposed. 


When a division was called Crs. Ellis and Letchford switched sides and instead supported the amendment motion, leaving only Crs. McLaughlin and Jukes opposed.


The amended motion then became the substantive motion (i.e. it replaced Cr. Jukes original motion to support the officer's recommendation).  Crs. Anderson, Piper, Mowatt, Connor, Hackett and Ellis for, Crs. Letchford, Jukes and McLaughlin opposed. 


Consequently the motion to change Daly Nature Reserve rezoning from Public Park and Recreation to Public Conservation and Resource Zone in C109 was carried.   [Note:  the Council's draft minutes have Cr. Letchford supporting the (final) substantive motion, although on the night the division called appeared to place him with those not supporting.]


The fifth planning issue, Item PE5, related to the State government's Hanging Rock Review and the Hanging Rock Environmental / Fire Management Plans. 


Council's Director of Planning, Sophie Segafredo, put forward a revised recommendation, in light of the Minister for Environment's media release that day and the release of the State government's Review report into Hanging Rock operations.   She said a key correction to be made to the recommendation was that the new Environmental and Fire Management Plans' recommendations would supersede only the Environmental and Fire recommendations in the 1993 Loder and Bayley Hanging Rock Management Plan, not the entire Loder and Bayley document.


Cr. John Letchford moved (and Cr. Jukes seconded) Ms Segafredo's amended motion.  Cr. Letchford couldn't help himself, and said [the Review] had been a bit of a witch-hunt (Cr. Anderson called a point of order objecting to Cr. Letchford's depiction of the State government - Cr. Letchford withdrew the statement). 


Cr. Letchford then claimed the Review report vindicated Council's actions with glowing reports on its management of Hanging Rock, that Council had been and will continue to be the Committee of Management and Council could now get on with delivering and look again at commercial development to supplement Hanging Rock's financial position [met with groans from the gallery]He finished by saying he would have had a question re costs [of the Review, presumably] but it was best left until another time.   The amended motion was supported unopposed.


The sixth planning issue, Item PE6, related to adoption of a Development Plan at Kyneton near Village Green Drive, for 341 lots including 200 m2 lots.  


Director of Planning Sophie Segafredo advised a previous Development Plan had been approved for this land some years ago, but had since expired.  Councillors had engaged with the community and Councillors had been briefed.  She further said there had been substantial consultation with this locality (i.e. with the previous Development Plan), and the Planning and Environment Act did not include requirements for third party consultation on Development Plans.  In this instance there had been no community consultation by Council - officers understand what community requirements are. 


Cr. Mowatt said there had been consultation of 50 - 60 people [by the developer], with some Councillors (including himself) present.


When questioned about the cost of the bridge (over the Campaspe River) Ms. Segafredo responded costs hadn't yet been determined and there was no absolute requirement at this time for the bridge but should the rest of the land be developed, there would be.   A contribution of $5,000 per lot had been negotiated with the developer [i.e. $1.7 million towards the bridge].  She estimated the bridge cost at around $10 million.  Funding would come from other developments and Council was working with State and Federal government as well.  A bridge study would be undertaken in the next 12 - 18 months.  There would be a shared contribution between community [groans from gallery] and developments.  


Cr. Anderson put a series of questions: 
What consultation had occurred?  Ms. Segafredo said  community meeting/s, site visit/s, stakeholders of all varieties, and there was substantial discussion about development in this vicinity in the Kyneton Structure Plan. 
Was the consultation developer led?  Ms. Segafredo said Council had people there. 
As Council had tonight moved Amendment C99 forward to a panel and (because she wasn't in Chamber at that time), Cr. Anderson asked if any changes were made to Clause 21.13-2 Objective 10, or to the DPO1 schedule?   Ms. Segafredo said none other than as already in the PE6 Attachment.  
What zone did C99 put on the land:  GRZ1 or GRZ5?  Ms Segafredo said GRZ1.
What Character Precinct was the land in, was it Modern Residential?  Ms. Segafredo said she would have to look it up.
What was the average lot size in the Development Plan?  Ms. Segafredo said it has a a range of lot sizes. 


At this point, Cr. McLaughlin objected, saying it was unfair of Cr. Anderson to ask questions of the officers about things they might not know. 


Cr. Jukes then moved, and Cr. Letchford seconded, the officer's recommendation to approve the Development Plan. 


Cr. Jukes said:

It was a long-standing application before the community with lots of consultation over the years, and a previous permit [sic] had already been issued but had now lapsed.  Officers had taken the opportunity to bring it up to current standards. 

There had been community consultation at the Kyneton Mechanics Institute, jointly run by the developer and Council, buses with people taken out to the site;  the application had been part of the community for some time. 

The development plan was something new, not seen in Macedon Ranges before.  We now have built form - already seen in New Gisborne - not just land being broken up.  Had lots of emails about the 200 m2 but the development has 800 m2 in the outer areas.  The land is in proximity to the town, and transport, pedestrian and cycling interconnected.

It is also fantastic that Council is getting $5,000 per lot, which is 341 times $5,000 coming into Council's coffers, and that contribution isn't part of the planning scheme, the developer doesn't have to pay, he could even take Council to VCAT, but is paying anyway. 

RobertsDay is the backbone of what we are looking at now.  It's a fantastic company and he had had the opportunity, on his own initiative, to look at one of their projects.  He said this [the development plan? or the company?] was part of Kyneton's growth into the future.  This is the future.


Cr. Anderson agreed a lot of work had been done but disagreed it included consultation, and said: 

C99 lays out what should be done, and Council has endorsed that amendment as being what Council believes.  C99 says infill and development in the Modern Residential character precinct should, [amongst other things], relate to Kyneton's rural town character and be predominantly single storey.  The plan before Council doesn't fulfil the Objective 10's requirements. 

The State government's Practice Note 23 for applying development plan overlays stresses the need for community consultation before applying the Development Plan overlay and approving Development Plans, and consultation being appropriate from the start. 

She was always concerned about the small lots proposed - this [sized lot] isn't Kyneton, and remained concerned that consultation was developer-led, and that the C99 Development Plan Overlay schedule 1 that Council had just endorsed to go to a panel said Council will consult the community for two weeks about Development Plans but now Council was ignoring its own instructions. 

This proposal was about the whole town, not just individuals, and Council needed to bring the Kyneton community on board.


Cr. Connor stood and said $3.4 million, that's what the developer was contributing.  He said he and his wife had once had a beloved larger property, had sold and moved to 600 m2, and now found even that too much to manage.  The Development Plan proposal was fantastic, gives a chance for older people and for kids to buy a house, brings the community together.


Cr Piper said the development ticks all the boxes from health and well-being perspective but her main concern was that consultation was a long time ago, and there was now a lot of angst.


Cr. Jukes closed by saying: 

This was development within the town - modern development, not like Bluestone Rise and he didn't want to go there again.

This Development Plan for Kyneton has all the linkages - has it all - and we won't see it again, not in this town. 

The community has been consulted and those who want to know, know about it. 

It creates diversity, aging in place.  It's not just a subdivision, has open space, etc. 

He had received a few emails over the last few days, but couldn't say these represented broader community views; a group had sent out emails to oppose the proposal, but Council is above that.


Crs. Jukes, Letchford, Connor, Hackett, McLaughlin, Ellis, Mowatt and Piper voted to approve the Development Plan.   Cr. Anderson opposed.


Question time, scheduled for 7.45pm, wasn't conducted until 10.00pm, after Item PE6.  By that late hour, around half of those who had lodged questions had left; their questions were not read out.  The meeting finished around 10.15pm.


MRRA Says:


OK.  Let's stop throwing up for a moment, and take stock of what we've got here: 

Have we missed anything?  Well, there was the gall of Councillor Letchford at one stage sending the gallery into peals of loud, derisive, prolonged, deserved laughter.


It must have been convenient for some having all three West Ward Councillors out of the Chamber on Item P3 - the Structure Plan amendments.  Villawood's land is in the West Ward. 


The issue with Villawood's land is that the Woodend Town Structure Plan identifies it as a "Future Investigation Area", which consequently sets the land aside for investigation for long-term urban growth.  This creates major difficulties for doing anything else with the land  - unless the "Future Investigation Area" designation is removed.  Back in September 2013, Villawood wanted this designation.  That's when Cr. Letchford moved and Cr. Mowatt seconded an amended rescission motion that rewrote Woodend policy in Amendment C84 to include Villawood's (north-western area) land as a "Future Investigation Area" in the Woodend Town Structure Plan.  Crs. Morabito, Hackett, McLaughlin, Connor, and Jukes also supported the changes, but Crs. Anderson and Piper didn't.  In a classical example of be careful what you wish for, on that occasion Villawood got what it wanted, but now that the Structure Plan doesn't identify Villawood's land as first cab off the urban development rank, the company finds its land is tied up and unable to be developed for many years.   Villawood's C98 submission (#53) wants the "Future Investigation Area" designation removed, supposedly to allow reconfiguration of its existing lots, but that's something that could be done now under the planning scheme.  What removing the "Future Investigation Area" designation will really do is free the land up for future amendments to rezone/subdivide/develop in the short term.  And that's what Council has supported in the motion it approved at last week's Council meeting. 


Hanging Rock. What can you say?  WHAT CAN YOU SAY?  As the State government wants more transparency and accountability, and other significant improvements from Council, Cr. Letchford apparently read the wrong report, or didn't pay attention to what was in the right one.   It's interesting that he's banging on about the commercial development again.  Wonder who he knows?


As for the "email chain" references; a group opposing approval of the Kyneton Development Plan; that old chestnut "town of no" (or KNOW, as we like to think of it), of having received a few emails - Bwahahaha!   Now that's funny.  Insulting, but funny.


Poor didums!  MRRA is blamed, of course. That will be because MRRA read the meeting agenda and picked up on the dirty deal for community that was going down on this Development Plan with no community consultation and teensy lot sizes, and publicised it on our website, on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and via email alerts to our networks including asking residents to email all councillors, copies to Mary-Anne Thomas and the Minister for  Planning, saying don't approve the Development Plan, consult the community instead.  


From the crocodile tears and snide remarks in Chamber, it seems Crs. Jukes and Letchford didn't like being reminded they are elected to represent community interests.  Their defensive, and at times aggressive and dismissive, responses are tell-tale signs they received PLENTY of emails and messages, and ignored them all. 


 Both Councillors sent emails to MRRA President, Brian Whitefield, almost but not quite demanding to see the email/letter MRRA had sent around.  Cr. Letchford also sent emails to some residents who had sent emails to Councillors, asking them for a copy of MRRA's big, bad email/letter (there wasn't a letter).  He then tripped up again by sending another email to MRRA President Brian Whitefield.  See what the Councillors said to MRRA, comprising now expected but still utterly inappropriate comments from a Councillor.  See also Cr. Letchford's earlier response to MRRA's submission to the Equine Centre Feasibility Study


You know, the situation at Macedon Ranges Shire Council isn't just that some Councillors are acting extremely badly;  it's not even that some at Council are totally disinterested in what the community thinks.  It's much worse - deeper - than that.  What we have is a Council that is, with only a few exceptions, actively and punitively at war with its community.  


This Council could well be defined as Macedon Ranges Shire Council Pty. Ltd.: Developments, Investments, Real Estate and Land Deals.  In its hideous rush to 'sell off the Macedon Ranges farm' before the next Council election, it no longer even pretends to be democratic government, or hide who its friends are. 


Where do we as a community go from here?  Unless someone in higher authority acts, there isn't a thing any of us can do about it except wait for the next election to roll around.  Let's hope by then it's not too late to save ourselves, our democracy or this place.