INDEPENDENT experts have questioned why the City of Greater Bendigo would charge some people more to subdivide land depending on where they lived.
People would be charged a five per cent "contribution" unless they were in the very centre of the city, where they would pay two per cent. The money would be funneled into existing public spaces.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is considering the reform and has released a slew of documents as part of a public consultation process.
That includes an independent report from experts at SGS Economics & Planning.
They accept the council's argument that it needed better ways to deal with an expected $240 million future spend in the spaces residents walk, ride and play in.
The spend over coming decades would help a council planning for the population to swell to 166,000 municipality-wide by 2041.
SGS's experts questioned the case for people in the city centre paying less.
They argued open spaces serve an entire city and that people in the city centre should have a responsibility to contribute to places with under-investment.
"The two per cent rate appears to be a policy driven discount reflecting the superior open space endowment of Central Bendigo, the higher value of land in this area and the need to promote apartment development in the central city," the experts said.
Despite their critique, the experts acknowledged that the council had the power to make the decision themselves, and had not breached any state guidance or precedents around planning matters.
The council said it would charge less in the city centre because there was already so much open space there, per person, and it was generally higher quality than in other areas of the city.
The council also said people in those areas were often paying higher development costs on more expensive land, and dealing with more planning regulations. It wants more people to subdivide and to build apartments in the centre of town in spite of those challenges.
SGS's experts acknowledged that even people paying the higher contribution would not come close to covering the cost of public space improvements.
The council expects to raise 22 per cent of the money it needs from that contribution - or roughly $54 million. It would probably raise less than one per cent of the money needed from its two per cent contribution.
People developing non-residential sites would not pay either contribution.
The council says Greater Bendigo might not have a shortfall of public space "but the quality of existing public open space needs to improve to meet the demands of a growing community".
It believes the reforms sharpen up current arrangements around contributions of "up to five per cent".
Exact figures are decided on a case-by-case basis, the council says.
"This results in uncertainty for developers, unnecessary time spent during the assessment process, and an overall ad-hoc approach to collecting public open space contributions," the council said in its own report on the reforms.
The draft reforms - titled "Amendment C266gben" - can be viewed by visiting the DELWP website.
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