Anger at Woodend rezoning impasse

A Macedon Ranges residents group has put a stop, for now, to the council’s plan to expand the Woodend town centre into an existing residential area.

The council proposed to extend the town’s commercial boundaries by including the residential block bounded by High, Brooke, Templeton and Urquhart streets.

Macedon Ranges Residents Association (MRRA) has been accused of costing ratepayers more than $20,000 so far in its battle to prevent the council’s rezoning, which has been the subject of two independent planning panel hearings.

Councillors expressed frustration last Wednesday when their meeting was told the group refused to budge from its opposition.

The association has objected five times so far to amendments proposed to Woodend’s commercial zones, all of which have been referred to independent planning panels.

Councils are obliged to ask for independent panel reviews of planning proposals that are opposed or cannot be resolved with the objectors.

Planning and environment director Sophie Segafredo said the past two referrals alone had cost the council $21,000 and at least 10 days of labour.

‘Objecting for objection’s sake’

Cr John Letchford said he believed the group was simply objecting “on principle”.

“I think the MRRA is just objecting for objection’s sake

“They are not qualified planners nor do they have one working with them when they make these submissions,” Cr Letchford said.

“It’s costing the ratepayers a lot of money to entertain these objections that are just made on principle.”

MRRA spokeswoman Christine Pruneau said the group had objected to the rezoning because of potential for developments that did not fit with the town’s main-street character.

“In some cases the amendments by council are so bad that we have to say something,” Ms Pruneau said.

“We have put in five submissions – two were in support and the rest have some aspects we have objected to.

“The council has a reputation for trying really bad things [when developing land],” Ms Pruneau said.

“When the council adopts an official document, we as residents should expect that any amendments shouldn’t look any different from the rest of the original structure plan. But that’s not the case.

“Yes, we objected to the proposed rezoning of the Woodend development and we’re encouraging others to object as well.”

Ms Pruneau said the residents’ group wanted all town structure plans, including those for Woodend, Kyneton and Riddells Creek, plus two other rezoning amendments to be considered together by a panel to save the expense.

Councillors voted against this.

“The question really should be, who is wasting ratepayers’ dollars?” Ms Pruneau said.