HOVELL Street will remain open — for now.
A loud burst of applause rang out through the Wodonga Council meeting chambers last night, as councillors voted unanimously in favour of not going ahead with its plan to close the southern end of the CBD street.
But the proposal is not off the table entirely — and the city’s councillors spoke at length of their wish to revisit the idea in the future.
While council officers had recommended the street not be closed, mayor Mark Byatt put forward an alternative motion, that set out stringent milestones that must be met before any further discussion.
Cr Byatt, who has been vocal in his opposition of the closure since it was first floated in May, said he believed his concerns were met with the motion being put forward.
It included provisions for several major traffic works to be complete, including those at Elgin Boulevard, and a major retailer moved into the northern end of Hovell Street, before any proposal to partially close the street be brought to the council again.
A further report on the design and improvements for the “civic precinct” must also be tabled to the council by April 30 next year.
Cr Rod Wangman said it was a “compromise” but the issue would need to be rexamined: “No one wants the city to go backwards and slower, we all want it to go forward and faster”.
Cr Michael Fraser said the council still wanted to find ways to make the city centre “an attractor”.
“People come here to pick up their supplies, pay their bills and then get out of town — and I don’t think that’s right,” he said.
“We need to make it somewhere people want to spend some time, somewhere people want to shop and be part of a community.”
Cr John Watson agreed: “I’m sick and tired of the leakage to Albury. We need to build the strengths of this city.”
Cr Anna Speedie too stressed the need for change, cryptically referring to the “commercial in confidence nature” of some future projects that may be on the horizon.
She also spoke of concern some members of the community had been “coerced” into signing petitions against the closure from community group Don’t Close Hovell Street.
Cr Fraser said that group would be important in going forward in any future plans.