WEDNESDAY 8 June was deadline day for objectors to lodge a statement of grounds to the proposed aged care development of the former Moondah Estate in Mount Eliza.
Aged care and retirement living developer Ryman Healthcare bought the 8.9-hectare site, complete with Moondah mansion, from Melbourne University in 2016 for close to $40 million.
For 59 years the site was allowed to operate as an education centre under a special use zoning which separated it from the green wedge.
The waterfront property has been left largely untouched since the previous owners moved out more than five years ago and sits empty as an eerie reminder of the pulsating life it had. Rooms are filled with luxurious furniture, new lamps are stacked in a corner of a living area with plastic wrapping still attached, beds are ready for sleeping, and televisions and other comfort items are gathering dust in the Moondah time capsule.
According to Ryman’s communications spokesman Michael Cummings, the owners have already liaised with several welfare organisations to start the job of removing the hundreds of household items to a warehouse for future sale.
There are caretakers and regular police patrols to keep the property safe from vandals, but it’s largely a sad, lonely monument to a previous bustling life and a steady stream of international and domestic visitors.
Ryman’s plan to turn the 42-room mansion, which also incorporates numerous outbuildings, into a retirement centre has more opponents than supporters.
A VCAT hearing last year determined the site was not suitable for Ryman to build 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 tribunal is now being asked to consider a new planning application, which includes 13 fewer assisted living units and 77 fewer apartments.
Protestors say the proposal is still an “over development” of the site, which they want protected from development, and have vowed to vigorously fight it at VCAT.
Ryman’s Victorian development manager David Laing recently said the company had cooperated fully with Mornington Peninsula Shire Council since lodging the original permit application last year “so we’re not sure what caused the hold up” to approve development.
Spokesperson for the South Eastern Centre for Sustainability, Steve Karakitsos, said the main objections to the development still included overdevelopment of the site; lack of car parking spaces; increased traffic on a suburban street; removal of endemic and native vegetation; impact on health and safety; and environmental damage.
The Green Wedge Coalition’s statement of grounds against the revised development states it would have “a devastating impact on the countryside and would convert this very special green wedge site into a residential suburb” outside of the urban boundary.