Monday, June 02, 2003

Local News

I did a bad thing on Saturday night: I stole the front page of the Moreland Leader from the local fish and chip shop. The front page story was about a local planning dispute that may end up in Victoria's Supreme court, thanks to the intervention of Planning Minister Mary Delahunty:

Minister blocks plan

A RARE 11th hour amendment by Planning Minister Mary Delahunty could signal the end of a five-year battle to stop a controversial townhouse development in Brunswick East.

Last Friday Ms Delahunty allowed Moreland Council to amend its planning scheme just hours before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal was to consider an application for a second townhouse at 42 St Phillip St.

The site-specific amendment prevents a second building on the property.

"The Bracks Government does not intervene lightly in the planning process," Ms Delahunty said. "In this case it became necessary to take action ... the matter raised issues of fairness and public interest, which are grounds for intervention."

The decision ends five years of protesting by affected neighbours Steve and Ronnie Whitmore.

The wrangle began when the council refused an application for a dual townhouse development. The tribunal upheld the decision on appeal in 1999.
[my emphasis]

This is where the fun really starts, if the events that followed can really be described as fun. I'm not going to comment more than that at the moment: Victorian property developers can be a touchy lot. Just ask that pensioner couple who had to spend $10,000 or so on an advertisment in The Age apologising to a property developer for various comments they made in the objections they made to their local council to one of his developments. It was either that or face the cost of defending a libel action in the Supreme Court. On with our story:

Property owner Vito Bartucca then changed the property title from two to one, which allowed him to build a two-storey townhouse on part of the site. Under planning laws single dwellings can be built without a permit on lots greater than 300 sq m [my emphasis]

You can probably guess where the Mr Bartucca put the townhouse. Here's how the Moreland Leader describes it:

The townhouse was squeezed on to one half of the block closest to the Whitmores, overshadowing their 140-year-old Victorian cottage.

It infuriated the Whitmores, who camped on the front steps of Parliament HOuse but failed to persuade then Planning Minister John Thwaites to intervene.

The next section doesn't really require any comment from me either. If you sussed out that the first townhouse was going to be placed according to the original development plan, it's likely that you've already more or less worked out the next bit too:

The current application, lodged with the council last May, was for a single storey dwelling on the vacant half of the block. It was on appeal because the council took more than 60 days to process the application Outside the hearing, Ms Whitmore said she believed justice had been done.

The Whitmores may be (more or less) happy, but the same can't be said for Mr Bartucca. After reporting that he might pursue costs against Moreland Council, the Moreland Leader sounds this ominous note:

The Bartuccas [sic] can also appeal the legality of Planning Minister Mary Delahunty's decision to the Supreme Court and ask for the tribunal hearing to be reinstated.

For some reason, the whole thing reminds me of the "Wade House" case. Well, now that I've blogged it, I suppose I'd better see what I can do about sneaking the purloined page back into the fish and chip shop, where it belongs.

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