Freeway fury

BY JANE CANAWAY
17 Mar, 2009 02:47 PM

JOE Garra thinks he has the best block of land in Bulla.
At night you can see the city lights. By day you can watch the planes fly in and out of Tullamarine.

But birdsong is about the loudest noise you’ll hear.

That will change when two freeways merge on his land, as VicRoads plans suggest they will in 10 to 20 years.

At 55, Mr Garra hopes to have sold off and retired by then – but he believes the value of his St Johns Road land dropped as soon as VicRoads released its route map for the proposed outer west ring road, which appears to go straight through his property.

In fact, he may get hit on two fronts, as the ring road appears to merge with a proposed extension to the Tullamarine Freeway on his 52-hectare farm.

“As soon as someone sees that on the Section 32 [notice giving property details] they’re not going to want to buy it,” he said.

The Elders Real Estate agent knows firsthand what the land was worth.

“My neighbour just sold his place for $2.25 million, and that’s for 26 hectares with an older house on. So mine had to be worth at least $2.4 million, and that’s being conservative.

“But anyone selling now is going to have problems.”

Mr Garra said other neighbours planning their dream home would end up with a nightmare.

“I sold a house on this street on 15 acres for $950k and the first thing they’ve done is pull it down to build a $500,000 house on it – what will it be worth with a freeway next door?

“Another house two doors down is at frame stage – they’ll end up looking at a freeway barrier.”

Mr Garra’s neighbour, Cathy Jones, is a third-generation Bulla resident. She’s philosophical but sad about the impact the road will have on her home.

“There’s not many places where you can be so close to the city and still in the country. They’ve certainly picked the best land to go through, with the [Wildwood] winery and so on, and there’s nothing on this street that sells for much less than $1 million.

“It’ll look like another Keilor Park Drive [industrial estate]. We had no plans to move, but now we have no choice – who would buy it now?”

Since Ms Jones moved to her six-hectare lifestyle block in 1983 to run horses on the land, the family has strived to improve it.

“We’ve worked hard on the weeds – there’s hardly any serrated tussock left on the place – and when I think of the trees I’ve planted and struggled with the drought to keep alive, it’s such a shame.

“But I look at the little farms on the edge of the Calder with the freeway on their doorstep and I’d rather the road went straight through the middle of our home.”

VicRoads has stated on its website that its maps are “schematic” and subject to consultation, but also that: “If your property is within this dotted line it is possible that your property would be affected”.

The authority has said that affected landowners will be contacted by mail this month and public meetings held in April, but dates have yet to be set.

A VicRoads spokeswoman said it was “too early” to make decisions about land reservation needs.

VicRoads has the power to compulsorily purchase land, but this will not happen until an exact route has been planned and the State Government approves the project, not scheduled to happen for many years.

In the meantime, Mr Garra thinks it is unlikely he will be able to sell his land.

Compensation claims can only be made once the route is confirmed.

“They may acquire it in 10 years’ time but the price probably won’t go up in that time,” Mr Garra said.

“I emailed VicRoads eight weeks ago.

“When they got back to me two weeks ago, a lady said it will take 20 years. I asked, ‘Why would you have a meeting now for something that’s going to happen in 20 years’ time?”‘