Cambridge decides to pay mayor’s consultant bill for redevelopment of Christ Church Grammar
City of Cambridge taxpayers will foot the bill for a consultant hired by the city’s mayor to stop contentious rezoning plans for a sports ground.
Mayor Keri Shannon personally contacted Ken Adams, a design and planning consultant, in a final move after staffers told him they were unable to find a consultant to help explain why the council had refused to support the rezoning of McClemans Oval.
Responsibility for providing legal reasons would normally rest with council planning staff, but given that their 57-page report recommended supporting the rezoning application and did not contain the opposition raised by many Mt Claremont residents, the Mayor thought it prudent to involve a stranger. .
Months after council’s unusual and controversial move in March to vote against allowing the site to be rezoned for sale – and potentially becoming a housing estate – the issue of the $2,500 council bill has proven equally controversial.
First, the initial invoice sent by Mr Adams in March was addressed to the mayor rather than the city because Ms Shannon had booked the work under her own name.
The city’s new chief executive, Karl Heiden, refused to approve payment for the consultant without first seeking clarification from the head of the council’s planning department about what had happened. He then said it was up to council to decide whether the $2,500 bill should be paid by the ratepayers.
An attempt by Ms Shannon to submit the bill as a late council fixture in April infuriated Cr Rod Bradley, and her outburst of table banging and filmed light captured on the council’s live streaming service went viral.
The bill was approved for payment, but at last week’s council meeting councilors reversed their decision.
This led to another special council meeting last Friday, where the issue of paying bills was settled – but not without one last fight.
Cr Gary Mack said local government regulations prohibited elected members from taking on administrative duties without the permission of the chief executive and as such the mayor should never have employed the consultant.
“The mayor doesn’t have that (permission),” Cr Mack said.
“It is in fact an invoice from the mayor providing a service for his personal benefit.
“Therefore, she has to pay it, not the city.”
Ms Shannon declared an impartiality interest in the article, saying there could be concerns about the integrity of any decision due to her personal involvement.
She left the room during the vote.
Cr Alaine Haddon-Casey, who supported the council making the payment last Friday, described the situation as “difficult”.
“Yes, it’s a complex issue and we had good advice from the community and the administration (on rezoning), but we knew it would be a difficult situation because we had to be fair to both parties when deciding zoning review,” Cr Haddon-Casey said.
“From my point of view, we were running out of time. And as counsel, we have the right to get our own advice.
The council first considered the town’s local planning amendment application to rezone the site in February.
The grounds have been owned by Christ Church Grammar School since 1971 and are used by the community as playgrounds and for out-of-school activities.
The proposed rezoning drew strong opposition from residents, with more than 75 people speaking out in opposition at the February council meeting.
Cambridge Council is not making a decision on rezoning the McClemans Road oval to allow the landowner to sell.
After the council voted against the rezoning in March, its recommendation not to adopt the proposed rezoning was forwarded to the WA Planning Commission.
Mr. Adams’ report cited 10 reasons for denial, including the lack of a current redevelopment proposal, the risk of significant loss of physical and social amenity if redevelopment were to proceed, and no cases having been presented highlighting the need more housing in the area.
This week, a WAPC spokesman told PerthNow that because the city had decided not to support the local development plan amendment, which would allow redevelopment, there was no rezoning proposal with the WAPC for decision.
“In the event that a change to the scheme is initiated by the city, public consultation will be undertaken as part of the process to give the community and stakeholders an opportunity to provide feedback,” the spokesperson said.