THEIR issue wasn’t listed on the agenda of last week’s Bass Coast Shire Council meeting but the people of Cape Paterson came anyway.
They sat in a crowded public gallery displaying small placards backed with brightly coloured cardboard protesting against a proposed special charge scheme.
One of their number, Nicholas Low, is Professor in Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Melbourne.
He and his wife Liz have a holiday house at the seaside village. He told The Star, “The people are very passionate about the environment at Cape Paterson.
“I’m a planner from way back. I’ve seen things from both sides. This is bad planning and insensitive engineering, putting the imprint of suburbanisation on our coastal villages. It’s a massive impost and a huge cost.”
Professor Low said the protestors didn’t have a conflict with the council, but with its engineering department.
Several lodged queries during community question time, including Anne Wilson, who wanted to know how council was dealing with the social cost of the proposed scheme.
From the gallery, she told council people who had approached the shire to ask about payment options had come away more worried than ever.
She said they had been told council could sell people’s homes to pay for the special charge scheme or call in a debt collector with a 10 per cent penalty rate.
“There is a lot of angst and worry and sleepless nights.”
She said she did not know how pensioners could pay their share of the scheme of $28,000 or $27,000.
Fellow resident Michael Russell-Clarke said a council document relating to the proposed scheme “frightens the hell out of us”. He said he wanted to congratulate deputy mayor Cr Neil Rankine for visiting Cape Paterson to see the issues for himself, coming at a time of “hissing down rain”.
Shire CEO Allan Bawden assured the gallery no-one had ever had their house sold from under them over a special charge scheme.
“It is a charge against the property, not a personal debt.”
He also stressed the scheme has not yet been approved.
Cr Rankine said councillors had previously deferred the scheme pending “further considerations”.
Cr Phil Wright asked when there might be a tangible outcome but acting infrastructure director Jamie Sutherland replied while the work is underway “I wouldn’t want to provide a time”.
In a lengthy letter to mayor Cr Clare Le Serve, Professor Low suggested closer consultation between council and property owners within the scheme would sort out some of the issues of contention.
“We would much rather work with rather than against council.”
He said a study of the environmental impact of sealing the roads involved would be a good idea, as would proper engineering and geological studies to determine the source of localised flooding.
A neighbourhood character study of the heart of Cape Paterson, traffic flow surveys and a questionnaire to property owners to gauge support or otherwise for the scheme, would also be a good idea.
Professor Low also noted there was no need to overdesign roads to carry heavy traffic in areas of low and occasional traffic flows and if residents thought dust was a serious problem, there could be an investigation of cost effective options for sealing roads.
He described the immense cost of the scheme as “a draconian tax on home owners”.
“The level of fear and anxiety generated by this scheme is very serious.”
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