The Western District is unlikely to have a residential drug and rehabilitation facility if it is not allowed to operate at Dennington, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told on Wednesday.
Andrew Walker, who was acting for the Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre, said the site was chosen due to a number of factors.
"There is a pressing urgent need for The Lookout facility," Mr Walker said.
"If approved it will provide a significant and substantial community benefit particularly to the disadvantaged members of our community who suffer from drug problems and drug addiction."
Mr Walker said nine other sites were considered for the facility but they were deemed unsuitable.
In addition to that, there would be a financial barrier for other similar sites to the Atkinsons Lane property.
Mr Walker said the site was jointly owned by WDEA and the state government.
He said WRAD had been told by the state government it would only have to buy WDEA's portion.
Mr Walker said WRAD would pay $177,280, not the full asking price of $640,000.
"In effect neither WRAD not the state government has to provide the full capital cost of acquiring the site," he said.
Mr Walker said it was a "very glib response" to say The Lookout could go elsewhere.
"If not here, where and we would say if not here we would say the combination of factors associated with this site will not come again and there will be no Lookout project," he said.
Mr Walker also pointed out the Warrnambool City Council had received advice the risk of bushfire at the site was low.
He also said there had been a suggestion that the facility would result in a loss of productive agricultural land.
Mr Walker said the planning expert who gave evidence to the hearing did not analyse the productive capacity of the land.
He said evidence from a number of witnesses suggested "you can't grow anything, you couldn't run a farm on it".
"It's not productive," Mr Walker said.
The hearing also heard from Dennington resident Kate Kingsley, who said she fears the haven she has created with her husband will be ruined if The Lookout is given the green light.
Mrs Kingsley said she worked with people who had experienced trauma and she enjoyed spending time on her property, which she described as a sanctuary, to de-stress after a long day at work.
She said she would no longer feel safe feeding her horse in the dark or content when her husband was in their shed.
Mrs Kingsley said she felt powerless, sad and angry and was experiencing clinical anxiety for the first time in her life.
WRAD director Geoff Soma admitted clients were free to leave the facility if they chose.
He said the doors would not be locked, but a silent alarm would be triggered if a client left.
Mr Soma said it was rare for clients to leave the facility as they had undergone an intensive assessment process to determine their suitability.
He said people with a history of violence or sex offences would be excluded from The Lookout.
Mr Soma said WRAD explored a number of other sites before determining Atkinsons Lane was the most appropriate.
"The site selection was very important," Mr Soma said.
"We were aware there was always going to be planning issues wherever we went."
Mr Soma said WRAD approached the Warrnambool City Council who advised the former gas works site on Merri Street was available.
However, the council advised it would not be available for several years.
"We then asked council if they had any other sites and there were none."
Mr Soma said a number of commercial sites were considered, including the former Gallery Niteclub and the former Criterion Hotel.
"I looked at a vacant car yard in Raglan Parade but the price on that was $3 million," he said.
Glenormiston College was also looked at but was deemed too big and not in an appropriate location.
"We were made aware that the Gallery Niteclub was available but again the price tag on that was about $1.5 million and we would have had to do a lot of work and there would have been planning issues."
"We considered Deakin University - it wasn't available.
"We considered Country Life, which is just up near Deakin."
Mr Soma said the asking price of it was $1.5 million but renovations required would have meant a total spend of about $3.5 million.
"We considered the Criterion, a former pub, which is in Kepler Street but again the price on that was prohibitive because they're going to develop it."
Mr Soma said the Atkinsons Lane site was the perfect location for the facility.
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