IT’S taken a while for the recently-elected Orange City Council to get back into the swing of things after the September poll, but they are well and truly in the thick of it now.
Thursday night’s meeting was a five-and-a-half hour marathon lasting until 12.30am, although we must admit we bowed out at the end of open proceedings at 11.30pm.
Public submissions alone lasted almost two hours as 24 members of the public voiced their opinion on three development applications and breaches of consent.
Among them was an application to extend 47 Byng Street, otherwise known as the Byng Street Local Store, recommended for approval.
The other was 47-49 Hill Street, which proposed subdivision and nine dwellings on the former Newstead Bowling Club greens, which staff recommended should be thrown out.
The agenda was a long one, with numerous development applications and motions from councillors, and the temptation on those occasions is to cut discussions short, but councillors debated both before deferring them for negotiations.
While a full gallery of people attended and many walked away with no greater certainty than they entered the council chamber with, it demonstrated a council not blindly taking advice, but willing to question what was in front of them.
In the case of Byng Street, it gave public concerns the benefit of the doubt.
In the case of Hill Street, where there are serious heritage, stormwater and overall over-development issues in the application, it will give the applicant the chance to revisit the design.
It’s hard to fathom that metropolitan-based councils are about to be forced to appoint independent panels to assess development applications above a certain dollar value.
The state government says taking councillors out of certain decisions will save councils money in legal fees when developments are challenged in court.
Yet, challenges typically happen when councillors refuse a development – this should hardly mean all developments should be approved.
The human factor is an important one when it comes to assessing a development’s impact on neighbours and that is often the role councillors play.
Thursday night’s debates show they are willing to play it.