Station St first round won, apartments fight not over

FERNTREE Gully Village traders opposing the controversial 44 Station Street apartment block have won one round, but not yet the fight.

Height controls imposed to restrict the proposal have succeeded in reducing its original four storeys of 38 apartments to two storeys of 18 flats, but traders say the plan still lacks sufficient parking.

A spokesman for the developer, town planner Michael Dunn, confirmed the proposal was rescaled to meet the new 7.5-metre height controls.

The amended proposal has a “similar footprint” to the first application, but is now only two storeys high with commercial use on the ground floor and apartments on the upper level.

Mr Dunn said the new plans were submitted straight to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal because there was no ordinary council meeting scheduled before the issue was heard on appeal at the tribunal on February 11.

Traders and residents were last year united in opposition to the development, warning it would block views towards the Dandenong Ranges, and result in over-crowding and undue pressure on parking. In response, the council sought interim height limits of 7.5 metres for the Village area, which were approved by the state government earlier this year and will stand for two years.

However, traders say the new application still does not address many of their issues, primarily parking concerns.

Village trader Des Higginbotham said they would fight at the tribunal for the application to be considered a “new application”, meaning it would be assessed again by the council.

He said the modifications should be assessed by the town planning department and that community consultation was vital. Mr Higginbotham said trade would suffer in the Village if the parking requirements outlined by the applicant were approved.

The two-level underground car park was reduced to one level, with one car space allocated per apartment. The applicant is asking for dispensation because there is parking in the surrounding areas.

Traders say those car spaces are for shoppers, not residents. “There are only 18 spaces out the front. If older people see there is no parking, they drive on — that is the nature of strip shopping,” Mr Higginbotham said.

As the application has been submitted directly to the VCAT, the council’s original decision to reject the proposal will also stand, because there is no time for the councillors to vote on the proposal.

Mr Higginbotham said it was his understanding that the council’s solicitor would also fight for the application to viewed as ‘new’.

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