After receiving a request for works, we follow a process of assessment and consultation before making a decision to initiate a scheme or not.
The level of preliminary investigation, survey and consultation will usually depend on the complexity of the issues surrounding the need for the infrastructure.
The views of all those owners who may be the subject of a scheme are generally sought so we can make an assessment of the degree of support before proceeding. Even when we proceed with a scheme, property owners can have input, attend a hearing and speak to Councillors.
We may decide to amend the scheme as a result of submissions and the level of support. Only then will we make our final decision whether or not to proceed.
In assessing the need for any proposal, we take into consideration the following where appropriate:
- background information including the numbers of property owners who support the proposal
- community benefits
- previous proposals
- existing conditions, the standard of construction, requirements of authorities and emergency services and where applicable, the relevance of the proposals in our corporate plan, construction priorities and budget allocations
- the need for the project taking into account matters of health, safety and amenity
- the group of property owners likely to benefit from the project or service
- the available options for staging and funding the project
- a preliminary estimate and method of distributing costs.
We must ensure there is benefit to all properties and this can vary depending on the type of infrastructure or service proposed.
Benefit to owners from a road construction, for example, may relate to:
- improved access
- removal of dust/mud nuisances
- improved road safety
- improvements to the general amenity and
- likely increase in property values.
Consultation is an essential element of all Special Rate and Charge schemes. Correspondence, brochures, public meetings, personal contact etc are the various ways we consult with property owners, depending on the circumstances.
Our Councillors and officers are always available to provide information and importantly to receive feedback on property owners' views and opinions.
The Local Government Act requires that we carry out certain formal processes:
- A report is presented with all details of a scheme and we may resolve our 'Intention to declare a Rate or Charge'.
- The scheme is then advertised (in a local newspaper) and at the same time a letter of advice sent to all owners.
- The process provides for owners to make submissions and objections to Council regarding any aspect of the scheme, which must be lodged within 30 days.
- A Submission Panel of three Councillors is then convened and submitters may address this Panel. The Panel having considered all submissions and information makes a recommendation to the City.
- A detailed report is then placed before us which includes the Panel recommendations and, if we resolve to proceed, the Special Rate or Charge is declared. We may at this stage also modify or abandon the scheme.
- Given a resolution to declare the rate or charge, a notice is issued to each owner liable to pay the charge. This indicates the estimated amount of the rate or charge and advises of rights to seek a review via the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). An application to VCAT must be lodged within 30 days of the issue of the Council notice.
- On application, VCAT will conduct a hearing and advise all parties of its decision.
- Given approval through the appeal process, we may then proceed to construct the works, or provide the services as provided for in the scheme. Once the works have commenced we will send a Payment Option Form and then start to send invoices to collect payments for the scheme.
- If a scheme includes works, when these are completed, the costs are finalized and an adjustment made to each owners costs to reflect the actual, final costs. Where the finalized actual costs are lower than the amount paid, a refund will be provided.
On deciding to proceed with a scheme, we will issue a notice (levy notice) and any affected person has the right to seek a review via VCAT. The grounds for review by VCAT are specified in the Local Government Act and are quite narrow.
An owner wishing to seek a review by VCAT must lodge an application within 30 days. VCAT will then arrange a Hearing date, hear presenters and, in due course, advise all parties of its determination. This process is likely to take up to six months.
Depending on the degree of consultation a scheme may take one to two years to complete. An owner lodging an application for review will be required to pay a lodging fee to VCAT. VCAT also has the option of awarding costs against a party, to another.