Kilmore Creek.

A PAIR of planning permit applications for multi-lot subdivisions on Mill Road, Kilmore prompted Mitchell Shire councillors to debate appropriate lot sizes on the town’s fringe.

At last week’s council meeting an application for a three-lot subdivision at 230 Mill Road was recommended to be refused by council officers on the grounds the lot sizes were inconsistent with the land’s designation as farming zone.

The permit would have resulted in one large lot of 8.83 hectares and smaller lots of 1.57 hectares and 0.96 hectares.

A separate application for a 19-lot subdivision further north at 38-50 Mill Road was approved by councillors despite some also voicing reservations about the proposed lot sizes. The land at 38-50 Mill Road falls under a low-density residential zone rather than a farming zone.

In both instances councillors discussed what constituted appropriate block sizes under farming and low-density residential zones.

Council narrowly voted against the officers’ recommendation to refuse the permit at 230 Mill Road.

Cr Annie Goble said despite the smaller blocks running contrary to the aims of farming zoned land, she was ‘not opposed to having small rural-living-type subdivisions at this location’.

“There were no objections and I do believe there should be an opportunity for people to purchase small parcels of land close to a rural town,” she said.

“There is a need for more small acreage like this for people to be able to have chooks and a few small farm animals without complaints from neighbours.

“It’s only a couple of hundred metres away from the settlement boundary, which is [low-density] residential.”

Cr Rob Eldridge spoke against the proposed subdivision, saying the smaller blocks were not in keeping with the surrounding area.

“My problem … is we have over eight hectares on the main property and then less than one hectare on [one of] the other properties,” he said.

“We’re dividing it down and creating a precedent for things that are less than a hectare in a rural zone.”

But Cr Nathan Clark argued it was impossible to divide the land more evenly as it was on a floodplain.

“If you have a look at the flooding plan, that highlights what is useable land in these lots and there’s really only the three areas broken up where there is an existing residence to the north-west and then the two other proposed lots,” he said.

“That’s a problem for the landowner – it’s underwater a lot. That really does constrain the use of the land and I’m not sure it makes it viable farming land at all.”

Council narrowly voted against the recommendation to refuse the permit, with Crs Eldridge, Fiona Stevens, Bob Cornish and Mayor Rhonda Sanderson in favour of refusing and Crs Goble, Clark, Bill Chisholm, Christine Banks, and Louise Bannister against.

The vote means the permit will now come before council for approval subject to conditions at a future meeting.

The subdivision at 38-50 Mill Road was narrowly approved, with Crs Sanderson, Goble, Chisholm, Eldridge and Cornish in favour and Crs Banks, Clark, Bannister and Stevens against.

While most councillors acknowledged lot size was a concern, many believed a refusal to grant a permit would be overturned by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, VCAT.

“This has been to the previous council and was rejected on the basis of the blocks being too small, but also there were other considerations that were part of that rejection,” Cr Eldridge said.

“This went to VCAT and the VCAT ruling gave some reasons behind their refusal for the permit.

“This latest application, as I understand it, would overcome VCAT’s concerns for this planning application.

“I don’t favour, necessarily, the smaller lots, but I’m aware that if we go back to VCAT and [the developer has] met all the VCAT requirements, then I know what the outcome is going to be. That’s just money council could be using on something else.”

Councillors also noted the developer was prepared to provide sewerage infrastructure, a roundabout at the intersection of Mill Road and Curry Road, a pedestrian path along Mill Road and a shared-use trail along Kilmore Creek.

But Cr Fiona Stevens said she could not support the application because the block sizes were on average about half as large as those of surrounding properties.

“The biggest issue is that you’ve got blocks sitting beside this at 4000 square metres, and we’ve come up to 2000 square metres. That’s quite a difference,” she said.

“I don’t underestimate the value of the sewerage system coming in, but I don’t think we should compromise the amenity of the area and accept smaller block sizes when it’s not consistent with the surrounding subdivision pattern.

“I think we’re selling our soul for a bit of infrastructure.”