Update, 9.30am June 3, 2020
The Courier has received this response from the successful applicant, Wes Randerson of Citizen Outdoor:
Whilst it appears some submitters have a philosophical objection towards the notion of electronic signs in heritage precincts (such as Sturt St), it cannot fairly or reasonably be said the proposed replacement sign will cause any reduction in visual amenity.
The new sign will be smaller and have a cleaner presence in the streetscape, resulting in a less intrusive outcome than the existing damaged sign. The controlled luminance of the electronic sign will not be unduly prominent in this heritage place.
As per the existing perpetual permit, there are no controls that would allow enforced removal of the existing derelict and vandalised sign. The new permit will see a well managed sign which has a expiry date and curfewed operational hours.
First it was on. Then it was off, on, and off again. Now a proposal for an electronic billboard on Sturt Street looks likely to be switched on again after a highly confusing sequence of events.
Last week, The Courier reported the controversial plans, with a nine by three metre sign proposed above Kevin Paisley optometrists on Sturt Street, would be going to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
The matter was debated in the council chamber on Wednesday night, with a majority of councillors voting to reject the original decision to grant a permit and force the matter to VCAT.
In highly unusual circumstances, council officers told councillors the municipality would be legally representing both sides of the argument at the tribunal, as a notice to grant a decision of approval had already been issued via council's planning department.
Cr Daniel Moloney called the scenario embarrassing but the right thing to do.
The mayor Cr Ben Taylor opposed the resolution, saying: "I don't understand how council can take itself to VCAT."
As it turns out, it will not. The City of Ballarat said on Tuesday the plan to go to VCAT was predicated on a third party objecting to the decision to grant a notice of approval and taking the matter to VCAT. In the end, they explained, nobody did.
In a statement, a City of Ballarat spokesperson said:
"Council... voted to seek to set aside Council's previous delegated decision on this matter and instead replace it with the 27 May decision to refuse the application."
"The resolution was based on an expected appeal to VCAT by an objector, which has not occurred."
"Therefore, the only course of action within Council's jurisdiction under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 was to issue a planning permit for the electronic billboard as the Council's motion is now inactive."
Previously Terry Demeo, the council's former director of infrastructure and environment, said last month the sign would progress to VCAT.
Council itself perhaps needs to call in more planning applications than it does at presentStuart Kelly, Ballarat Heritage Watch
Mr Demeo is thought to have written the report for councillors. However, he was not at the council meeting on May 27, having resigned the previous week due to the Ombudsman's report.
One of the six original objectors to the planning application was Stuart Kelly of Ballarat Heritage Watch.
"It is very disappointing," Mr Kelly said. "It is an indication that council should have got its act together rather sooner - and that council itself perhaps needs to call in more planning applications than it does at present."
He said the one positive thing was a sunset clause included in the permit, which means the permit could be reversed in 10 years.
Mr Kelly also commented on the prohibitive costs of taking objections to VCAT, and suggested more onus should be on council to refuse permits and force commercial applicants to the tribunal rather than leaving it in the hands of citizen objectors.
"Developers have a vested interest and deeper pockets," he said.
The permit does mean the existing sign, which is half covered in graffiti, will be removed.
Under the terms of the permit, the billboard - which is slightly smaller than the existing sign - will only be able to operate during daylight hours and display "non-movable imagery". It would also have a one-minute minimum dwell time, meaning the image would stay static for at least 60 seconds.
The Courier has contacted the applicant Citizen Outdoor for comment.
What they previously said
City of Ballarat Media Response, May 1
The following statement is in response to questions from The Courier regarding electronic billboards From City of Ballarat Director of Infrastructure and Environment Terry Demeo:
A digital sign has been the subject of a planning permit application to replace an existing illuminated advertising sign located above 101-107 Sturt Street in the Ballarat CBD.
The application has been considered at department level where the proposal was supported. However, the application will be the subject of a report to the Council meeting on 27 May.
The recommendation to Council will be not to support the application as it progresses to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
- Electronic billboard plans for Sturt Street under the spotlight [Feb, 2020)
- Sturt Street electronic billboard moves forward despite objections [May 2, 2020]
- Controversial Sturt Street billboard plan to go before council [May 23, 2020]
- Council to oppose itself at VCAT over Sturt Street sign [May 28, 2020]
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