Proposed hotel approved for Levantine Hill Winery

The proposed hotel site in proximity to surrounding structures. PICTURE: YRC agenda

By Renee Wood

Yarra Ranges Councillors have approved a planning application for a residential hotel at Levantine Hill Winery, despite the neighbouring resident pleading for a refusal.

Objector Darren Hall spoke at the Tuesday 7 December council meeting, expressing his concern with the proximity of the proposed two story building which will house 34 apartments .

Mr Hall said his property shares common boundaries with the winery and said he isn’t against the development but is against how close it is to his house and said he will be forced move if it goes ahead.

“I keep thinking of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics to Big Yellow Taxi, paved paradise to put up a parking lot, but in our case, it’s putting up an ugly hotel,” he said.

Mr Hall believes the development is between 205-220 metres from his property and it will alter his privacy and won’t be able to comfortably live in his home.

“Our outlook of the night sky and sunsets will be forever gone and in its place will be a hotel block with people looking into my house, my life will never again be secure and safe.”

Mr Hall is also concerned about the proximity of the sewage treatments and ponds with three to surround his property.

Joanne Hartsias from JH Town Planning, the applicant for the development at Levantine Hill Winery, said, “There will be a requirement to upgrade the EPA works approved wastewater system which is to the south of the residential building, noting that also there is significant landscaping to be proposed in and around the building,”

Ms Hartsias said the desire for the accommodation site at the venue is a natural progression and will be a much needed asset for the region.

“We have been advised by many residents as well as customers and patrons that the natural progression would be to provide some accommodation to the site as there is not a lot of short term accommodation.”

The design and site chosen for the hotel has addressed a number of factors including typography, location to existing facilities and car parking.

“There is a significant amount of economic benefits not only to the landowner, but also to the wider community in terms of jobs, construction jobs and staffing jobs, there will be a requirement to have staff for the hotel from cleaning to reception staff.”

Questions were raised on the opportunity for landscaping to screen Mr Hall’s home however, there are concerns around trees blocking the northern light coming through to his property.

Ms Hartsias said the applicant is willing to look into this further.

“[We’re] happy to look into any type of screening.”

Following the discussions, Cr Fiona McAllister put forward the motion to approve and Mayor Jim Child seconded the motion.

“It does comply with all the grounds for both our local planning provisions and the Victorian planning provisions. And I do feel very deeply for the Halls and the impact it is clearly having on them, but we have no choice but to approve given our decision is about ‘does this comply’, plus also this is a needed facility in the Valley,” Cr McAllister said.

Cr Len Cox spoke against the motion and believes more conditions could have been submitted to support the Hall’s concerns.

“Some of those problems could have been easily fixed with a little bit of extra effort from the applicant and from our planners,” he said.

“The wastewater I think, is a problem and could continue to be a problem particularly over summer. And the visual impact could have easily been resolved with some careful planning of vegetation around that boundary.”

In the end, the motion was carried with five votes for and two against.