‘Road blocks’ on land lots

A MULTI-million dollar housing development proposal is on the verge of collapsing after another hurdle has left developer Brett Neilson thinking “it’s too hard” to continue.

A Latrobe City officer’s development plan recommendation for Cross’s Road, Traralgon was altered by councillors during Monday night’s meeting to have the Implementation Plan be brought back to council.

But BFN Development director Mr Neilson fears this is “one road block” too many.

The Implementation Plan, which provides detailed information on the project’s planned process, would normally be carried out in stages by officer delegation, however Mr Neilson feared the motion would cause significant financial implications and delays.

“The planning department gave a recommendation to councillors on what should happen with the development; councillors overruled that recommendation and we now have a far more tedious guideline and have to do a lot more design work and have a lot more agreeance with neighbours,” Mr Neilson said.

Four years in the pipeline, with $300,000 invested in consultants to develop more than 650 residential lots, Mr Neilson said investors were questioning whether to continue.

“We have exhausted all of our resources over the last 18 months and now we have to go back to another council meeting to get approval,” he said.

“It is purely time, but time is money.”

If able to overcome the challenges, Mr Neilson said the project would have addressed Traralgon’s 24-month land-drought.

“This is so critical to the town right now it is incomprehensible,” he said.

“I have a good understanding of this market, having built more homes in Traralgon than any other private company but once again we have road blocks and it is all political.”

The Cross’s Road development site was part of the State Government’s rezoning of 800 hectares of land across the Valley, beginning in January last year, following an urgent request of council. However, the 800 hectares remains undeveloped.

Despite being “happy” with council’s planning department, he said he was frustrated at the councillors’ decision to alter the recommendations.

“Council officers have the full technical understanding, professional experience and knowledge of the project, they have come up with and given their educated recommendations and councillors have decided to change that; which is what I don’t understand,” Mr Neilson said. 

“Council officers have tried; councillors decided not to support the recommendations and get involved in commercial decision.”

Latrobe City councillor Kellie O’Callaghan put forward the alternative motion and said the change was not inconsistent with the officer’s initial recommendation or intent.

“The alternate motion requires the implementation plan to be considered by council rather than by officers under delegation,” Cr O’Callaghan said. 

“This is no more onerous than the initial recommendation, it is not intended to cause any delay.”

Council resolved to adopt the Cross’s Road Development Plan, which Cr O’Callaghan said indicated support for the development and its progression. 

“We do recognise that there are some matters to be further explored and this will be considered through the implementation plan process,” she said.

“My priority remains ensuring the best outcome for our community.”

In response to Mr Neilson’s frustration, Latrobe City general manager governance Carol Jeffs believed it was “purely timing” concerns.

“Having to take something back to council will mean there is an extra step in the process,” Ms Jeffs said. 

Despite concerns, Ms Jeffs said the resolution to support the development plan was a “great step forward” to release some of the recently rezoned residential land in Traralgon.

“This is what the planning process is all about, council facilitates a process to get land from undeveloped to developed,” she said.

“It does take a long time to get land from unzoned through to developed land on the market.”