"I think it's a correct decision; I think the appeal we put up was correct - he was trying to put the wrong thing in the wrong place."
Andrew Lorensene says despite the emotional, temporal and financial cost of the last 12 months, he's glad to have been part of of a community movement objecting to a tourism development on Mt Buninyong.
The decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to uphold a City of Ballarat planning outcome denying approval has been welcomed as a 'surprise outcome' by objectors.
The 'skybarrel' development proposed by Clifftop at Hepburn Pty Ltd and David Penman proposed four one-bedroom 'barrel' villas with steel supports built on the mountainside, complementing one already under construction as a home.
The City of Ballarat initially denied a building permit for the development citing inconsistency with planning guidelines, an inadequate effluent management system plan, and lack of detail regarding the construction of an accessway needed under CFA requirements.
READ THE FULL DECISION BELOW
"The development of the land is inconsistent with the objectives contained within the Rural Living Zone that does seek to protect landscape values," the council's director of development and growth Natalie Robertson said in February.
A total of 57 objectors, including Andrew Lorensene, raised concerns. The VCAT decision summarised their presentations, saying 'the proposal runs counter to the objectives of the planning scheme that calls for development to protect and enhance the visual amenity of the valued rural landscapes; that there will be unacceptable amenity impacts upon neighbouring residences and they question if the proposed development would be safe given the known bushfire risk in this area.'
The general opinion in the community would be it is an exciting and unexpected result- Barry Fitzgerald, Buninyong News editor
Mr Penman's submissions to VCAT countered the objectors, saying the development was 'appropriate given the planning scheme encourages tourism developments in the region (and) the proposed design characteristics minimise the visual impact of the development and that fire risk and access can be managed in an acceptable manner.'
Buninyong News editor Barry Fitzgerald was a formal objector, and says in his opinion the majority of residents in Buninyong would be pleased VCAT had supported council's original decision.
"I think the general opinion in the community would be it is an exciting and unexpected result," Mr Fitzgerald told The Courier.
"That's the first thing. There's a very small number of people who are concerned a little bit of business might be lost for the community, but the analysis we did was the people who would be coming in, using the barrels, wouldn't be the type to get down to town and buy a pie. They would up there, sitting in the bath, looking at the views drinking, very expensive champagne."
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- 'Sky barrel' project planned for Mt Buninyong foothills heads to VCAT
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- No roll out for Skybarrels as council votes to reject Buninyong development
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Mr Fitzgerald was cautious about whether the VCAT decision would mean the development was finished as a going concern.
"The last page of the determination, if you look at that, there might be a little bit of an opening. It seems to say, 'If you came back with a proposal that didn't have dirty big barrels, that might be a slightly different kettle of fish,'" Mr Fitzgerald said.
"But I think he's caught in a bind at the moment; he's built that one barrel up there. And the Rural Living Zone requirement is that there will be one residence on an RLZ property. So he's got that one residence there.
"I think he'll be in trouble if he wants to put four low-slung, motel-type units or something like that up the top of the hill. The last page of the determination, I think, opens the door slightly to him coming back without the super-duper, whoopy-do barrels. But I think it's highly unlikely."
David Penman declined to offer a comment on the VCAT decision to The Courier, saying "discretion was the better part of valour at this stage."
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