IMPAFORUM

The Open Space Contribution Levy has featured prominently at the last two council meetings. At the July 1st meeting the claim was that with objectors going to a Panel this is estimated to add approximately 7 months and that revenue ‘foregone’ during this time could be of the order of $2m. At last night’s council meeting the $2 million suddenly morphed into this (from the officer’s report) – At the 2013-14 rates, that would be a difference of about seven months or around $700k. Lipshutz even made up his own figures and spoke of a million dollars! The best lines however came from Hyams with his assertion that the objectors had a ‘tribal distrust of council’ and this was their ‘motivation’ for lodging objections.

Perhaps a far more reasonable take on council’s approach to collecting money from developers would be to calculate how much money has been LOST over a period of 11 years. Perhaps residents should also be seeking answers as how much land council has sold, as opposed to how much land has been purchased in order to meet the open space demands – first identified in 1987.

Even on the new ‘transparency’ so lauded by Delahunty, the figures provided in the officer’s report are fascinating – and of course entirely begs the question as to why such data is only made available now and not on a regular basis! More telling is the fact that council states that the range of rates currently applied are – 2.25% to 5.0% (maximum). So how come, when the supplied list is analysed NOT ONE SINGLE DEVELOPMENT IN THIS LIST OF 54 HAS PAID 5%? Further questions should also be asked. For example:

  • If this is truly a complete list of all payments received, then given that council admits to roughly 350+ subdivisions (according to the State Planning Activity Permit Reports for last year) and if even half are for 2 lot subdivisions and therefore exempt, what has happened to the other 175 subdivisions? Did council collect a cent? Or were all of these subdivision payments waived?
  • If on the other hand this is not a complete listing, then why hasn’t this been stated upfront?

For eleven years now (since 29/5/2003) council has done nothing to up its open space levy – even though it has been fully cognisant of the fact that open space is a premium in Glen Eira. How many millions have been lost during this time? And how much money has been lost by not even applying the full 5% that council could legally apply?

Compared to the 11 years of doing absolutely nothing, a delay of even 7 months, seems very worthwhile in order to ensure that an amendment is passed which will truly benefit the community!

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Tonight’s vote on the CCTV policy should be very entertaining if nothing else. The policy itself (in stark contrast to other councils) contains the following paragraph -

Council will not operate CCTV where the primary purpose is enforcement of the criminal law. Enforcement of the criminal law is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies. If such agencies wish to install and operate CCTV systems on Council property, Council will not unreasonably withhold consent

And just for the record, we invite readers to compare what Jim Magee is cited as stating above, and what he said in December, 2013. This is taken from our post of the time -

MAGEE: said that cctv is ‘now a necessity’ and claimed that in 2010 he had called for a report on this. Even though Glen Eira isn’t a ‘hot bed of crime’ it’s important because ‘a lot of people take comfort’ and the cameras give a sense of security to people. Repeated that cameras can detect crime and prosecuting people. Thought that the Bentleigh rotunda would be ‘one of the first places’ where they could put the cameras. Thought it was also ‘incumbent’ for council to ‘do things’ for all those people likely to commit a crime in order to ‘discourage the anti-social behaviour’. Said that ‘this would probably be a large part of council’s operations’ in the future. This would be the role of policy in identifying ‘how to manage that in the future’. ‘This is the beginning, this is the first step’. He commends the motion.

Consistency is, of course, none of these councillors’ strong point!

 

How many more ‘clerical errors’ will be allowed to go through to the keeper before heads start to roll? How many more times will dubious statistics, fudged figures, and sheer nonsense be permitted to be put out into the public domain by this administration, and no-one is held accountable? How much longer will residents have to wait before councillors do what they are elected to do and start asking some telling questions and demand correct, and 100% honest answers?

Presented below are two tables published by council. The first derives from a media release dated 18th June 2014. The second comes from Item 9.5 in the current agenda.

180614_No_reductions_in_housing_approvals_Page_1

Pages from July22-2014-AGENDA2

What is truly staggering about these tables is:

  • How on earth can the area of the Residential Growth Zone be 3.5% in June, AND DROP TO 2.2% barely a month later? Is this simply a typo? Another ‘clerical error’?
  • If indeed 1700 new dwellings have been permitted in the municipality, then Glen Eira is just on TREBLING its forecast of catering for population growth.
  • We also challenge the claim that the Neighbourhood Residential Zone equates to 78% of the municipality. Our figures tell us that it is approximately 70%.

Here are a few sentences cited from the June Media Release -

Development in local residential streets, now zoned Neighbourhood Residential, continues to be at the same low level it has been over the whole of the thirteen years covered by the graph (eg. dual occupancy).
The pattern reflects the Pareto Principle (“80–20 Rule”): 80 per cent of development takes place on 20 per cent of land.

In the first place, many of council’s own Quarterly Reports indicate that this is not the case – ie figures of only 56% in one instance and well below the 80/20 in other examples. More significantly, the term ‘development’ is cleverly employed as a substitute for ‘dwellings’. A ‘development’ and a ‘dwelling’ are not identical. Actual ‘development’ in local, residential streets is occurring at alarming levels.

Item 9.8 – Minimum floor space requirements

This item is in response to a Request for a Report from the previous council meeting. On par with so many other potential initiatives, Glen Eira’s response is to sit on its hands and do bugger all. Everything is always someone else’s problem to solve! Below is what was asked and the underlined sections are what we believe has not been satisfactorily responded to in the officer’s report.

Minimum floor space requirements for dwellings in other jurisdictions including internationally and what benefit or detriment is created by these requirements;

How minimum floor space requirements could be beneficial for Glen Eira in the case that such requirements are adopted by the Victorian state; and

How Glen Eira Council could advocate for state-wide minimum floor space requirements such as through a planning amendment.

The report by the City of Melbourne on its Unit developments and liveability as it may apply to the City of Glen Eira.

The report starts off with a full page of philosophical waffle that works to deflect attention from the questions asked and instead resorts to the usual ruse of how good the current planning system is in that setbacks and height limits do the job of helping to determine the size of apartments and even internal amenity. Setbacks and height limits (if they are applied that is) only determine overall site coverage. They don’t determine how many units the developer can cram into the resulting available space.

More waffle and unsubstantiated opinion then follows – It is likely that if a minimum dwelling size is dictated, it would tend to become the default size and counter productive to dwelling diversity.

Really! Then the City of Melbourne’s research must all be nonsense for them to claim the exact opposite — The predominance of high-cost, one and two bedroom, small and inadaptable apartments is driving the establishment of a homogenous population in regards to household income, age and employment of our residents (City of Melbourne, 2013b). (page 41).

The truth of the matter is that Glen Eira already has a defacto ‘default’ size of one and two bedroom dwellings that contribute nothing to housing diversity. If council was truly concerned about ‘liveability’ and ‘diversity’ then it would publish figures on: how many 1 bedroom apartments have been built in the past 3 years? How many two bedroom apartments have been built in the past 3 years? What is the average size of these apartments? On this point, we note that the Caulfield Village development of 442 units (8 of which are town houses) contains over 200 units of less than 60 square metres in size with quite a few well under 50 square metres! Yet, there was not one single word in any of council’s documentation about this issue and not one word issued from any councillor. Total silence about access to sunlight, access to public open space, and ‘internal amenity’. Size was a taboo subject altogether. When asked at the planning conference, residents were told that these aspects would be ‘investigated’ and put into officer recommendations. We challenge anyone to find a single sentence in the resulting report that focuses on these questions, and therefore ‘social amenity’ and ‘liveability’!

We then find another gem in the officer’s report – It is considered that it is difficult to argue that town planning is best placed and therefore should intervene in dwelling size to a greater extent than it currently does. Why is it ‘difficult’ to argue when countless cities worldwide are doing exactly this? Moreland City Council in fact has introduced a draft Amendment (uploaded here) which attempts to set specific standards for size, environmental design, open space, etc. Strange isn’t it that the officer’s report just happens to overlook this important fact? The reason of course is that council intends to do absolutely nothing that might impinge on development and rate revenue. So without any shame we’re back to the old chestnut of ‘leave it to government’!

And let’s also forget all those essentials of ‘liveability’ that the Melbourne City Council defines quite clearly – The size of an apartment is often fundamental to achieving good levels of amenity. New homes must have enough space for basic daily activities, be able to accommodate standard sized furniture, have storage space for everyday items and be adaptable and flexible in their layout to allow for different lifestyles and users. (page 36)

The most hypocritical statement in this entire report comes with reference to ResCode and the assertion that the ‘standards’ set by this protocol ‘must be met’. We ask residents to consider how many planning applications come before council and do NOT ADHERE to the standards are granted permits. Time and again officer reports are stacked with such comments as no ‘unreasonable impact’ and so on. Council can’t have it both ways. Either the standards should be applied wholeheartedly, or they are not worth the paper they are written on.

We would also like to point out a recent disturbing trend in officer reports on planning applications. Not too long ago the reports would very clearly ennumerate the NUMBERS of 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom units proposed. That is now gone and readers are left to decipher from the car parking standards what is what – an impossible task since both one and two bedrooms are required to have the same number of car spaces allotted. Please make up your own minds if such omissions are deliberate or simply an ‘oversight’!

Finally, we have uploaded the two relevant City of Melbourne’s documents (here & here) and urge readers to compare what is stated in these documents as opposed to council’s once again ‘do nothing’ report. And just for the record, readers may also find the following extracts from the Melbourne efforts very enlightening –

The trend in the City of Melbourne, however, is for increasingly small apartments with 40 per cent having less than 50 m2 of floor space, the minimum size for one bedroom apartments in Sydney, Adelaide and London. Consumer research in London (Bartlett K et al, 2002) shows that space is high on the list of priorities of the increasing number of one-person households and that criticism about lack of space is expressed by all groups of home buyers with singles just as vociferous as families. (page 36)

Evidence on attracting and retaining families in inner urban, mixed income communities (Silverman E. et al, 2005) reviewed several London case studies and found that these communities work best when the homes are designed with families in mind, with adequate storage, ample kitchens, family bathrooms and access to outdoor space where possible. (page 36)

Fundamental to a resident’s quality of life is the size and layout of an apartment. No amount of sensitive or innovative design can compensate for apartments that are too small to meet the basic living requirements of the household. (page 48)

And from the discussion paper -

The evidence suggests that letting the market create diversity is unrealistic and that it is impossible to predict or fully anticipate market tendencies, particularly as the housing market is now operating within a global context. (p.51)

In Victoria, apartments are primarily designed to meet the national Building Code of Australia (BCA) standards which is driving a minimum compliance approach. It is understood that the BCA standards were not prepared with consideration for the type of higher density development currently being constructed and are therefore met too easily. The case study analysis concluded that a lack of clear planning policy outcomes together with current BCA requirements is resulting in poor apartment quality in Melbourne. (p.70)

There’s much in the current agenda that deserves comment. The most significant is that the MRC or their developers have lodged an objection to the miniscule conditions imposed by council on the Caulfield Village development. What a surprise! The VCAT hearing is set down for September.

It is also important to note that the public relations arm (via Newton) is out in full force with reports designed to both gild the lily, and to obfuscate the real issues on Amendment C120 (open space levies) and housing approval statistics. We will report in detail on both these matters in the days ahead.

Staying true to form, there is another report on what council could do regarding apartment sizes. Again, no surprises from this ‘do nothing council’. The recommendation is that regulating size is a state issue and all council should do is ‘advocate’ via the Municipal Association and have ResCode updated.

Readers also need to have a close look at the Advisory Environment Committee’s set of minutes. The trend to ensure that as little as possible is made public continues. Advisory committees should never be the place for important policy discussions, especially where officer reports remain secret, and the public is barred from attendance. This transgresses all notions of transparency and good governance, especially when many committee recommendations are then simply accepted by council without any open debate, or very often without the accompanying data to justify those recommendations. Here are some items from these minutes that readers might like to ponder:

That the Chair of the Environment Advisory Committee write to Vision Super to ask for information on their Ethical Procurement Policy and practice.

3.5.3. A letter was sent on 15 April 2014.

3.5.4. ACTION: Officers will seek an update on whether there has been a response to the letter and follow up if necessary

5.1. Car sharing

5.1.1. Traffic Department have advised that there is a trial underway (MS).

5.1.2. ACTION: Officers will provide further update on the current trial at next meeting.

 

5.2. Glen Huntly Reservoir Proposed Park

5.2.1. JD raised the question of whether a community garden should be trialled at the new park.

5.2.2. Discussion included that the proposed park is currently out for community consultation which has been informed by several consultations to-date.

5.2.3. JD plans to put in his own submission to the Booran Road Consultation process.

5.2.4. ACTION: Officers will seek clarification about the timing of Open Space Strategy action to investigate potential locations for community gardens in Glen Eira.

Last, but not least, there’s this from the in camera items – Under Section 89(2)(f) ‘legal advice’ which relates to ‘Code of Conduct – Possible Additions’. Residents should expect more ‘tightening’ (ie nooses) placed around the necks of councillors we predict, with this one!

vegiegarden

PS: We’ve included some thoughts on this issue!

We believe that there is much more to this site than meets the eye. As one commentator pointed out, there was a Request for a Report by Magee and Hyams in May 2014. The ‘response’ to this request featured in the last council meeting (July 2014). Here’s what was reported back in regards to purchasing the site:

“The possibility of Council acquiring the vacant land at 846-848 Centre Road, Bentleigh East directly adjacent to the Centre Road Kindergarten.”

As stated above, the current and projected demand for kindergarten is fully provided for both in the municipality and in the East Bentleigh area.

846-848 Centre Road is reportedly for sale with an asking price of $1.8m to 2.2m.

Council’s valuation for Rates purposes is $905,000. This is on the basis of the land with no allowance for any town planning permit.

There is a current Planning Permit for the site (#GE/PP – 21681/2009), issued by VCAT in 2010. The permit allows a two storey building with basement car parking. It is likely to yield around 14 dwellings. The original Council resolution required deletion of dwellings resulting in a 10 dwelling development. Upon appeal, this condition was deleted.

Notable aspects of the permit and site:

Development must commence by 1 Feb 2015 and completed by 1 Feb 2017. Three permit extensions of time have been granted. It is unlikely a fourth will be granted.

The site is now in a Neighbourhood Residential Zone. Should the permit expire, the site will be restricted to a maximum of two dwellings.The site is affected by the SBO.

The site is potentially contaminated. A condition of permit requires a full environmental clean up to EPA requirements.

Other planning information includes:

May 2014 – Site being used unlawfully to store shipping containers. Planning Enforcement action current.

May 2014 – 17 dwellings, 2 storey application refused by Planning Manager.

June 2013 – 29 dwellings, 2 shops, 3 storey application. Lapsed application due to failure to provide information in time.

October 2007 – 16 dwellings/2 storey application refused by Planning Manager. Refusal affirmed by VCAT.

The site is a former petrol station. It would need to be remediated to EPA requirements.

Some parents would refuse to send their children to a kindergarten which used to be a petrol station regardless of whatever certificates or assurances were given. Any kindergarten on that site would be unlikely to be successful.

Council does not have $2m available. Council’s funds are planned out to achieve Council priorities including Public Open Space. 846-848 Centre Road is not in a gap area under the Open Space Strategy. Council is spending $3m nearby on the Centenary Park Pavilion.

To find such a sum would require cancelling other Council-approved projects.

Recommendation

1. That Council note that

a. 369 extra places have been provided over the last five years and that this response has met current and projected demand for kindergarten;

b. because Council is notified of births, Council will have several years’ notice of increases or decreases in numbers of children; and

c. the most significant change in Glen Eira’s future demographics is the projected growth in the 60-79 year age group.

2. That Council write to the owners of 846-848 Centre Road informing them that Council has no interest in purchasing that property.

Crs Magee/Delahunty

That the recommendation in the report be adopted.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

COMMENT

  • The Request for a Report DID NOT INFER that the land should be used for a kindergarten. In fact, it specifically cites the existence of an adjacent kindergarten. Yet, the Jones report deliberately links the purchase of this land for its use as a kindergarten!
  • Council admits that it is already receiving just under a million dollars in rates. Presumably, this amount is still being paid for the current year. Hence the asking price of $2 would be markedly reduced given the money council is currently collecting.
  • The land has stood vacant since at least 2007. Permit extensions have been granted time and time again. Seven years of extensions without providing any accounting of such decisions! Further, when Tang moved a request for a report on permit extensions in June 2012, the ‘response’ was that council does not keep such statistics, and couldn’t see any reason why it should change its ‘systems’. The resolution passed was the council ‘commence’ keeping such statistical records. This would take 4 years since permits are given a large grace period and then another grace period of building completion. Thus far there has been not one single officer report on how many permits are extended; the reasons; the locations. Developers can thus continue to land bank to their heart’s content!
  • The May 2014 permit rejection is also one to ponder. The application went in during July 2013. The refusal was given in May 2014. Why does it take 10 months to determine an application?
  • Having kindergartens on top of former petrol stations or contaminated grounds has not stopped council granting permits in the past. In fact the entire Clover Estate is built on contaminated ground that contained far more ‘dangerous’ toxins than a mere petrol station. The same goes for 175 Balaclava Road and probably countless other sites.
  • It should also be borne in mind that council is still waiting for Ministerial approval to exhibit its Amendment C115 which will allow higher density development in residential zones – ie more than 2 dwellings per lot. We wonder if the delay is to accommodate another application which this time will be rubber stamped with the new amendment?
  • Finding an extra million or so has never been a problem for council in the past – GESAC car park extensions, legal bills, relocating sporting ovals, etc. etc. etc.