Council balancing act for school facility hire restrictions

A site map from Sacred Heart College's proposal to hire out several of its facilities.
A site map from Sacred Heart College's proposal to hire out several of its facilities.

IT was not a case of third time lucky for Sacred Heart College or nearby Sorrento residents at Joondalup Council yesterday.

Last September, the council refused an application to allow the Catholic school to hire out its performing arts building and recently-constructed gym to non-college community groups.

This was in response to neighbouring residents’ concerns about traffic, noise, parking and the potential for antisocial behaviour, as well as the school being in breach of conditions that did not allow it to hire these facilities without prior approval, but it had been.

Sacred Heart College application to hire facilities refused

The school then appealed the refusal through the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) and submitted a modified proposal, adding its old gym, chapel and oval to the facilities it can hire, which the council conditionally approved in April.

Sacred Heart College gains approval to hire facilities

However, unhappy with conditions limiting the number of events and maximum number of participants, the school again took the matter to SAT.

Sorrento school seeks changes to conditions when hiring out facilities

Tuesday was the third time the school’s application has come before the councillors who have now agreed not to cap the amount of incidental events but reduce the number of participants allowed from the requested 100 to 50.

The school had requested that incidental events not be included in the overall cap of 104 events because most of them would be their own college events, which are now also included in the event management plan.

Cr Mike Norman said he was trying to balance the wishes of the school and the residents when he got support for an alternative motion that will also require the school to install a gate at the “northernmost pedestrian point along Hocking Parade” that would be closed during events.

This is in addition to City officers’ recommendation to install gates and fencing at the carpark accessed from Bahama Close to also be closed during events.

Cr Norman also moved to require the school to submit a public report, listing all events for the year and their classification, after 12 months.

Approval for the school to hire its facilities is also only valid for 12 months, at which time the school will need to reapply.

The school’s other requests had included increasing the maximum number of event participants from 556 to 800 to better reflect the total number of people associated with an event including performers and support staff as well as audience members, and to add a new Tier 1 of events allowing a maximum of six events a year of more than 700 people.

This means the school now proposed Tier 2 at a maximum of 30 events for 350 to 699 people, Tier 3 at a maximum 68 events for 100 to 349 people and incidental events uncapped for up to 100 people.

While the council approved the school’s request for Tier 1 and 2 events, the reduction in allowed participants for incidental events meant Tier 3 was approved at a maximum 68 events for 50 to 349 people.

The school also requested to amend the finishing time for events (including pack up and vacating the building) from 9.30pm to 10pm but with events on Sundays and public holidays still to finish at 5pm, and amend the definition of ‘normal school hours’ from 8am to 4pm to 7.30am to 4pm.

While residents were opposed to the later finishing time, the council report stated both of these requests were considered acceptable.

Other conditions recommended by officers and approved by council included only considering an event as incidental if it is held inside school buildings, meaning any event held on the oval but with less than 50 people will be considered a Tier 3 event.

The external hire of the oval for an event is also limited to a maximum number of 178 people, and for parking is limited to a maximum of 400 vehicles.

The school must also submit a travel management plan and acoustic reports.

If the school is still unhappy with these conditions, it can request the matter be determined by SAT through a formal hearing, which could cost the City a further $30,000 on top of the $44,190 that has already been spent to date.

At Tuesday’s meeting neighbouring residents raised concerns with having incidental events allowing up to 100 participants uncapped.

They said while they were not opposed to the school hiring out its facilities, they were opposed to the potential of them being hired all day, every day if incidental events were not capped.

“There will be little respite for neighbours with constant traffic, event pack-down and set-ups and noise,” resident Sharon Warnes said.

Mr Miller suggested if incidental events were to be uncapped, they be limited to 30 participants.

“We only ask that appropriate conditions be put in place to preserve our amenity,” he said.

Planning and community development director Dale Page said incidental events would still be controlled by the school’s event management plan and have the same requirements like having all details available on a website and a contact person during the event.

School board chair Anne Zaninovich said the school had “high quality facilities that cost us to run and we borrowed money to invest in”.

“This will be a win-win with the school able to recover some costs and allow the facilities to be used by community groups,” she said.

“There is a lack of available quality venues in the City and we are increasingly approached by groups like sporting clubs who wish to use our faculties for training.”

Principal Peter Bothe said this was the third time the City’s officers had recommended an approval and he urged councillors to follow their advice.

“Let’s end what has become a circus,” he said.

Business manager Steven Martin added the school and the City were “now suffering reputational damage” with the school having to decline being a Federal Election polling booth and hosting popular children’s author Andy Griffiths because of the imposed restrictions.

“Worse to the effect of ‘you must be joking’ was the response we received,” he said.

Parent John Williams also said being able to hire out facilities would raise extra revenue which could help reduce student fees.

While the alternative motion was passed, Cr Russell Poliwka said he believed the conditions imposed in April were the right balance and the new proposed conditions were “an over reach”.

“This is an organisation that flouts the law and pushes the envelope, wasting money with a dispute that should have been resolved with the last decision,” he said.