THE application to build an aged care centre and retirement units on the site of the Moondah mansion in Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza, is returning to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
As Mornington Peninsula Shire Council was unable to decide on the application within the 60-day statutory timeframe, the tribunal will now get to decide whether to approve the amended plans.
Ryman Healthcare’s proposal for the aged care and independent living “village” on the site of the former Reg Ansett-owned land was knocked back at VCAT last July, but just weeks later the New Zealand-based company submitted new plans with a smaller footprint.
While the original application comprised of six four-storey buildings, two four-storey wings attached to the existing mansion, three three-storey buildings housing 272 apartments, including 55 assisted living units and 217 independent living units, and 124 aged care beds, the new application proposes 13 fewer assisted living units and 77 fewer apartments. The number of care beds remains at 82.
Ryman’s Victorian development manager David Laing said the company had cooperated fully with council since lodging the permit last year “so we’re not sure what caused the hold up”.
He said the company was pleased that VCAT ruled last year that the proposal “was a suitable use for the site”. The VCAT ruling stated that the site was “not the preferred location for aged care, neither is there strong evidence of unmet localised demand”.
Mr Laing also said Ryman had followed VCAT’s “clear guidance” on how the plans could be modified to get the level of density right, and he believed the scaled-back proposal responded “directly to that feedback”.
“We’re looking forward to creating a village community that saves and restores Moondah mansion, while providing quality care for some of society’s most vulnerable people,” he said.
But Ryman will not be a lone voice at VCAT, with council and community opposition to the proposal still strong, and residents’ group Save Reg’s Wedge vowing to continue the legal fight to preserve the 8.9-hectare allotment under green wedge protection.
Spokesperson and former shire councillor Leigh Eustace said it was possible the council’s proposed amendment c270, which would provide green wedge protection for the site, would be finalised before the VCAT appeal.
“The planning minister Richard Wynne has approved the c270 amendment proposal to be exhibited, so he can still intervene in this matter, it’s certainly not too late,” he said.
There have been more than 500 public submissions (95 per cent in favour) into the c270 proposal to rezone 10 sites within the shire – including Ryman’s Kunyung Road site – to protect the Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge from inappropriate development.
While Ryman argues that the Moondah mansion site was never zoned green wedge, Mr Eustace says it lies outside the urban growth boundary and was zoned special use because of its former use as an education centre and hotel.
He said much had changed in the area in recent years, making the proposed development unsuitable.
“At the time Ryman submitted its proposal, they used 2017 traffic figures, which are completely out of date now,” he said.
“Back then there were 400 students at the primary school next door, now there are 800. It’s an absolute nightmare at school pick up and it’s a vastly different scenario that just won’t take an extra 400 people living right next door.”
Mr Eustace said opponents were not against any development on the site, but that it would have to be “modest”, such as a boutique hotel as it once was.
“I believe we have an advantage in that we have already been to VCAT which stated it was not suitable for aged care, and the simple fact is that It’s outside the urban growth boundary which Ryman is trying to take advantage of.
“Protecting it from over development also aligns with the state government’s marine and coastal policy, which plays an important role in reinforcing clear settlement boundaries, non-urban breaks between settlements and the hierarchy and relationships between settlements.”
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council was contacted for comment.