The Agenda for the Council meeting on 28th January had an item of interest - a review of the SC Shire's Special Charge Scheme Policy. See P8 of the Agenda - http://www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au/My_Council/Agendas_Minutes/Council_Agendas_Minutes/council_minutes_14/Meeting_28_January_2014?agenda
The minutes for the meeting have not yet been posted, not sure why it is taking so long, but the adoption of the recommendations has been deferred.
The committee sent an email to all councilors expressing concerns about the policy -
I have read the Agenda for today’s council meeting and noticed that there is an update to the Policy for Special Charge Schemes.
Considering the ongoing failure of the Jan Juc Pathways scheme to provide an equitable and aesthetically appropriate outcome, we believe the council needs to carefully consider the update to its policy. There is no doubt that the scheme has been a distressing and costly exercise to both the community and the shire and a disastrous public relations outcome that is evidenced by the recent mail-out about payments and complaints about the standard of finish.
The main reason the scheme failed so dramatically was the invention and subsequent roll out of the so called “Precinct” approach. Residents are still asking why some people in the “precinct don’t have to pay at all, why they are paying more than their next neighbor, why they have to pay when there is a footpath across the road from their property and why the RACV paid nothing. Have the RACV ever been asked to contribute? -. Council at its meeting on 23 March 2010 resolved
that Council request officers to negotiate with RACV with the intent of including the proposed Torquay Golf Club redevelopment in the scheme. It is recommended that following Council resolution discussions be held with the RACV to seek an ex gratia contribution to the scheme.
A change in policy for such an unpopular practice (Special Charge Schemes) should have involved community consultation not just a review by council officers/councilors.
Some points that need particular consideration are:
The ongoing practice of the “Precinct approach”
5.2.1 The option to defer should only be permitted on land that is under application for subdivision at time of scheme instigation. Otherwise landowners in locations such as Spring Valley could defer payments indefinitely.
5.2.4. Some property owners may not be in a financial position to pay a $5000 levy in one hit. The option to repay over an extended time should be an option to all. Maybe less than $5000 then less than a 10 year periods.
5.2.5 Council needs to clearly define "affected properties". Eg, council limited that affected properties for the Darian Rd footpath to localised houses, yet anyone who travels down Darian Rd benefits. This clause allows council to instigate a scheme even if 100% of affected properties are against and council ask for less than 2/3 from owners.
5.3 Re community based panels. Sound good in theory but unfortunately have a tendency to be ignored by council eg Aireys Inlet Pearse Rd., The Bells Beach taskforce. It appears to be councils method of saying they have had consultation. Hopefully this will not be the case in future.
Councilor Heather Wellington responded to the email on Tuesday evening -
"...thanks for your comments, I moved a deferment of the policy at tonight's meeting because I agree that it needs more work.
We will continue to work on this until it is in much better shape.
Kind regards, Heather".
We will push to be included in consultation about changes to the policy and if council accepts our input we will ask member to contribute.