THE Mount Alexander Shire is preparing for a planning tribunal showdown over a controversial Castlemaine supermarket.
Councillors voted to oppose the bid for a Woolworths at Forest, Duke and Urquhart streets on Tuesday night.
"If Castlemaine wants to be a serious town it needs a decent supermarket. We don't currently have one," he said.
Cr Gardner said many residents did buy the bulk of their food at two existing businesses because of the cost.
They felt forced to travel to Bendigo, Castlemaine and Maryborough, draining Castlemaine's economy, he argued.
Cr Gardner dismissed arguments from some quarters that a new supermarket would affect others in the town.
"It probably will. That's called 'competition'," Cr Gardner said.
Other councillors were not convinced the latest plan solved their planning concerns.
"I have no objection to a new supermarket and, in fact, the applicant has been able to build one for several years now, and has chosen not to," Cr Matthew Driscoll said.
Cr Driscoll was referring to an earlier decision to rezone the land for a smaller supermarket proposal.
He argued developers' current plans would irrevocably alter a main entrance into town.
"A three metre wall will be the first thing you will see when entering Castlemaine," Cr Driscoll said.
He was also skeptical about current plans to deal with groundwater underneath the site, potential competition for smaller businesses in the town centre and traffic.
"It's still going to be a nightmare with a primary school opposite," Cr Driscoll said of new plans for traffic, including signals and a pedestrian crossing near an intersection.
"Whilst lipstick on a pig might be OK for some, it's still a pig. So I am a 'no' on this."
Cr Gary McClure said he was deeply conflicted by the proposal but said its size was a major problem.
He feared it would draw too many shoppers out of the town centre and "destroy" that area's character.
Cr Christine Henderson supported current plans for the supermarket, albeit only because she did not think the council would be able to build a strong enough case at VCAT to justify opposition.
"Is VCAT seriously going to knock this back?" she asked of land zoned for such a business.
Cr Henderson noted that shire officers had last week recommended the council approve the latest supermarket plans.
"If I thought there was a chance then maybe I would support this motion to refuse it ... I just have to be a realist here," Cr Henderson said.
Deputy mayor Rosie Annear cast the deciding vote after declaring no-one in council chambers could predict what VCAT would decide.
"I would hate to think that us being councillors meant nothing [and that] what we think doesn't matter," she said.
"There would just be no point in me getting out of bed this morning and spending hours reading and replying to emails [and] talking to people.
"People put us here for a reason."
VCAT will hear arguments on the supermarket later this year.
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