By Melissa Donchi
THE developer who wants to build a Safeway supermarket in Mt Evelyn says he has not decided whether to appeal against the council’s rejection of his plan.
More than 100 people squeezed their way into last week’s council meeting which saw councillors rule against the controversial development, known simply as YR-2006/1619.
It was a highly anticipated event for the ‘long-suffering’ residents who have been battling with the developers for more than two years.
Many of them came prepared for a show-down carrying protest signs ‘Safeway No Way For Mt Evelyn’ while the group’s representative Francis M Smith arrived to address the council pushing a trolley of fresh local produce.
Mr Smith, vice president of the Mt Evelyn Environment Protection and Progress Association (MEEPPA), read from a written speech that resembled a dramatic monologue in more ways than one.
“Evelyn is the old Lady of the Hills, crusty at the edges and some might even say dowdy, drab and weary at the seams because, although she seems to have always been there, she has in many ways been forgotten,” Mr Smith declared in his opening address.
“Outsiders and the uninitiated call her pedestrian, low scale, unkempt and even an eyesore but that’s nothing like the lady that we’ve all come to know,” he continued.
The councillors were captivated and the crowd appreciative as Mr Smith delivered his speech punctuated with exclamations such as “we do not aim to compete, we aim to win and as a community we shall!”
His closing remarks were met with a swell of applause that overshadowed the next speaker who spoke on behalf of the proposal.
The mood in the room changed dramatically as Jeff Bailey, a former councillor with the Shire of Yarra Ranges sped through his speech which was met with ridicule from the gallery.
“I am representing (the developer) Mr Carswell who I have advised to take a holiday because of the toll this situation has taken on his health,” Mr Bailey began.
“What about our health,” people called out, as the council sought order. Mr Bailey spoke quickly and forcefully on the proposal which he said would encourage competition and address climate change with as many as 80 per cent of people driving a considerable distance to do their shopping elsewhere.
“Competition is not illegal and should not be frowned upon,” Mr Bailey said.
“I plead with you, brush away the politics and everyone can be a winner,” he concluded to an awkward silence in the chamber.
The councillors’ comments were as pithy as soundbites with councillor Samantha Dunn describing the application as ‘completely flawed’ while Cr Len Cox’s ‘if a community doesn’t want something they shouldn’t get it’ was met with a round of thunderous applause.
Not surprisingly, planning application YR-2006/1619 was rejected by councillors as ‘unsuitable’ in what was the first but surely not last battle for the village of Mt Evelyn.
By Melissa Donchi