Ratepayers may foot the bill for new paths

April 1, 2021 BY

OCEAN Grove households and businesses may be expected to pay hundreds of dollars for new footpaths following council’s motion to declare a Special Charge Scheme.

The City of Greater Geelong issued a notice of intention last week which would see all rateable properties charged $507 under a shared funding model to support the OG Principle Pedestrian Network.

The controversial payment scheme is now up to the community consultation stage after councillors passed the officer recommendation six votes to five. Ocean Grove resident and Geelong mayor Stephanie Asher called the project “challenging”, with both residents and council appearing to be split on the issue.

“It will not please everybody, there are some people who fervently opposed to footpaths and I am probably on that side,” she said.

“I don’t think it is right that residents be paying now for decisions that were poorly made decades ago so it is for this reason I will not be supporting it.” Under the shared funding model the city would cover half of the estimated $6.3 million cost to install 25.5 kilometres of footpaths.

The remainder of the expenses would be shared equally amongst all households under the proposal. Deputy mayor Trent Sullivan said the community was fatigued by this project which has been on the radar for the past four years.

“Unfortunately, councils right across the state are dealing with a historical footpath backlog,” he said. “Coastal towns here in the Bellarine have always been a charming oasis that is until the last 10 years when the secret got out.

“This is an issue of safety, and it is an issue that needs to be addressed now.”

The motion was moved by councillor Jim Mason who said the decision was not final with submissions still to be considered by a review panel.

“After much listening and analysis, it is time to take a lead and thus we have the proposed scheme,” he said.

Cr Mason presented findings from previous community engagement projects undertaken by the city in 2016 which found 55.8 per cent of residents supported an equal share model.

A further 5,664 residents likely to be affected were surveyed with 57 per cent supporting some form of pedestrian network.

Despite these statistics, several Ocean Grove residents have taken to Facebook to voice their disproval. One Facebook user said, “how unjust for those that have already paid for footpaths in the cost of their blocks”.

Robert Dobrzynski, a former local government chief executive officer for 40 years, also commented on the post questioning why the expense was not being covered by council.

“The rapid growth of the Bellarine has been rated a gold mine for COGG and yet they want to gouge $500 more,” he said.

Cr Mason says if approved, works will begin on the five-year project in 2023.

“This cost per household of $507 to my mind is a good outcome and now we are ready to listen to what submission might come from the community,” he said.

All property owners involved in the proposed scheme will be given the chance to have their say before a final decision is made by council.

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