issue-02

Continental Hotel

The Continental Hotel Development is near completion and is set to open fully in September. 

It has come to our attention that whilst the plans for the 170 plus seat outdoor dining area have been endorsed, approval by Shire for the licence to use the public footpath for the outdoor dining restaurant has not been granted.

The NRA has written to Shire requesting that this issue be addressed immediately.

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19 September 2021

 
Mr N Kearsley
Manager:  Property & Commercial Services
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council
nathan.kearsley@mornpen.gov.vic.au

 Dear Nathan

Re:   Continental Hotel:  Outdoor Dining Area

 We write in relation to the proposed use of the public open space footpath and seven car parks in Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento adjacent to the Continental Hotel redevelopment. We understand that the developer of the Continental Hotel wishes to make use of this public land as outdoor dining areas.

 Our concern is that the operating licence or lease for the proposed outdoor dining area has not been addressed by Council or with the community.

 Whilst the plans for the outdoor dining area have been endorsed as a matter of planning approval, it remains the prerogative of the Shire not to grant a licence of the public open space footpath of Ocean Beach Road and car parking spaces and make it available to the developer of the Hotel should the Shire deem it not to be appropriate in the public interest and as lacking community benefit.

We understand that the developer is planning a "soft" opening of the redeveloped Continental Hotel in November. Construction for the outdoor dining space has already commenced with the removal of vegetation from Council land and with no licensing agreement in place from Council for the use of this public land.

 We are surprised that this has occurred without Council prior approval for the use of its land.

 Although the plans we have seen are descriptive of the structure as temporary or “semi” permanent, it is clear that the proposed structures on Council land are not demountable and removable and do not comply with any of the guidelines of Council’s Commercial Activities on Footpath Policy.

We understand that the developer is required to provide to Council engineering drawings for the proposed footpath and car park outdoor dining area works. Please provide to us a copy of these drawings.

The structures proposed by the Continental Hotel developer are permanent with fixed heavily constructed planter boxes and a “semi” permanent roof – whatever that might mean. The plans we have seen do not descend to particularity as to these matters. At 3.5 metres in height, the screen structure, roof, and their supports well exceed the Policy guidelines of 1.8 metres.

There appears to be 31 tables and 172 chairs - none of which appear to be able to be removed off the footpath at the close of business on each permitted day. Further, there is no suggestion in the developer’s proposals as to where these items are to be stored off the proposed site on the public footpath.

 It is our view that Council ought to reject the developer’s proposal out of hand on this basis alone.

 However, if not, it is the Nepean Ratepayers Association's view that, given the size of the proposed outdoor dining area, and permanent appropriation of public land for private use by the developer and ultimately the operator of the business of the Continental Hotel, this application must be dealt with outside the Council’s Commercial Activities on Footpath Policy on a commercial and economic benefit basis and analysis. This will require a close analysis of the commercial and economic benefit of the private use of this public land to the developer and operator of the Hotel.

 We recall that Council officers may have already undertaken preliminary, and perhaps an advanced and concluded, study and analysis and we should be pleased to be provided with any report or information that Council has on this aspect of the matter.

 In our opinion, there appears to be no precedent for this size of outdoor dining development on public land in the shire. Indeed, this may well set a precedent for other developers or existing operators to apply to remove public car spaces and redevelop public footpaths on Council land to extend their dining spaces. This could occur not only within Ocean Beach Road Sorrento but on public land of this nature throughout the Shire.

There is no net value to the community in the use of the footpath and car park spaces in this manner.  It will only confer a considerable financial benefit to the developer.

If Council has not already done so, this Association strongly recommends that Council employ an expert commercial and business valuer to assess the commercial, business, and economic value of the land to the developer over an appropriate period, say 30 or 50 years. These are similar time frames to those leases and licences provided to concessionaires within, for example, ParksVic national park and other properties.

The financial and economic benefit of the use of this land to the developer will be substantial and it should be able to contribute to a fair and reasonable licence or lease fee payable to Council.  The developer would have already obtained business plans which specified the numbers of meal covers with 172 patrons and consumption of alcohol over the 13 hours of any approved daily opening operations.

 These are all matters of ready analysis and calculation and information which ought to be made available to fully informed Council and community prior to any decision being made by Council as to the private use of this public land.

 Although the developer has provided a further 7 public car spaces underground and a distance away from Ocean Beach Road, in the course of the planning permit process, the developer achieved a dispensation under Clause 52.06 to provide the required number of car spaces for a development of this size.

This Association believes that the whole of any licensing or leasing fee extracted from the developer for its use of public land, including the on street removed car park spaces, must be quarantined for the provision of future car parking within Sorrento. Car parking space within Sorrento Ocean Beach Road retail and commercial areas is desperately short.

We understand an amount of approximately $1.8 million has already been quarantined for this purpose from the sale to the developer of the Council car park opening off Constitution Hill Road. Car parking, even off season, is now at a premium in Sorrento and these funds could be used to provide additional car spaces in and around Morse Avenue and George Street.

We urge that the Shire address the issue of an appropriate licence or lease fee for the outdoor dining area as a matter of urgency.

It is vitally important to the Sorrento community and the Council, and its retail and business activities that any Council approved use of public Council land, and corresponding loss to the community, must not only be seen to provide benefit to our community but actually must do so.  

We look forward to your response and proposals as to a process of public consultation with the community.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Watson – President.

 cc Mr J Baker CEO -  ceo@mornpen.vic.gov.au

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