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MAROONDAH Council has defended its decision to send three staff to the US on a ratepayer-funded 'fact finding' mission.
In April the council's chief executive officer Frank Dixon, mayor Rob Steane and director of planning Phil Turner joined staff from Queensland Investment Corporation - the owners of Eastland shopping centre - and architects on a five-day study tour of shopping centres in the States. The trip cost ratepayers $20,000.
The group visited 16 retail centres, including four Westfield centres, and also stopped by the famous upmarket Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. The council maintains it was beneficial to gain ideas for the Ringwood town square plan.
The town square development is part of QIC's $500 million upgrade to Eastland. Once construction is complete, ownership of the buildings - which include the town square, a new library, a cultural and learning centre and a council service centre - will be handed back to council as community assets. . QIC plans to undertake community consultation once its designs are complete.
Mr Dixon said the trip was necessary because the US was the "only other place in the world where there is anything like what we are going to have".
He said an outdoor space like the one planned for Ringwood - that attracted people and uses the space - was not something "there are many examples of in Australia".
Concerns from residents that an American-style design would not fit in at Ringwood were raised after the Weekly first reported the council was heading overseas. "It is about picking out the elements that will work in an Australian context," Mr Dixon said.
Cr Steane echoed these sentiments, saying the focus was on outdoor plaza elements.
"The opportunity to visit these locations and discuss the elements was invaluable in council's vision to achieve a state-of-the-art town centre in Ringwood and to maximise the benefits to the community.
"It was a really good valuable trip and we worked hard."