AGED care provider Opal has lost its bid to take over a pocket park in Myaree so it can expand its facility, characterised by one councillor as a “land grab”.
The little wedge of Phil Ward Reserve is between two sections of Opal Melville along Cottrill Street, and is vested in Melville council by the state government.
A couple of years ago its zoning was changed from public open space to residential when it was scooped up in a big overhaul of the city planning scheme, so nearby residents received little notification of the change.
But Opal noticed and applied to the state government to have the council’s management order revoked so the land could be sold off.
The council told the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage it wasn’t interested back in 2019, but Opal has persisted.
At last week’s council meeting, new councillor Margaret Sandford cut Opal off at the pass, successfully moving to replace an officer’s recommendation she considered too tame, and replacing it with one that would start the process to officially rezone the site to public open space.
Opal’s hire planner Simon Burnell urged the council not to proceed, arguing that the original scheme amendment which created the residential zoning had been advertised as required by law, so it should have stuck.
“You could have 120 residents and 120 new jobs,” Mr Burnell said during a deputation.
He said older Melville residents were being forced to leave the suburb when they downsized because there was not enough suitable housing, and the Myaree development would help address that problem.
Creating Communities director Andrew Watt, who has been leading Opal’s community engagement over the proposal, complained that while residents were being consulted yet again over the site’s rezoning, Opal itself only found out by chance about Cr Sandford’s motion to kick them off the park permanently.
by STEVE GRANT