The direction of Ballarat's future suburban growth is likely to become clearer next week.
Council officers have earmarked two giant swathes of land to the north and west of the city as areas for expansion. Under the plans, the existing growth zone would continue further west. There would also be an entirely new growth area to the north of the city just beyond the Western Freeway towards Mount Rowan.
The plans are designed to help absorb a booming population, with almost 40,000 new residents projected to be in Ballarat by 2036 - adding to the existing population of around 107,000.
We have got fantastic growth - this is about planning ahead so there is an opportunity for the city to grow in a coordinated wayJames Guy, City of Ballarat
Councillors will consider the recommendations at an ordinary council meeting next Wednesday (October 30). Their decision is likely to guide the direction of the city - and the urgency of major infrastructure projects such as the Ballarat Link Road - over the next few decades.
It may also prove controversial among landowners whose properties are not included in the planned growth area and miss out on a boost in land value.
A total of four areas were investigated by strategic planners, prompted by concerns that main current area of development around the city, the Ballarat West Growth Area, could run out of space by as early as 2024.
A GOOD IDEA? HAVE YOUR SAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STORY
According to council documents, there are around 520 new dwellings added to the Ballarat West Urban Growth area every year.
While the land area indicates there should be room for another 12 years of development, "fragmented land ownership" means that building may have to stop within five years.
The council report says the supply of greenfield land will reach a minimum threshold, which would allow 15 years of growth, before the end date for the existing Ballarat planning strategy in 2040.
That same strategy suggested that half of the new residential developments in the city should be from infill - in other words, within existing built-up areas of the city. However, the pace of that type of developments has been significantly slower than hoped.
While council planners hopes investments into Bakery Hill - among other initiatives - will trigger that sort of growth, at the moment much of the residential development in the CBD is only at the concept stage and could take years to evolve.
The eastern option - beyond Eureka and including Warrenheip - was described as having fragmented small parcels of land and being "difficult to aggregate and coordinate development". The report also cited as having a "high cost to service" and the area's environmental sensitivity.
PROPOSED EASTERN GROWTH AREA (NOT RECOMMENDED BY COUNCIL OFFICERS)
The potential for the north-west growth area - which straddles Remembrance Drive on the way to Cardigan - suffered from remoteness and need for early funding infrastructure and education funding, the report says.
PROPOSED NORTH-WESTERN GROWTH AREA (NOT RECOMMENDED BY COUNCIL OFFICERS)
Meanwhile the northern option was deemed the most cost-effective for installing water, drainage and roads. It could be developed to a self-sufficient size, although its location is "physically separated" from the rest of urban Ballarat, the council documents say.
PROPOSED NORTHERN GROWTH AREA (RECOMMENDED)
The pros of the western area include building on the existing growth and developing infrastructure in that part of the city, while the disadvantages are cited as "limited diversity of location" and some fragmented land ownership.
PROPOSED WESTERN GROWTH AREA (RECOMMENDED)
The vote next week is likely to establish a clear direction of growth - although the subsequent consultation and planning is likely to be a long process. Boundaries for the areas selected may change but once councillors have indicated the preferred area for growth, the general location will stay the same.
"We don't want a sprawl, we want to [expand] in a wise way, that's why we need these controlled growth fronts," said the City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh.
James Guy, the City of Ballarat's executive manager of economic partnerships, said: "We have got fantastic growth - this is about planning ahead so there is an opportunity for the city to grow in a coordinated way."
- See the council's agenda documents here.