A six-storey serviced apartment complex in the centre of Horsham is a step closer to reality, with Horsham Rural City Council approving a planning permit for the $12.56 million development on Monday night.
The proposed 44-unit complex would be operated as a Quest Apartment hotel, with a roof-top deck, business lounge, and 48 car parking spaces - including a basement carpark.
The proposed site is a vacant lot on 153 Baillie St, which is currently used as car parking for the RSL.
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Copper Investment Services and TM Design Group applied for the planning permit on December 12, 2019. Notice was given on September 8.
The initial submission drew mixed responses from the community, with some praising the opportunity for growth in the city and others critical of whether a six-storey building was suitable for Horsham's skyline.
Horsham Rural City mayor Robyn Gulline said the applicants had taken community feedback into consideration in its revised design.
"I was very pleased to learn that... the applicant went away, having listened to the council officer's concerns about the building next door, privacy and overshadowing and accomodate those significant concerns," she said.
"I really struggle with this 'we can't change the skyline. In 1936 they built the TMG clocktower. (It was a) massive developement. In 1957 the Anglican church star went up. 1968-1969 the public offices were built, again a changing skyline.
"This is great. How come over 50 years later we're not allowed to change the skyline with every other city around the world.
"We're the 11th largest city in Victoria and it's time that we took our place and offered people choices."
Cr Penny Flynn voted in favour of the proposal - alongside Cr Gullline, Cr Les Power, Cr David Bowe and Cr Claudia Haenel.
"In recent years I've heard people talk about how Horsham is limited in the number of accomodation options," she said.
"You have something wanting to invest in our community. Serviced apartments offer a different type of accomodation.
"The conference facility in the development will support regional organisations in hosting conferences in Horsham and in turn showcase our region.
"Overseas travel will not be an option for a number of years. Domestic travel will be some important to getting us back on our feet during this pandemic.
"Change can be confronting and challenging. But, Horsham is not a small country town. We are a regional city and we need resources and infrastructure."
Cr Ian Ross voted against the motion for its impact on parking, traffic and the neighbourhood.
"Given the fact that Lister House (Medical Clinic), doctors and physios are there, and elderly people are already having difficulty getting parking there and walking across the road, I'm concerned this will make the area more congested," he said.
"I think the public buildings in town and the post office are quite ugly, and this will be another one in the mix, when other cities that are much bigger than us only have two-or-three-storey Quest (hotels)."
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Cr Di Bell joined Cr Ross in voting against the motion.
"I question why a six-storey design is needed for a Quest in Horsham, when elsewhere in the state there is mostly two-storey Quests and three that are four-storey, being Mildura, Shepparton, Wodonga and Albury, which are high tourism cities and have higher populations," she said.
"A six-storey building in a neighbourhood with mostly single and double-storey buildings, and also a mix of both historical and other buildings that are over 40 years old will totally change the character of the (neighbourhood) and is not sympathetic to existing buildings in Horsham's centre.
"I also have serious concerns with the carparking. (The) carparking assessment submitted with the application concludes that 48 spaces are deemed satisfactory, based on the parking occupancy rates in other locations of Horsham.
"The report concluded that the proposed 48 spaces is satisfactory with expected car ownership rates, convenient access to public transport, walkability, and cycling network access.
"I believe these are very ambitious assumptions. Convenient access to public transport has been cited as part of the reason, and 700 metres from the railway station. Not exactly acceptable when there are no trains."
Cr Les Power said he understood the objections to the proposal, but insisted the development was what Horsham needed in the future.
"When we say yes to this permit, they'll go ahead and employ Horsham people. How much money will that bring into Horsham? I haven't looked into it, but it has to be a really big plus," he said.
"The other effect will be the full-time and part-time employment. That also increases the economy of Horsham, One person's dollar creates three times as much as it goes round and around Horsham and we need that at the moment.
"We are halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide and we need another venue here that will attract people to come and I believe the Quest will do that.
"I'm not against anyone building, I'm just against us saying no as a council to somebody who wants to offer us some posterity by putting dollars in our economy."
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