By Casey Neill
A long-vacant Tecoma block could soon be home to a new shop space and homes.
Yarra Ranges Councillors approved the development application for a store and five dwellings at 1533 Burwood Highway at their Tuesday 27 November meeting.
But the green light was not without strings.
Cr Mike Clarke moved an alternative motion to that in the meeting agenda, which cut the height on one dwelling from 7.88 metres to 7m and from 7.7m to 7m on another.
He said the amended conditions were not a last-minute matter, but an issue he raised almost a year ago when the proposal emerged.
Cr Clarke said he didn’t understand why the applicant hadn’t accommodated the lower height when he’d raised it on day one.
“Community consultation has emphasised the same thing,” he said.
“I think we need to get that aspect correct.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to do it before.”
Cr Clarke said the project had a “reasonably sophisticated design” and its residents would “have an outstanding view of the Dandenongs, looking north into the valley”.
He said the development would fix a serious drainage problem on the vacant block, wedged between McDonald’s and the Salvation Army.
“It is slightly short on parking, to the extent of about five car parks,” he said.
“It could easily be accommodated, in parking typically available in Tecoma.”
Crs Jim Child, Terry Avery and Richard Higgins opposed Cr Clarke’s amendment.
Cr Child said the cost to the applicant would be significant and “we’ve got a precedent in the town right next door” and Cr Avery said it “looks like we’re doing things on the fly”.
But Cr Len Cox voted in favour alongside Crs Clarke, Tony Stevenson, Noel Cliff and Tim Heenan.
“There’s nothing wrong with making minor changes,” he said.
“We’ve been doing it since I’ve been on council.
“This is a decision that suits more people than it upsets.
“Let’s go ahead with it.”
The council received 13 objections and one petition against the proposal, mainly raising concerns about town character, visual bulk, building height, traffic and car parking.
Barbara Crisp spoke to the objections on behalf of Tecoma Village Action Group.
She said the site coverage was excessive, that no commercial buildings in Tecoma’s main strip presented as two storeys fronting Burwood Highway, and a substantial portion of the building exceeded height limits.
Ms Crisp said the roof would stretch further back in the block than either neighbour, and the design did not match other buildings in the strip.
She said it was “in your face” and “out of character” and Tecoma could be developed with more sensitive design.
Applicant Steven O’Brien said he lodged the application 11 months ago to the day, and could have gone to VCAT six months in for a determination due to the slow movement from the council.
But, he said, he wanted to work with the council and objectors to achieve a good design.
“I worked in this council on the McDonald’s application,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said he knew the area and the heat this type of application could attract.
He apologised to the objectors, saying their “issues were too far apart” to find a happy middle.
He said the council’s urban planners helped to shape the application and “achieve what we think is a pretty good-looking building”.
“This is a very difficult site to work with,” he said.
He said the slope had created issues with the height, but adjusting it would take the design “back to a boxy structure”.