AN UNPOPULAR plan to allow taller buildings and smaller setbacks for the Sorrento commercial precinct has been put on hold after Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors voted unanimously to consider more community feedback.
The council’s planning scheme proposes to apply permanent, mandatory building design controls “to protect and enhance the valued character, heritage, and amenity of the area”.
However, some residents say the proposals will ruin the coastal village feel of Sorrento.
Russell Norton-Old told the council that the main problem with the proposal involved the “east sub precinct” on the beach side entrance to the town, which he described as “the gateway to Sorrento”.
He said the proposed changes were not good planning and more suitable to Melbourne’s CBD than a historic seaside village.
His objections include the lack of setbacks for buildings at street level, three-storey building heights of up to 12 metres, no controls on materials or colours, and no protection of the coastal views from the village.
“All this is totally out of context with the environment, that is the built-in environment and the natural environment,” Norton-Old said.
“Sure this precinct needs to be renewed, and sure the owners need to improve this site to have a commercial development that can be viable with the onerous land tax payments and ever-increasing rates, but do it with controls that enhance this gateway to Sorrento, respectful in its context and not a major planning mistake that can’t be undone.”
The shire’s planning and infrastructure manager Mike McIntosh said there was strong “community concern” over the proposals and officers wanted more time to consider the 73 submissions received.
Although many submitters objected to height increase for some buildings, McIntosh said there were currently no height limits for the commercial area and council ran the “risk” of being challenged on its planning decisions if it did not set restrictions.
“If a decision went to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal we don’t know which way VCAT might determine the matter in regards to height,” he said.
The council will now ask Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny for a 12-month extension to the July 2023 expiry date of the current design and development overlay.
The costs of investigating issues raised in submissions will be around $20,000, while the state government charges a fee of just over $4000 to log the extension request.