RIVERS Australia could set up a 38-hectare shop, warehouse and resort at Woodmans Hill.
But some Ballarat City councillors fear it could be jeopardised by putting the draft Woodmans Hill Gateway Precinct Master Plan out for informal community consultation.
The council last night heard Rivers could lodge its planning application within the next month for land north of the Western Highway but would need assurances that the 80 km/h highway at Woodmans Hill would be upgraded to a freeway.
Rivers Australia spokeswoman Rosalie Wilson said the proposal could be dropped if the highway was not improved.
“If this (the upgrade) does not proceed, the future of Warrenheip will be stifled,” Ms Wilson said.
However, the current draft master plan does not include the Rivers proposal and the highway upgrade is 10 to 15 years away.
Councillor Craig Fletcher called for the consultation period to be deferred for further talks with affected landowners and Rivers.
“This potential 38 hectare development is a game-changer,” Cr Fletcher said.
Councillor Des Hudson also said the Rivers proposal had been in the background his entire time on the council.
“I was starting to think it wasn’t going to happen,” Cr Hudson said.
But Councillor Judy Verlin said putting the plan out for informal consultation would not close the door on the Rivers development.
“Hopefully this is the trigger that makes Rivers come forward with their development,” Cr Verlin said.
“Every councillor will be delighted to see an application from Rivers but you can’t do this sort of planning hoping we’ll get an application in one month or two months.
“It will be exciting if it comes to the council and I would encourage Rivers to move quickly on it.”
Councillor Ben Taylor also said the master plan needed to go to the next step.
“There is such confusion around the entrance. We’ve got to do something about this and move forward to the next stage.”
Warrenheip residents Trevor Wilson and Ernie Auchettl both also criticised the ad-hoc nature of the Woodman’s Hill entrance into Ballarat.
“It seems like a damn mess to me,” Mr Auchettl said.
“I know Ballarat has moved to the other end of town but give us a go too.”
The decision to put the master plan out for consultation came down to the casting vote of mayor Mark Harris.