YOU’VE seen the ads: mature couples with perfect white teeth and tastefully silver hair spend their days in expensive leisure wear, playing tennis, paddling in the sea and toasting each other with glasses of very good wine.
This, apparently, is life in a Lifestyle community. Not a retirement village, according to Lifestyle. “Our communities are designed for active, fun-loving over 50s living.”
It’s been an incredibly popular residential and business model. There are 21 villages around Victoria, including two on the Mornington Peninsula.
Lifestyle Cowes at 299-325 Church Street was to have have been number 22 …until Bass Coast councillors this week put a spanner in the works and voted 5-4 this week to knock the application back.
The knockback clearly caught the company by surprise - the Cowes development is already listed on the Lifestyle website as "Coming Soon".
As locals and those who have fond memories of visiting Phillip Island, you’ll know that no two days are the same. Life at our Cowes Beach Club will be no exception. One day you might take the 350 metre wander to the beach to enjoy the sunset; the next could be the day you head out into the bay on your community boat.
Cr Rochelle Halstead begged to differ, describing the 277-unit Lifestyle village as “a glorified trailer parks”.
Cr Ron Bauer was equally scathing. “There’s barely room for a flower pot between the dwellings.”
There were 15 objections to the development but council planners assessed that none of the issues was substantive
“The proposal provides for an alternative housing model which generally accords with local policies for housing supply, however the business model presented to Council will not address the state policies for housing affordability in the typical sense.”
The houses are modular and removable, which enables developers to sidestep certain planning regulations. Lifestyle residential villages are marketed with the tagline “Own the dwelling, lease the land,” which supposedly keeps prices down to 75=80 per cent of the typical median houses price.
With soaring house prices, according to the company’s website, the average baby boomer would unlock about $220,000 in capital by downsizing to a house in a Lifestyle village. That will certainly help in enjoying the twilight years.
Of course the term “affordable” is relative. Houses in Lifestyle communities range from $400,000 to $650,000. There’s also a weekly site fee, which varies depending on whether you are single or a couple, and your financial status. A Lifestyle consultant told the Post a self-funded couple would pay $230 a week while a pensioner couple would pay $161.
Most of the houses styles are reminiscent of the 1990s with low-pitched roofs, gables and small verandahs. A few have elements of Victoriana.
According to the council officers’ report, the individual dwellings have a relatively poor Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) rating, though this is mitigated by a neighbourhood approach to ESD which includes a solar microgrid and battery storage, a communal electric vehicle, EV charging points and village ebikes.
Cr David Rooks said there was a lot to like about the proposal. “There’s a fantastic list of things that will be part of the village including a cinema, gym, library, pool, shared tool shed, croquet lawn and a pickle ball court. So they’re adding to the community.
“They’re also putting in new pathway down Bella Vista Road to the foreshore. Should the proposed Ventnor-Cowes path go ahead, that will join up for a leisurely 30 minute walk into town, relieving them of the need to get into their cars.”
Cr Leticia Laing pointed out the median age in Bass Coast is was 52 compared with the Victorian average of 37.
“There are a high proportion of households in large homes with only a couple living there. We do need to provide a higher density, smaller housing offering and this lifestyle village does address these factors.”
Their arguments did not convince all of their fellow councillors.
Cr Halstead said the proposal was an over-development of the site.
“It’s my opinion the application does not achieve this and presents more as a glorified trailer park.”
Cr Bauer said he was concerned at the number of dwellings. “This is an ambit claim to get the best bang for buck out of this project. This development is so tight there’s barely room for a flower pot between the dwellings.
“We are trying to retain the je ne sais quoi of our Phillip Island … If we allow these sardine can projects to proceed without making a noise we are taking a stand to which we as councillors will rightly be held accountable by the ratepayers.”
Cr Bruce Kent said he liked the concept of the village but not the reality.
“There’s a lot not to like about this development … there are concerns on the location, the garbage, open space and strategic planning. This developer can do better than what’s produced here.”