Hyams moved to accept the Akehurst report on the new zones ‘as printed’. Sounness seconded.
HYAMS: began by quoting the figures on the influx of new people to Victoria and that ‘obviously they need to go somewhere’. Said that the zones were introduced in 2013 and that Glen Eira had its minimal change/housing diversity from 2003 and that was after ‘at least two years of consultation’. ‘The new zones exactly mirror the old zones’ ‘except for one property in North Caulfield’. Claimed that all that is different is that because of the schedules council has ‘increased the protection to any resident who lives in those zones’ (ie Residential Growth, General Residential Zone and Urban Villages). Repeated that the there’s nothing that developers couldn’t do before. Gave example of an old application in Mavho street that council refused but it went to VCAT and got a permit. But what might have got built before ‘now can’t be built’ because of the height restrictions. Also said that even though there’s a height limit that doesn’t mean that everything will be built ‘to that height’. Therefore there are plenty of developments that previously got permits but now they wouldn’t with the new zones and that includes the RGZ and GRZ zones. Went on to say that there are lots of people blaming the zones for all the new applications but that’s not true because ‘Carnegie has had this sort of stuff going on for a while’ and the same holds for Murrumbeena and Elsternwick where an 8 storey building went up. So all this was happening before and even though ‘they have accelerated’ it isn’t ‘because of the new zones’. But it’s only ‘now that they have reached Bentleigh’ and he thought that it was ‘inevitable that they have spread out from the centre’.
Referred to the argument that council should have ‘consulted’ before ‘bringing in the new zones’. But council wanted to ‘achieve the best possible results’ for the municipality , Claimed that in ‘all’ the discussions with the government it was about ‘convincing them not to expand the high density zones’ and even though they might have wanted to make them smaller ‘no government from either side’ would allow this ‘no matter how much we consulted’. Said that ‘I haven’t heard anything from the ALP on the new zones’ so Labor has ‘no interest in challenging or changing those zones’.
Admitted that post zones there was criticism but this came from the ‘development industry’ about how restrictive the new zones were. Quoted various sources. So by ‘getting in early’ council was ‘able to achieve these height limits’ and ‘other councils haven’t been so lucky’ and Kingston has had their 13.5 metre height limits ‘preferred’ and they are ‘not absolute as they are here’. Government now looks like it’s ‘leaning’ towards higher limits so Glen Eira has ‘done very well’. Thought it was important that people understood the zones and not what some people are saying about ‘encouraging sales’.
SOUNNESS: Said that the report is ‘brief’ but identifies that there are opportunities for development but also ‘tools’ to ‘limit inappropriate development’. Sadly they ‘have to allow development to take place somewhere’ like urban villages and close to transport.
DELAHUNTY: wanted to ask Akehurst a question because the report was basically about neighbourhood residential zones and there were plenty of people ‘here’ who are facing applications not in the residential zones. So she wanted Akehurst to explain how those zones came about and what they mean.
AKHURST: admitted that the paper he wrote was basically about the Neighbourhood Residential Zone but that there are other zones. Said that the Mixed Use Zone is common to all councils and is determined by the government as is the Commercial zones. Neither have height limits and the commercial zones have different uses and explained how these changed with the introduction of the zones.
LOBO: said that height limits ‘sounds good’ but that it is ‘an umbilical cord to the residential zones’. Hyams explained ‘nicely’ how the zones had been ‘transcribed’ from the old zones but in the old zones with minimal change and housing diversity ‘councillors had the option of either accepting or refusing’ as they did with 32 Mavho street where council refused and vcat gave the permit. Said that VCAT doesn’t always ‘get it right’. Said that there is ‘certainty’ but that ‘this certainty is for the builders’ and for ‘real estate agents’ both of whom are ‘laughing to the bank’. (applause). Said that residents vote councillors in and that their role is to uphold what it says on the front of every agenda. Read out the blurb about working in the best interests of residents. Said that he recognises that Ministers have been given ‘carte blanche’ about planning but that ‘we should have gone to consultation’ and at ‘least give a chance’ to people. Said that ‘I asked for it’ and that he ‘voted to be part of the team’ when he was ‘deputy mayor’ and he now thinks ‘I have done wrong’ and ‘mea culpa’. Thought that ‘now we have to do something about it’ and for the next government to ‘do something to repair this damage’. (applause)
OKOTEL: ‘acknowledged’ what Hyams said about ‘direct translation’ of what was there before. However her position was that instead of ‘simply adopt policy’ that ‘council should have engaged in community consultation before making a submission to the planning minister’. (applause) This was because the consultation goes back to 2003.
ESAKOFF: point of order that ‘when I asked about consultation’ she was told that it wasn’t 2003 but 2010.
PILLING: said that the review of the Planning Scheme was in 2010. Said there were 2 consultation: one in 2003 and the last in 2010.
OKOTEL: said that she ‘didn’t feel comfortable’ about not consulting but that she notes that the new zones’ do preserve 78% of the municipality’ and that she does support the report and its comments that ‘compared to other councils’ that Glen Eira’s ‘protections’ are far more than these other councils. But she is also ‘sympathetic’ to the remaining 22% of the municipality ‘which don’t have those protections’ and ‘weren’t invited for consultation’. Even though there are the new zones council still has to ‘refer’ to its policies that ‘require us to look at’ things like Neighbourhood Character. Read out part of a VCAT judgement on an application for Prince Edward Avenue where the member rejected it and said that in terms of Neighbourhood Character it didn’t fit the street even though it was zoned for medium density. Okotel then went on to say that even though there are height limits council still needs to consider policy.(applause)
DELAHUNTY: said she was ‘confused’ about what’s going on. Referred to Hyams and his views about Labor. Said that Brian Tee has made a public statement on the zones and so has the current Labor candidate Nick Staikos who was in chamber. Said that there were ‘conflicting views’ ‘around this table tonight’ and that she was ‘confused’. Said that when they ‘discussed going to consultation’ on the zones and ‘bringing them in quickly’ and ‘with some certainty’ she was ‘certainly on the side of some public consultation’ and ‘I thought I was very much alone there but I’ve got some friends tonight’. Said that the information she got was about the consultation of 2010 and that ‘the arguments’ that were put up then ‘won me over’. Said that in 2010 people wanted ‘height limits and they wanted certainty’. So if the community ‘hasn’t changed’, with the new zones she thought that they were giving people what they had asked for. Post the new zones at a public forum held by LARGE she thought it would be a ‘good idea’ for council to have some public meetings to explain the zones and she remembers ‘being friendless at that time too’. So ‘I am very confused about the sentiments’ being expressed tonight. Wants sensible decisions on the applications before council tonight and hoped that the group could do that. ‘We have to be very careful about saying one thing inside and another thing outside’.
PILLING: supported Hyams and said that ‘these are the correct analyses’. Reminded councillors that ‘this was a unanimous decision a year ago’. The time ‘was to speak out and vote then’ so ‘trying to rewrite history now is a bit rich’. Repeated that it was ‘a unanimous decision fully supported by every councillor here’. Said that 97% of the municipality is protected except for the commercial zones by height limits and Glen Eira is probably ‘the only council in Victoria to have that’. Said that council had been ‘vilified’ by developers and academics but when ‘you get attacked’ by these people then ‘you’ve got the balance about right’. The zones have ‘restricted development into certain areas’. Thought that over time there would be ‘less intense development in these areas’. Said that in Murrumbeena they were applying for 5 storeys and above but now ‘you can only get four’. Repeated Hyams’ words about taking a while to get to Bentleigh but it was inevitable that it would also ‘happen in those areas as well’. Thought that council had done ‘the right thing by the community’ and that ‘we should stand by that decision’. Said that other councils are struggling and that for many it’s a ‘mess’. Said that they had given protection and that it’s something that council ‘should be proud of’ ‘I certainly am’.
Calls from gallery ‘’There’s no democracy’
HYAMS: their aim was to get ‘the best result’. Said that they could have ‘consulted until the cows come home’ and could ‘have gone to the government with anything’ and they would have knocked it back. If they had gone to consultation they ‘would have taken so long to get around to it’ that ‘other councils’ would have got in before them to show how ‘great they were’. If council had waited then ‘we would have got the deal that Kingston or Bayside’ got with ‘larger residential growth zones’. Even though people mightn’t like it ‘we got you the best deal’ and that was by ‘putting popularity’ aside unlike other councils who tried to be popular. He prefers ‘sticking to our decision’ and ‘acknowledging’ that they did the ‘best we could’. Said that in 2010/2011 there was consultation about the whole planning scheme and the results were that people wanted neighbourhoods protected and this was achieved with the Neighbourhood Character Overlays; height limits ‘which we now have’ and ‘transition zones’ and ‘we now have that as well’ via the ‘schedules to the new zones’.
Said that his ‘memory’ is different to Delahunty because he remembers Okotel also arguing for consultation. He also was persuaded that consultation wouldn’t get them a ‘better deal and might get us a worse deal’. Said that there was a ‘rush of applications’ last ‘July and August’ and the reason for this was that ‘all the developers knew that we were about to put these new zones in’ and they knew that what they could get before the zones they couldn’t get with the new zones. So they ‘rushed their developments in’.
GALLERY : how did they know in July when the zones didn’t come in until August?
HYAMS: referred to Lobo’s comments about options to refuse previously. Said he ‘doesn’t follow that’ because they ‘still have all the options that we previously had’. Picked Lobo up about VCAT ‘answering to the Government’ but VCAT ‘independent from the government’. Said that councillors have to carry out their ‘functions’ and that means ‘applying the planning law’. ‘We did the best we could’ and those people who are criticising the zones are doing it for ‘legal purposes’ or ‘have a lack of understanding of planning law’.
OKOTEL: asked a question about ‘adopting the new zones were not unanimous’ and reiterated that ‘my position has always been that we should have engaged in consultation’ and she was never ‘persuaded otherwise’. Said that looking at the minutes of 13th August the ‘achievements’ about height controls ‘was not carried unanimously’ and said that she can’t find ‘the minutes’ relating to the ‘adoption of the zones other than that’.
PILLING: said he would be ‘happy to get the details’ and that it was an ‘unanimous decision by council’
OKOTEL: said that the decision to ‘ratify them’ was unanimous but that the ‘decision to put them to the Minister without consultation was not unanimous’. ‘I did not vote in favour of that’ and repeated that her position was that there should be consultation. (applause)
PILLING: said he would take her question on notice..
MOTION PUT. ONLY LOBO VOTED AGAINST.