Vote opens up wedge debate

By CASEY NEILL

A push for smaller block sizes in the Bangholme green wedge is doomed to fail, says Greater Dandenong councillor Matthew Kirwan.
A seven-to-four vote passed a motion to slash the minimum land parcel size from six hectares to 2000 square metres at the Tuesday 14 June council meeting.
At the next meeting on Monday 27 June, Cr Kirwan will move to rescind the decision.
He said the intention heading into the meeting was to seek approval from Planning Minister Richard Wynne to proceed with embedding the council’s Green Wedge Management Plan – adopted in December 2014 – into the municipality’s planning scheme.
“What the decision on Tuesday night now means is that this green wedge plan is just a piece of paper,” he said.
“It becomes just a set of guidelines that VCAT doesn’t have to take any notice of it.”
As it stands, the council will ask the minister to put the plan to a panel for assessment for inclusion in the planning scheme.
Cr Kirwan doesn’t believe the minister will allow it to go to the panel because it is significantly different to what was put on public exhibition.
The minister could rule that the plan has to go back to the public for comment, or tear it up.
“I’m very confident that this is a dead end,” Cr Kirwan said.
“Since 2004 there’ve been no examples of lot sizes that have been approved that are less than the minimum lot sizes.”
Cr Peter Brown put forward the alternative motion that was passed.
He said the original motion in the agenda, which failed four votes to seven, was “going to entrench us in the past for another generation of people”.
He said a QC had told him the lot size change was “within acceptable legal parameters”.
“We are talking about the value of property that people are entitled to derive value from,” he said.
“This is a step forward into the future that this council now must take.
“By adopting the alternative, we are putting it to the panel, we are putting it to the minister, we are putting it to the public that this council is supporting a brighter Keysborough than has previously been the case.”
Cr Memeti said the change wasn’t turning the green wedge into industrial or high-density land.
He said owners of smaller blocks would be able to better look after them.
“This is what the community wants. I’ve been out to many residents’ homes,” he said.
“They cannot look after the properties.
“It’s not attractive at the moment but we can make it something special.”
Cr Sean O’Reilly said Cr Brown’s plan was all about enriching land owners.
“Is that the sort of way this council should run its planning policy?” he said.
He said the green wedge was set up over decades to be the lungs of the city.
“If council proposes to pick at it, it goes from being green wedge to green Swiss cheese – more parcels, more buildings, more density of people,” he said.
Defenders of the South East Green Wedge secretary Barry Ross said he was disappointed with the decision.
“Half an acre is an absurdly small size for blocks in the green wedge and would result in the transformation of the land into a residential precinct,” he said.

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