City defers decision on Ocean Grove footpaths
THE City of Greater Geelong council has pushed back making a decision on a special charge scheme for Ocean Grove residents to build a footpath network in the town.
At their November 23 meeting, officers recommended the council declare the scheme for the Ocean Grove Principal Pedestrian Network (PPN).
The works would create 24.3 km of footpaths in what is generally considered “old” Ocean Grove and include 6,357 of the town’s 9,914 rateable properties.
Expected to cost $6.53 million, more than $3 million of would be raised from levies.
Properties in the special charge scheme would pay a maximum charge of $476.95 within five years of construction starting, which was to be no earlier than July 2023.
After some debate, including several councillors who indicated they would vote against the motion, the council resolved to take a 10-minute recess, and then voted unanimously to defer the motion.
Cr Jim Mason, who moved the original motion, said there had been several community consultations about building footpaths in Ocean Grove, with the most recent in April and May of this year.
“Since 2016, a majority of ratepayers have consistently supported the need for footpaths, a PPN, and most recently that all designated ratepayers should contribute equally.”
He said changes in the scheme in response to feedback included the exemption of ratepayers who had previously paid a special rates charge, the introduction of a hardship scheme, and the removal of 1km of paths along the begola wetlands.
“This is a very good deal, with plenty of time for people to plan their financing, and I urge council for their support.”
Cr Peter Murrihy also spoke in support.
“I’m struggling to understand the uniqueness of Ocean Grove in all this,” he said.
“We have the majority of the Ocean Grove community wanting a footpath network.
“I’m convinced the perfect scheme for this Ocean Grove network doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, what we’ve got here, is perhaps the best scheme in an imperfect situation.”
Cr Trent Sullivan, who spoke against the motion, said his issue was not the need for the paths but their funding model.
“In community feedback, time and time again, it comes back to that the community wants these paths, but so many people believe that the funding model is unjust in this scheme,” he said.
“We have an inherent debt to the people of these communities who have been paying their rates for 40 or 50 years; some of these people.”
Cr Anthony Aitken said the issue of footpaths in Ocean Grove had divided the community since the early 1990s, and that he voted against it then and would vote against it again.
He said instead of building footpaths, the city should investigate significant speed reductions on roads in Ocean Grove, so cars and pedestrians could share the infrastructure.