Residents in a pocket of Mount Helen near bushland are reportedly breaching an agreement not to keep dogs and cats.
The understanding, introduced almost 15 years before most of the existing houses were developed, stipulates that pets cannot be kept.
It was designed to protect wildlife on the urban fringes, particularly koalas in the bushland south-east of the city.
A homeowner in the area - known as Mount Helen Sanctuary - brought the matter before council at question time last week.
The resident, who did not wish to be named, complained that not enough was being done to deter people from breaking the so-called Section 173, which is an agreement between a landowner and the local authority that restricts how the land can be used.
If people are going to set up developments that encourage people to enjoy nature, who is going to uphold it?Linda Zibell, Mount Helen resident
The resident made the point that the local koala population was under pressure in the area. He said he had sent numerous emails to the council but it had not prompted any clampdown - and said most residents would be aware of the restriction. In response, Terry Demeo, the council's director of infrastructure and environment, said that the council was using "a pragmatic rather than a heavy handed approach" to address the issue.
He said the enforcement of Section 173 agreements was at council's discretion and confirmed they would have details of people keeping registered pets in the area. Councillors and officers discussed ways of implementing the rule, including the option of sending out reminders each year.
In a later statement, Mr Demeo confirmed council had the option to enforce the agreement via VCAT.
The original section 173 agreement was put in place as the result of a ruling from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in 2004. The City of Ballarat council had rejected a planning application from the developers Road Con Constructions. However at a VCAT hearing their decision was set aside on the provision that any future lots did not allow cats and dogs on the property.
In the ruling, the area's suitability for koala habitat was noted - although it also noted that dogs were already being kept at properties previously built on the area.
Linda Zibell, a Mount Helen resident who lives just outside that sanctuary area, heard the ruling. She recalls the agreement being flouted shortly after the development opened. "It was just ignored," she said.
The ruling also in theory restricted owners and developers from removing more than 500 square metres of vegetation on each lot. The original proposal suggested that residential lots would vary from 712 square metres to 1877 square metres.
There were 87 lots subject to the restrictions the original VCAT ruling shows.
Ms Zibell said that there used to be family groups of koalas coming through her property - but she didn't see them any longer. She also told the story of a neighbour who laughed when his dogs had killed a koala.
While there were environmentally significant overlays, she said: "Always when the crunch comes, [they are] allowed to quietly go."
She acknowledged people were unlikely to get rid of their pets, saying the system now relied on people "dobbing in" other residents. "And [that's] not good for neighbours, the community or the environment. But if people are going to set up developments that encourage people to enjoy nature, who is going to uphold it?"
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