TEMPERS flared in the public gallery when Wellington Shire Council wrestled with the contentious planning amendment which will allow development of a Dan Murphy’s bulk liquor outlet in York St, Sale on Tuesday afternoon.
Frustrated and fearing their concerns would not prevail, some gallery members resorted to interjections of “what about family businesses?”, “loss of jobs” and “rubbish”.
The interjections became so strident during Cr Darren McCubbin’s explanation of council’s dilemma that Cr Peter Cleary called for a point of order.
“During all the presentations we have had there was absolute silence from the council … we listened to what they said, made notes, I think it is only fair the same courtesy be extended to the people who are up here,” Cr Cleary said.
Despite acting mayor Caroline Crossley’s direction to the gallery that they listen politely, the interjections continued.
Cr Patrick McIvor became so frustrated that when gallery member Bob Dillow lectured council on what it should consider, Cr McIvor called for the council meeting to be postponed if proper process could not be followed.
Cr McCubbin proposed council accept the recommendation to allow the rezoning of 120-122 Cunninghame St to mixed use zone, suggesting even if council rejected the proposal any VCAT hearing would overturn its decision.
He agreed there would be traffic problems on the intersection of Cunnighame and York Sts, but said “we have made a submission to the panel about changes to that corner”.
“We need to work in conjunction with VicRoads to make that occur,”
“It is a difficult thing for council; it is not a debate about whether alcohol is a good or bad thing … the issue is about we allow a building to occur in that mixed use zone,” he said.
“I see no good planning reason why we should stop that.”
Before Cr McCubbin spoke, seven objectors to the planning amendment had addressed the council with acting mayor Crossley allowing each of them much more than the usual three minutes.
First to speak was Wellington Liquor Accord representative and Australian Hotels Association life member Jim Ryan who rejected the findings of the independent planning panel to which council had referred the contentious issue.
Its report found “the proposed Dan Murphy’s Bottleshop in this location will not present an unacceptable risk or further impact on the amenity of the surrounding area.”
Speaking for more than 10 minutes, Mr Ryan said the location of another packaged liquor outlet was of considerable concern to “the liquor accord members and a number of residents as seen by the gallery here today.”
He quoted evidence presented to the independent panel that packaged liquor outlets contributed to alcohol abuse, but not around the area of the outlet.
“….. they will be taking it home and fighting in the streets, in their homes and their backyards,” Mr Ryan said.
Paul Feltis said he had been shocked by how one sided the panel hearings had been, with Woolworths’ array of QCs and expert witnesses making any objector feel they were on trial.
He was particularly concerned expert witnesses gave evidence without ever having visited Sale to view the site.
Jim Feltis read out a letter from local ambulance team manager David Rice expressing concern increased traffic in Cunninghame St could delay ambulance response times.
Ken Bailey spoke of existing problems with alcohol abuse, with staff at Sporting Legends having to refuse entry to intoxicated people who were arriving with packaged liquor.
Mr Dillow said council should have stopped the application at the first meeting.
“If you go home and look in the mirror and you voted for it then I’m against you,” he said.
He pointed out the traffic at the intersection was a major problem.
Bob McKay reinforced the problem of crossing the intersection.
“I go across there every morning and it’s a suicide mission,” he said.
“With the influx from Dan Murphy’s, God help us.
“How many drunks do we need in Sale?”
Klara Jones objected to the encroachment of retail outlets into residential zones, and appealed for council to consider the impact on the ambulance service next door to the entrance to Dan Murphy’s.
“The traffic concerns will be greater with delivery trucks backing into the Dan Murphy’s driveway, blocking the neighbour’s driveways opposite them (my neighbours and mine), but mostly the threat of impeding the ambulance station’s freedom of movement,” she said.
“Again, the ambulances can be affected having to wait for delivery trucks and cars driving in and out of the Dan Murphy’s carpark, both in the driveway next to them and then, if they turn left onto the highway, with the York St access.”
She also pointed to Sale having one of the highest concentration of liquor outlets in the state and the consequential harm to young people and family violence.
Opposing the planning amendment Cr Emilie Davine expressed her frustration that what was best for the community was not under consideration.
She expected a loss of revenue to community groups and “I find it disappointing planning law is not working for the good of the community”.
Cr Peter Cleary also opposed the motion, admitting however that if the motion was defeated there was little doubt VCAT would overturn council’s decision.
“We are not bound by the decisions of the pane; it provides us with advice,” he said.
He pointed out competition and community contribution from existing businesses could not, under planning law, be considered.
“If this Dan Murphy’s was placed half way between Sale and Stratford, there would be no issues.
“Where they plan to put it there is a traffic issue … it’s a crazy intersection, you can spend 10 minutes trying to get across the road.”
Cr Patrick McIvor also opposed the motion on the grounds of the traffic problems and the level of community objection.
“We need to stand on our principles and say this is not the best outcome for our community,” he said.
He stressed council needed to look at its planning strategy.
“We do not need to be in this situation again.”
Ultimately council voted to approve the planning scheme amendment and planning application to allow the construction of the Dan Murphy’s outlet.
Crs Crossley, McCubbin, Wenger and Duncan supported the motion, Crs Davine Cleary and McIvor opposing.
Two councillors did not vote.
Cr Rossetti was on leave and Cr Hole had declared a conflict of interest.