Moyne Shire councillors are making a habit of rejecting the advice of council planning officers, going against the officer recommendations in all three planning applications at the June monthly meeting.
Planning officers recommended against granting a permit for all three applications, but in each case the councillors voted to approve, raising questions about whether the planning scheme needs further work.
One application for a subdivision on the outskirts of Koroit renewed discussion over the development of farming land for residential use.
The owner wanted to divide a 3.5 hectare land parcel with one existing dwelling into two smaller lots and build another dwelling on the second lot.
Council officers pointed out the land was within the farming zone and the planning scheme recommended against fragmenting farming land into smaller lots. Planning, building and health manager Robyn Olsen said the council had "seen several of this application type recently" and it was "not in keeping with any of the council policies".
Moyne Shire mayor Ian Smith agreed with the officers in rejecting the application, as did Cr James Purcell, who said he worried about the precedent councillors were setting.
"We've just been through amendment C70 where we had a chance to say what is farming land and what is residential land (and) this wasn't identified in it," he said.
"I think once we start knocking these off one-by-one, which we have a very good tendency to do, that we will finish up with no farming land left."
But the other five councillors disagreed, arguing an exception should be made to approve the application.
Cr Damian Gleeson said it was "imperative to protect farming zones and large (land) holdings", but the land in question was a small parcel and the proposed development didn't "limit the neighbour's ability to farm and the land (hadn't) been used for farming for decades".
IN OTHER NEWS:
The other two planning applications at the June meeting were for two adjacent blocks on Griffiths Street in Port Fairy.
The low-lying blocks fell partially within the inundation overlay in the latest flood modelling produced for Moyne Shire's C69 planning amendment, prompting the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority to write to planning officers recommending both applications be rejected.
The GHCMA said in a one-in-100 year flood event access to the properties would be completely cut off because the only way in and out was via Griffiths Street.
Council officers followed the GHCMA advice, saying the development was "likely to result in danger to the life, health, and safety of the occupants" in the event of a serious flood.
All seven councillors disagreed with the expert advice, with Cr Karen Foster saying planning officers had "done their jobs, but common sense has to prevail here".
It is unclear whether Cr Foster was suggesting the planning scheme or new flood modelling - which she and most of her colleagues had endorsed earlier in the year - lacked common sense. The Standard made several attempts to contact Cr Foster for comment, but was unsuccessful.
A GHCMA representative attended the council meeting to see the authority's advice rejected for both applications. A spokeswoman said the GHCMA had "until the end of the month to decide whether to apply for a review of the decision... to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal".
The Standard asked deputy mayor Daniel Meade whether it was a problem for councillors to continually overturn the expert recommendations of planning officers. He said councillors were "within their rights to make their own decision at meetings".
Cr Meade also said the rejection of all three recommendations at the July meeting was "unusual", however an audit of previous decisions shows that in 2022 every time council officers have recommended against granting a permit, councillors have overruled the advice and voted to approve the application.
Acting economic development and planning director Darby Lee said it was "not abnormal" for councillors to reject the advice of officers.
"In fact, councillors have recognised the recent overturning of planner recommendations and called for additional policy work to reframe some of the issues."
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