Hotel plan ‘fails pub test’

No room at inn: The Mentone Hotel’s pub days and nights may be over.

No room at inn: The Mentone Hotel’s pub days and nights may be over.

PLANS to redevelop the Mentone Hotel will go before Kingston Council this month in the next stage of the conversion of the iconic venue into townhouses with an adjoining apartment complex amid concerns about the height of the apartment building and a lack of pub space.

A planning application for a four-storey development housing 56 apartments and 12 townhouses will be considered by Kingston councillors at a public council meeting on 18 May.

Developer Paul Huggins of Momentum Developments bought the Beach Rd hotel, known locally as The Edgy, for an undisclosed sum believed to be in excess of $9 million early last year after previous owners Open Door Pub Co offloaded the hotel.

Mr Huggins wants to build a four-storey apartment block on the hotel’s car park site beside The Edgy and townhouses on the upper levels of the hotel building itself.

Heritage Victoria has heritage listed the hotel’s facade but there is discontent over Mr Huggins’ plans to incorporate a restaurant/cafe in the lower floor of the main hotel building.

The proposed eatery would be 227 square metres in size. The Save The Edgy group, who have been campaigning for the pub to be reopened, want at least 800 square metres set aside for live music.

A council officer report has recommended councillors back the planning application at this month’s council meeting. The Save The Edgy group is disappointed a scaled down restaurant will replace the former pub space.

“When I saw on page 2 of the 95-page council officer’s report that the development will only allow for a small ‘food and drink premises’ operating on a restaurant and cafe licence, I felt we had not been listened to,” Save the Edgy group spokesman Clarke Martin said.

“The Planning Minister is on the record saying that developers must provide public amenity when making large residential applications. The current plan does not meet that test. All along this journey we have been willing to work with the owner to produce a win-win outcome and that offer continues.”

Mr Huggins said he had advertised for a tenant to take on the management of a pub on the whole ground floor of the Mentone Hotel but it is not financially viable.

“It’s only gone broke three times in 20 years. They’re asking muggins here – not Paul Huggins – to go and do the same but the answer’s ‘no way’,” he said.

Mr Huggins said he had promised to “take out three or four apartments” if a pub owner could be found to take on the lease for the lower floor and had advertised without success for 12-18 months for someone to come forward.

Federal Labor Isaccs MP Mark Dreyfus said he “is strongly against” the planning application.

“This kind of development on Beach Rd is completely out of character with the Beach Rd environment and would require a planning scheme amendment to change the existing height limit,” Mr Dreyfus said. “Council should stop this application in its tracks and insist that any development on the site of the Mentone Hotel remain at two storeys, as per the existing planning scheme.”

Kingston councillor David Eden has urged residents to contact councillors if they have concerns over the redevelopment of the Mentone Hotel.

“The Edgy is not protected and it’s not saved,” Cr Eden said on Facebook. “Get in touch with your councillors and let them know your thoughts. We all need to work together to ensure that we protect our amenity and most definitely not allow four storeys beachside.”

Mr Huggins said the apartment building will be lower than the main hotel building since the design is “a wedding cake” shape with a setback third and fourth level.

“It will not open up a breach of the two-level height restraints along Beach Rd,” he said. “The law states that the only way you can go and get a height amendment under a DDO [Design and Development Overlay] is it must be a site of state significance and it must be heritage listed.”

The businessman said the Mentone Hotel is the only site on Beach Rd that fits the criteria.

“Mark Dreyfus is an educated man and he knows full well that’s the story but he’s bandying this about for a votes grab,” Mr Huggins said. “It’s just a scare tactic at the end of the day.”

If councillors vote to give the planning application the go-ahead on 18 May a planning scheme amendment will be advertised for public comment.

State Labor Planning Minister Richard Wynne will have the final say on the planning application in any event.

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 11 May 2016

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