The Salvation Army has secured deferred approval for a residential subdivision in Goulburn but has not committed to conserving its nearby former aged care facility.
A submitter to the development application for the 33-lot subdivision at 10 Combermere Street argued that approval should be conditional on the organisation recognising the "architectural and historical significance" of the former Gill Memorial Boys Home. The Home closed in 1979 and was later converted to the Army's aged care facility, which was vacated in 2007 for a new complex at its rear.
"Such recognition should initially be, but not confined to, the restoration, conservation and protection of the exterior of the heritage buildings," the submitter wrote.
"Currently, the Gill buildings present poorly and are a reprehensible reflection on the custodians, The Salvation Army Property Trust. The buildings have been unoccupied and untended for many years and have become a target for vandals and anti-social behaviour. Owners of neighbouring houses who have challenged people having unauthorised access have been physically threatened."
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Only in recent months has the Salvation Army (SA) boarded up smashed windows and removed some graffiti from the 1936 building.
The Post has also noted that a bronze plaque on the Combermere Street aspect acknowledging its use as a boys home, has been removed. Former residents helped initiate the plaque. The newspaper has requested comment from the SA on its whereabouts.
In a response to the DA submission, a consultant said the christian organisation was "committed to protecting and maintaining the onsite heritage buildings in a reasonable state until a future use (could) be found that (would) determine their ongoing purpose."
"Until this occurs it is not appropriate to undertake 'restoration' or other works that are dependent on future use or approvals," the Ingham Planning letter stated.
The Goulburn Post has asked the Salvation Army why it has taken 12 years to find a suitable use and whether it had any immediate plans for the two-storey building.
Environment and planning director Scott Martin said the council had raised the matter with the SA.
"We would like to see some progress in that space," he said.
But the council is powerless to require it and can only take action if it poses an public health or safety risk.
However as a result of its representations, the SA had boarded up windows and committed to installing flood/motion sensor lighting three months following the subdivision's approval.
"Other than security patrols twice a week to the property, there are no initiatives being proposed to restore the heritage significant buildings," planners' report to Tuesday night's council meeting stated.
The submitter, whose name was not supplied to the council, urged the SA to act.
"The SA cannot continue to hide its dark past behind Photinia bushes and razor wire," the letter stated.
"Given the less than happy memories that the Gill Memorial Home for Boys holds for former residents, refurbishment and re-purposing the interior of the heritage buildings in the immediate future would also be appropriate."
But the Army's senior property development manager Oliver McGeachie told Tuesday's meeting that the subdivision would help fund the organisation's social services which helped people suffering hardship and injustice.
This included crisis and social accommodation, financial counselling, training, providing food and funding help, drug and alcohol services, aged care and more.
Currently, the Gill buildings present poorly and are a reprehensible reflection on the custodians.- DA submission
"Our property holdings are fundamental to the services we provide either directly as a base for delivery or as a mechanism to fund them," he said.
Subdivision access sparks debate
The 33 lots are planned in four stages on land surrounding the existing aged care facility. Access to the blocks, ranging from 704 to 809 square metres, will be via existing streets, including Combermere, Hovell, Mary, Lisgar Streets and Hollis Avenue.
Councillors granted deferred commencement on condition the SA completed $30,000 worth of recreational facilities such as an outdoor gym, pathways and/or seating at nearby Ardgowan Park to offset developer contributions.
In addition, it must pay $90,000 to use a reserve across Lisgar Street as a stormwater detention basin and $11,820 for a stormwater management facility's maintenance over 30 years.
But councillors were far from unanimous in their decision. Deputy Mayor Peter Walker and Crs Andrew Banfield, Margaret O'Neill and Sam Rowland voted against.
It followed an open forum address by Steve Ruddell on behalf of his mother, who lives in Hollis Avenue.
He and many others submitters opposed the subdivision's access on to the 'narrow' Hollis Avenue, via a cul-de-sac.
"It opens on to a tight area and I'm not sure whether the traffic committee has looked at this in the past but it probably should be," Mr Ruddell said.
"...There are a lot of older people around that area...Cars will come out (of the subdivision) on to a blind corner and if there are a few cars parked on the sides there will be little room to move."
He called for a redesign with access via Hovell Street, greater consideration of drainage and an environmental study of the site to check for endangered species.
Cr Peter Walker moved that the matter be deferred to allow the SA to consider a new design, with access via Hovell Street.
Mr McGeachie said this was done in the original layout but following its exhibition and council comments, it was revised to Hollis Avenue.
"It resulted in a poorer outcome for the lots in terms of passive surveillance and as a stormwater solution," he said.
Mr Martin supported this, saying it would have meant rear fences, rather than houses frontages would face Hollis Avenue, and greater provision for stormwater management.
"We thought it was better to go down the path of getting a better outcome for the infrastructure," he said.
"...We don't just look at one aspect but how it works in totality."
But Cr Peter Walker argued greater consideration should have been given to residents and questioned why councillors didn't see the original design.
"I speak against it and ask the planning department to break away from protocol and actively discuss issues with elderly people in the area," he said.
"...I think occasionally we should communicate verbally rather than through the written word."
Other councillors didn't agree, given the SA and planners had already considered and discounted the Hovell Street access.
The deferred commencement was granted with 233 conditions.
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