Opposing sides divided as ballots sent out for non-binding building heights poll

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An artist’s impression of Fragrance Group’s proposed hotel in Collins St. Picture: SUPPLIED

BALLOT papers in the elector poll on Hobart building heights hit letterboxes this week, but opposing camps are divided over the significance of the eventual result.

Voting in the $200,000 poll is not compulsory and the result is non-binding on the council.

It is being held after the council received a petition from 1000 ratepayers organised by the Hobart Not Highrise group. Voters are being asked three questions:

SHOULD the council support the building height limits and other recommendations made by its planning officers?

WOULD you prefer the building height limit in Height Area 1 to be lower than 60 metres?

WOULD you prefer the planning schemes remain unchanged?

Hobart Not Highrise spokesman Brian Corr said he urged a ‘yes’ vote to the first question, to make their own decision on the second and vote ‘no’ to the third.

“We would be hoping for at least 40 per cent turnout and at least 70 per cent in favour of question one,” he said.

He said the council could not morally ignore a strong vote in the poll.

Fragrance Group proposed a 210m hotel for Davey St in 2016.

Alderman Simon Behrakis said the vote was critically important coming in the middle of a housing crisis.

“I hope people do vote, vote for reason, and vote not to limit development in the city,” he said.

“This whole elector poll in my opinion has very little credibility. Apart from being confusing and the wording being biased, it doesn’t carry any weight and it shirks proper process on how we should be dealing with these issues.”

He said the council should not take the result too seriously and should do its job as an elected representative body.

The current permitted building height limit in the CBD is 30m or 10 storeys, but exceptions are allowed.

The CBD’s tallest building is NAB House in Collins St, which at 14 storeys is 58m.

Singaporean developers Fragrance Group proposed a 210m tower on the Hobart waterfront, prompting an outcry from the public.

The council prepared a building heights review — known as the Woolley report — which recommended maximum building heights of up to 60m in the city centre.

In December 2018, the City Planning Committee proposed to lower the height limits in Hobart’s city centre from the 60m recommended to 45m but this was not approved and the recommendation to seek further expert advice was made.

In March, council deferred making a decision on height limits. Electors have until July 15 to get their vote in.

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