The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will decide on the future of The Lookout residential rehabilitation facility, bypassing a council resolution.
It comes after Warrnambool City Council postponed its decision on the proposed Dennington location, which was expected to be voted on at December’s monthly meeting last week.
Western Region Alcohol and other Drug centre director Geoff Soma confirmed the application had been lodged on Monday by express post to the independent umpire. He said the decision would be made by an outside authority.
“This now means VCAT will consider the planning application based on everyone’s point of view and the facts presented,” he said.
“This matter needs to be sorted out as quickly as possible for all involved.”
There has been opposition from Dennington community members to the proposed location on Atkinsons Lane.
Effectively by going to VCAT, a decision by councillors on the planning application will now not be made.
The Standard asked councillors their opinion on the proposed 20-bed facility.
Mayor Tony Herbert said it was “completely the right and prerogative of the proponents to take it to VCAT”.
“It has been an incredibly emotionally charged debate on both sides and I think the opportunity for some greater independence could be seen as a positive,” he said.
“I completely support The Lookout proposal and commend the committee on the great work they have done. People on The Lookout committee give up their time for the benefit of the community and the people that this facility will serve. They will not make a dollar out of it or get benefits, they volunteer their time for the benefit of others.”
Cr Mike Neoh said the community supported The Lookout, but the location was an issue.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to give a personal view because it’s being accessed by VCAT and there could be recommendations in relation to council,” he said.
“I can’t pre-empt what VCAT could say. If it had come to council I would have looked at all the information and previous VCAT precedents including the principal that need does not outweigh other planning determinations. The feedback I have had is everyone supports a rehabilitation service in the right location and they would fund-raise 100 per cent for it, even the objectors.”
Cr Peter Hulin said it was disappointing councillors could not vote on the application.
“I think it’s really unfortunate The Lookout committee has decided to do this, instead of going through the local channel where the councillors are elected to represent the people and wait for their decision,” he said.
“It’s something that’s needed in our city there’s no question of that. The question is, is this the best spot for it. Council was waiting on information to be able to make an informed decision on that.”
Cr Kylie Gaston said it was not her place to make a personal opinion as it was going before VCAT.
“I await the independent ruling that will be received,” she said.
Cr Sue Cassidy is a member of The Lookout steering committee and would have declared a conflict of interest if the planning application had been voted on by the council.
A Warrnambool City Council spokesman said the council had yet to receive formal notice that the planning application would now be heard by VCAT.
“It had been anticipated this would be considered at a council meeting in early 2019 however this has yet to be confirmed,” he said.
“Council will not have a position on this until it is considered at an open council meeting.
“At this stage no meeting has been scheduled before February to consider the application.
“Under the Planning and Environment Act all applicants are entitled to appeal to VCAT for a range of reasons.”