By Luke Voogt
A council plan to redevelop Highton could “kill” local strip shopping, traders warned at a meeting on Wednesday night.
Plans to reduce on-street parking for alfresco areas would drive customers away, cafe owner Joe Tripodi told two dozen traders.
“I’ve lived in Highton all my life – it’s convenience,” he said.
“They like to come in, get what they want and go.
“We’ll lose the whole crux of what Highton’s all about … honestly, I think it will kill Highton.”
Liquor store owner Tony Nardi accused council officers of ignoring traders’ concerns despite its public forum with 130 locals in November 2017.
“They’re not listening to us,” he told the Indy before the meeting.
“We don’t need alfresco. No one’s going to sit out the front of our shops. If they drive people away it will drive our businesses down really bad.”
Geelong’s council recently released two options to redevelop Highton featuring additional trees and garden beds, alfresco dining areas, public plazas and bike lanes.
Both options, on council’s Yoursay website, involve removing on-street parking.
Health store owner and president of Highton’s trader association, Mary Petherick, was disappointed with the plan’s “net loss of parking”.
But she said it would be tragic to “vote yes or no” on the plans and “throw out the baby with the bath water”.
Rather council should tweak the plans to redevelop a “tired looking” Highton while maintaining or increasing parking, she said.
Her husband and fellow owner Dave said more parking was the “bottom line”.
“I don’t care what (council) say about surveys they did,” Mr Petherick said.
“All of you know that there is a parking problem here – we’re here every day.”
But Highton-based councillor Ron Nelson assured the traders the plans were “not a done deal”.
“I certainly expressed my view to council officers,” he said.
“I understand what it’s like to park here.”
Council also has long-term plans to sell an existing parking lot for a developer to build into a three-storey parking and apartment complex.
Traders raised concerns about possible parking charges or the complex destroying the character of Highton.
Mr Nelson indicated council would aim to make parking at the complex free.