Two passionate debates at consecutive council meetings have not stopped an application for a brothel in Traralgon from being approved.
A challenge from Latrobe City councillor Christine Sindt, to have the brothel’s approval overturned, failed on Monday night.
There was a split vote 4-4, with chair of the meeting Cr Sharon Gibson casting the deciding vote.
This was despite residents again expressing their concern about the brothel’s Standing Drive location and fear of increased violence in the industrial area.
It is a decision that has disappointed Cr Dale Harriman, who supported Cr Sindt’s challenge based on the opposition of the nearby community.
“I don’t think where it is, is the right place,” Cr Harriman said.
“Councillors are there to represent the community and we let the community down last night.”
Last year council received an application to open an exempt brothel in a Standing Drive warehouse, which the applicant said would operate by appointment only with strictly no walk-in traffic.
Councillors approved the application on the grounds a management plan be submitted detailing security measures and no more than five people would be on the premises at any one time.
The exempt brothel, a small owner-operated business that can operate with two sex work service providers, would open between 10am and 10pm, seven days a week.
Four people addressed Monday’s meeting before councillors considered overturning their original approval, with a member of a nearby foodbank suggesting the facility could close down.
A property owner said the brothel would be in the line of sight of his future family home, while a social worker asked councillors if the brothel was in the best interests of women and children.
Speaking in support of the brothel’s approval, Cr Kellie O’Callaghan told The Express providing a safe work environment in the sex industry was important.
“If we turn a blind eye to the existence of the industry and encourage unregulated working environments we place women at much higher risk,” Cr O’Callaghan said.
She said while it was important to consider community concerns, she felt confident a council officer’s report addressed the matters highlighted.
“There remains an avenue for appeal to VCAT (the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) in the event that the objectors feel that council hasn’t heard or effectively considered the issues they presented,” she said.
All objectors can appeal the decision by making an application to the VCAT to review council’s decision.
Those who did not make an objection to council must have VCAT’s leave to make an application for review of council’s decision.
Objectors have 21 days, from the date of the notice of decision to issue a permit, to appeal the decision.