THE fight to build a fuel, hotel and fast-food complex at the gateway to Healesville is set to end up at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Yarra Ranges councillors last Tuesday voted unanimously against a planning application for the controversial new complex labelled by critics as "not welcome, not inviting and not good for Healesville".
Joseph Alesci, director of the company which owns the land, confirmed he would appeal the decision at VCAT.
The public gallery at last week's meeting cheered when all nine councillors rejected the planning application.
Healesville SES duty officer Jade Cretella, who raised her concerns about the development with the Weekly last week, represented the 1153 objectors to the proposal and pointed to the detrimental safety, business and social aspects it would bring.
She said the development, which includes a roundabout just outside the SES building, would slow down response teams in an emergency and also interfere with their communications tower.
"We believe from our findings and our discussions with the general public it has the potential to double our turnout times and put lives at risk."
Ms Cretella referred to the potential effects on small businesses as she believed visitors would "stop, fill up, feed their kids and move on".
Most councillors spoke out against the proposal. They included Ryrie ward's Fiona McAllister, who said the supposed employment benefits were "negligible".
Mr Alesci hit out against the decision and said councillors had "made up their mind a couple of months ago". He said he was disappointed with the lack of diplomacy shown by councillors during the process, in which the council put forward a "biased and not balanced" report.
"This will end up at VCAT where we can have an impartial hearing, with no [external] interest in the proposal," he said.
"A year-and-a-half of consultations with the council has come to nought, just a blanket refusal."
Mr Alesci said he could understand community concern, which was "not uncommon", but labelled it a "travesty" that the site had lain dormant for 15 years.
McDonald's was one of the companies put forward as a potential occupant of the site, and Mr Alesci said the current campaigns against it in the area were "unsavoury".
"I'm not a McDonald's apologist by any means, but the current bashing of the golden arches, which seems to be very popular at the moment, is not right."
The case will be the second significant VCAT hearing involving Yarra Ranges residents in the past few months, following the decision in October to allow McDonald's to build a restaurant in Tecoma.