Campaspe Shire Councillor Paul Jarman is seeking $50,000 from council for legal bills incurred over a planning dispute relating to his business, the Star Hotel.By Jess Craig
It’s the $50,000 question set to have tongues wagging in the corridors of power at Campaspe Shire.
Will councillor Paul Jarman win his bid to force the council he sits on pay costs for the drawn out, and ultimately victorious, dispute about alterations to the Star Hotel, which he leases from the shire?
Following the extended hearing process and having visited the site, VCAT approved the proposed changes originally rejected by council and red-flagged the expensive planning battle because it could change the state’s planning laws.
The case pre-dated Cr Jarman’s election as Campaspe Shire councillor in October 2012.
Cr Jarman said the decision to seek costs from council was not made lightly, given his position as a councillor.
‘‘I have formed the belief that if you are proven right in a legal case you have the right to recover the costs,’’ he said.
‘‘There is no spite directed at council from my end.
‘‘I do believe I have a reasonable prospect of success but VCAT does not award costs lightly and I would not be surprised either way.
‘‘I hope the real learning out of this is that where council has an issue with an enforcement in our shire, the council officers explore all relevant solutions before issuing enforcement proceedings.
‘‘They are both very expensive for the ratepayer and the council, which is also the ratepayers’ money.’’
Significantly, he said the dispute played a part in his decision to run for council, although he did not publicly discuss the matter in detail prior to the election. Further, council’s original decision against alterations was made in a confidential meeting.
‘‘It (the planning dispute) was a factor as I was very dissatisfied how this issue was handled,’’ Cr Jarman said.
‘‘Several of the key platforms I campaigned on were communication with community and consultation with community
‘‘As a councillor I have never participated in any briefing, discussions or decisions affecting my business, under conflict of interest legislation.
‘‘It has been awkward at times, but to exclude myself from this issue has been totally appropriate.’’
Mr Jarman applied successfully for a planning permit in 2011 for alterations to the hotel, but in February 2012 Campaspe Shire Council refused planning approval to amend the permit.
Council considered the installation of a large coolroom in the front room of the hotel, together with a new connecting door to the main kitchen area, to be an inappropriate heritage outcome.
Campaspe Shire chief executive Keith Baillie said it was important and appropriate that VCAT made the decision about Cr Jarman’s costs claim.
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