COLAC traders are frustrated that civic leaders have refused to immediately clean up messy garden beds in the city’s main street.
Shop owners pay higher rates than neighbouring shires, with Colac’s commercial ratepayers hit with a 0.7446 cents in the dollar charge for 2015-16, compared with 0.36020 cents in the dollar for Camperdown ratepayers and 0.48369 cents in the dollar for shops owners at Winchelsea or Lorne.
But Colac Otway Shire Council has ruled out “simple treatments” to tidy the council-maintained garden beds and median strip, deciding last week that officers should prepare a report by the October council meeting on options “within budget allocations”.
Business owner Cressi Golding said the council’s response was frustrating for traders who had been calling for improvements, or at least maintenance of the garden beds, for years.
Ms Golding said she had requested improvements, attended a meeting with council representatives who told her to write a letter, then gathered 19 traders’ signatures, suggested treatment options and included photographs with her submission.
“All we are asking was for the council to rip out the weeds and any of the plants that are still alive and just put some rock down,” she said.
“This simple treatment would improve the visual appearance of this block; hopefully make residents want to spend more time in the CBD; improve safety; encourage visitors and travellers to stop in town, spend money and improve the economy,” Ms Golding said in her letter to the council.
The letter, supported by more than 19 business people, also said the suggested improvement would “tangibly demonstrate to the community that council actually cares about its largest town”.
But the council responded by calling for a report, with claims that suggested “treatments” would cost $30,000 for the median strip and $15,000 for each garden bed.
Council chief Sue Wilkinson said the council was unwilling to consider pulling out weeds and plants or any other suggestion without a report because any action the council took now could affect proposed long-term plans to improve Colac’s CBD and entrances.
“I don’t understand how it could possibly cost $15,000 to fix up a garden bed; it’s ludicrous,” Ms Golding said.
She said she was also concerned that the council was unable to maintain existing garden beds but planned to spend $700,000 to develop more gardens at the intersection of Queen and Murray streets.
“That’s just going to create more gardens to maintain and if you look at the corner in front of the Guide Hall there’s nothing wrong it,” Ms Golding said.
“But the heart of the town is so sad and sorry.
“The response from council was so disappointing; and why does it take four months to do a report on ripping out plants and putting something down so it’s tidy?”
Councillors Michael Delahunty and Chris Smith argued that the council should act immediately to the traders’ request and consider using a portion of the $700,000 allocated to the beautification of the Queen Street intersection to improve the existing garden beds.
But councillors Frank Buchanan, Lyn Russell, Brian Crook, Stephen Hart and Terry Woodcroft supported the council officers’ report which said they would “continue to investigate options” and report back to the council in October.
Share your views on the appearance of garden beds in Colac’s CBD by writing a letter to the editor to [email protected]