Soldiers Hill residents are claiming a victory in their battles with the City of Ballarat over parking formalisation, after a marathon two-hour online meeting on Tuesday night led to council agreeing to reconsider the vexed issue entirely.
Chaired by mayor Daniel Moloney, the meeting was initially scheduled to run for an hour from 5.30pm. The City of Ballarat was represented by at least four councillors including Crs Samantha McIntosh, Peter Eddy, and Mark Harris. Also present was the city's CEO Evan King, the director of growth and development Natalie Robertson, council's heritage advisor John Dyke, and other officers.
There was an indeterminate number of residents and interested parties attending, with the figure estimated at roughly 50 participating.
The meeting was called at short notice following commencement of parking works in Doveton Crescent last week despite a public commitment by Mr King no digging would start without consultation.
Mr King acknowledged at the meeting the works should not have gone ahead, but claimed residents had since told him they wanted the work completed.
Soldiers Hill residents say the proposed changes have been rushed through by the City of Ballarat in order to fulfil the requirements of a $2 million Regional Development Victoria agreement funding replacement car parks for the historic precinct, and will destroy grassed roadside verges.
Questions asked by residents proved to be a series of well-prepared salvos at the phalanx of council representatives. There was a broad refusal to accept CoB's position the parking plans were well-thought through, transparent and necessary.
Residents David Cook and Andrew Kinnersly took the meeting back through the history of CoB's parking strategy forensically, pointing out the original plan was rejected in 2019, removing Soldiers Hill which, they argued, had arbitrarily been included in the CBD plan.
Mr Cook argued the spaces could not, in any form of measurement, be regarded as being within 500m of GovHub, which was a stipulation of the plan, and council had "changed the rules" after the original agreement.
We need to draw a line in the sand, sit down with our residents for a conversation around parking and heritage and inform our Council of the best way forwardEvan King
Mr Kinnersly questioned if council's modelling was up-to-date and considerate of the whole precinct, which drew the admission from Ms Robertson the plan was related to the immediate availability of RDV funding.
"It wasn't a conversation I had with any member of the community until it was raised coming up to the council meeting," Ms Robertson said.
"All I heard was, 'There's an agreement with RDV' and that's the only real justification for tipping Soldier's Hill on its head," Mr Kinnersly replied.
In a statement City of Ballarat CEO Evan King thanked the meeting participants, noting residents had: 'asked Council to consider a street-by-street approach to the Soldiers Hill program of works rather than a blanket whole of precinct approach; requested an extensive heritage assessment before any works start; and supported the need for trees to be protected, but do not believe asphalting and line-marking fit the heritage aesthetics of Soldiers Hill.'
"We need to draw a line in the sand, sit down with our residents for a conversation around parking and heritage and inform our Council of the best way forward," Mr King said.
A resident wryly noted afterwards 'street-by-street' fighting had favoured the residents in a different battle - that of Stalingrad.
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