THE Cape Paterson area special charge scheme, with an average cost per household of $10,000 to $20,000, will be declared on July 16 unless more than 50 per cent of affected households object.
Bass Coast Shire Council last Wednesday voted in favour of the public notice of “intention to declare a special charge scheme”.
While the decision was passed, with four councillors voting in favour, members of the public seated in the gallery cried, “Shame on you!”
The special charge scheme is intended to defray some of the $5.6 million cost of sealing roads and installing drainage in the Cape Paterson area, which falls in mayor Cr Neil Rankine’s ward of Hovell.
Citizens who want the infrastructure improved in their area of residence have a right for their elected representatives to put this in place.
However, objectors made their presence felt at the council meeting, with around a dozen people holding placards aloft that read “planning blind” and “this property objects”.
After Tuesday, February 25, property owners will receive a letter from council inviting them to make a submission or object to the project.
“Anyone in the community can make a submission regarding the project, but only property owners are entitled to lodge objections,” Cr Rankine said.
Under local law, if 50 per cent of households plus one objects, the special charge scheme cannot go ahead.
Cr Rankine said households which do not make a submission will be considered to support the scheme.
The submission period closes on March 26.
A council committee, made up of councillors Neil Rankine, Kimberley Brown and Clare Le Serve, will then consider the submissions and objections.
“Hearings will be held for owners who wish to be heard in support of their submission and/or objection,” Cr Rankine said.
“The committee of council will then prepare a report which will outline its recommendation to council as to whether the scheme should continue, be modified or be abandoned.
“The recommendation will consider the level of support and/or objections received and whether it is necessary to make any variations to the proposed scheme.
“Council will decide to adopt, modify or abandon it at the July ordinary council meeting.”
Before the vote, Cr Bradley Drew spoke of the seriousness of the issue.
“It’s weighing on my mind, absolutely,” he assured the gallery, then confirmed he felt he must vote in favour of the intention to declare.
“There is always a cost to everything the council does.”
Cr Le Serve also spoke in support of the decision.
“This is the start of the democratic process for those individual households to say ‘we want it’ or ‘we don’t’,” she said.
Infrastructure director Felicity Sist spoke of the reduced cost of maintaining and renewing sealed roads.
She said if the roads are sealed, money saved on maintaining and renewing gravel roads, which require more maintenance than sealed roads, would pay for the cost of the sealed road in 28 years.
In 50 to 60 years, she said, the community would be about $9 million ahead.
Cr Jordan Crugnale reminded councillors of the Cape Paterson community plan, which listed the overdevelopment of Cape Paterson as the highest concern and drainage and road surfaces as a low priority.
Cr Phil Wright objected to the whole notion of special charge schemes, which he called “absurd”.
Cr Rankine maintained the Cape Paterson area special charge scheme should go ahead as a test case.
“If the community votes against this scheme, we will know that we need to look again at special charges schemes,” he said.
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