By Kyra Gillespie
Cardinia Shire has rubber-stamped the controversial development of ten multi-storey units and an office building at the entrance of Main Street, Pakenham.
During a special meeting on Monday 1 October, the decision to lease 6, 8 and 10 Main Street Pakenham for the development of social housing was given the green light by all councillors, save one.
The single objector, Central Ward Councillor Carol Ryan, dissented on the grounds that the site was inappropriate for such a dense development.
“I never have and never will be opposed to supporting social housing projects in our community,” Cr Ryan said.
“But it’s the location I question; it’s the only piece of green space around for the residents living there, with the next closest being PB Ronald Reserve and Bourke Park.”
The sceptical councillor also questioned the local government body’s transparency over the matter.
The meeting was ordered at the same time as the prearranged annual leave of primary objector – Cr Brett Owen. Cr Jeff Springfield was also unable to attend.
“I have no problem with the financial aspect of this project; I believe council has been transparent in that way, but I do have some questions around why the meeting was not deferred on the basis that two councillors are missing. That’s one thing I’m quite concerned about,” Cr Ryan said.
The insinuations were refuted by Cardinia Shire Mayor Cr Collin Ross, who said the meeting went ahead due to a fear of losing funding for the project.
“There’s a very real risk that the funding for the project would be lost if the process was to be delayed further,” Cr Ross said.
“If went by the pretext that all councillors had to be at every meeting we would only run about two meetings a year.
“Everyone knew the meeting was coming up.”
The compact housing development has been steeped in controversy over the past month.
Since council’s September meeting, during which Cr Brett Owen lead a deferment of the 50-year lease signing, a petition garnering up to 140 signatures objecting the project was also presented to council.
However, council rules stipulate that a petition must sit with council for a month before it can be tabled, rendering the signatures useless.
“We told the petitioners that if they don’t present it in advance the next chance will be in a month’s time. Unfortunately by the time they handed it in it was too late, the decision was already going to be made,” Mayor Cr Ross said.
“That means that we technically didn’t have any objections to the lease.”
Petition header Gloria O’Connor said the decision was a missed opportunity by the council to preserve community space.
“Unfortunately current Cardinia Shire Councillors have lost the plot, being so concerned with rising need for social housing they are giving away community land for housing and showing total disregard for established residents,” she said.
“This is a unique site preserved by an earlier council as a picturesque community entry to the town and highly valued by residents and ratepayers generally from various parts of Cardinia Shire.
“This decision to put houses on such a small area of land is a huge mistake.”
The housing will provide short term accommodation for women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to current or immediate family violence.
There will be ten units comprising of two, three and four bedroom apartments and a support office for wrap-around services.
Over $2 million of funding will be provided by the Peter and Lyndy White Foundation for the project’s construction.
Council will tip in over $167,000 for the site’s external maintenance over the 50 year period.
The Peter and Lyndy White Foundation, WAYSS, Windermere and Cardinia Shire Council have partnered in the project.