A family-run coffee van on the Midland Highway between Castlemaine and Harcourt has been fighting to ensure it stays compliant with Mount Alexander Shire Council’s planning scheme.
KT’s Coffee opened as a roadside coffee stop in Barkers Creek two years ago but a question of its signage last October caught the interest of the council.
Since then, owner Ricky Townsend believes he has been the target of unnecessary compliance queries however Mount Alexander Shire says if he meets requirements he will not require a permit from council.
“The first issue was (about) basic signage, that was removed,” Mr Townsend said.
“Then there was a paragraph in the planning scheme saying ‘goods for sale must not be collected from dwelling’, so (customers) can’t click and collect. We don’t sell anything online but there is a footnote (in the planning scheme) saying we may not be compliant because we are advertising for collection.
“(I think) the first couple letters were to reel us in, now (they say) the van is not compliant and trying to shut us down.”
Mr Townsend said the van’s compliance issue surrounded it not being part of the dwelling.
As he couldn’t use his van, Mr Townsend has started constructed a bench area under his veranda but was told to stop construction while council check the legalities of it.
“It's a unique setup and they can't determine whether it's legal or not,” he said.
“It hasn't been put in writing but we had a verbal request to discontinue work (on the veranda). It is putting our business on hold.”
Mr Townsend said the main frustration was that he wasn’t being told exactly what council wanted him to do to be compliant.
“We're more than happy to be compliant,” he said. “They gave us a list – no tables and chairs, no signage, don't sell anything we don’t manufacture ourselves, no items can be visible from outside the site.
“We have met all requirements and believe we are compliant.”
Mount Alexander Shire director of infrastructure and development Phil Josipovic said council’s key considerations for KT’s Coffee Van were whether it meets the provisions of a home-based business under the shire’s planning scheme.
“While it can be defined as a home-based Business, KTs Coffee Van must meet all requirements of the Planning Scheme at all times, otherwise it becomes prohibited,” he said.
“Mount Alexander Shire Council has been monitoring this operation for compliance with mandatory requirements of the planning scheme – specifically those requirements that relate to the sale of goods manufactured off the premises; roadside signage; vehicle movements into and from the site; and net floor area limits for home-based businesses.
“In addition, council is monitoring a number of very specific requirements that ensure the home-based business does not negatively affect the amenity of the area in any way.”
Mr Josipovic said if KT’s Coffee complies with all the requirements of the home-based business provisions of the planning scheme at all times, it can operate from the current location.
“We are still working with KTs to make sure they can trade legally – planning law is very complex so we are working our way through the issues as we do want them, like all of our businesses, to be able to trade and flourish,” he said.
“As with all planning matters, council has a statutory obligation in determining what is legal and what is not.
“The ongoing challenge for council in this matter is ensuring the business complies with each of the requirements of the home-based business provisions at all times.”
Mr Townsend said the van is his family’s main source of income.
“I'm a coffee nerd, I just love coffee. My wife is a chef and does all the baking, so we got a commercial kitchen in the house,” he said.
“We love it. When we opened it crossed our mind to have it here (at home) and why not, it's a highway with lots of traffic, we have room to put in a car park.
“Were only making enough to pay bills through the week. We do (community events like the) Newstead Music Festival where we earn wage. But this is in between events to pay bills.
“On an average day we get 30 to 40 customers. It’s a very humble income, no more than what you earn working normally but I’m in my driveway doing what I enjoy.”
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