In our opinion, many of the items set down for next Tuesday night’s council meeting are nothing short of disastrous for residents. We apologise for the length of this post, but the issues are extremely important.
Item: 483-493 Glen Huntly Rd
Application is for 8 storeys; 4 shops, 57 dwellings and car parking and loading bay waiver. Ron Torres recommends acceptance of application with some minor conditions thrown in. We do not really have to say anything but let the report itself tell the full story. Here are the relevant extracts:
Taking up opportunities for more intense development in the appropriate locations gives Council greater legitimacy and credibility in limiting development in Minimal Change Areas. In other words, it’s okay to sacrifice 20% of Glen Eira without ever defining what “intense development” really means!
It is considered the building itself is of a high quality architectural design that compliments the rhythm of the narrow Glen Huntly Road shop fronts and will make a positive contribution to the emerging character of the Urban Village. In this context, it is considered the proposed building at a height of 8 sotreys is consistent with the policy expectation for this site. Here is it in black and white! 8 storeys is the benchmark for this council! Beware the Planning Zone Reforms! We could also be quite pedantic and wonder what on earth ‘rhythm’ has got to do with ‘planning law’ as so constantly noted by Lipshutz, Pilling, Hyams. How exactly ‘rhythm’ is quantified is of course another question. We suppose it just sounds good and will surely now feature regularly in future officer reports.
The report however gets even better! –It is proposed to provide 66 on site car spaces within 3 levels of basement car parking. The planning scheme requires 82 car parking spaces. Torres goes on with this feeble rationalisation – In this case, a reduction in the visitor car parking requirement is justified. If sustainable transport modes are to be promoted, then a reduction in the visitor car parking requirement should be encouraged. It is considered appropriate to provide a modest level of visitor parking. However providing additional on-site parking for visitors will only encourage more vehicle traffic to an area which anecdotally has issues with traffic. It is also noted that a visitor parking rate of 1 space per 10 dwelling (as proposed in this case) has been supported previously in activity centre locations. The logic is incredible here. Visitor parking will encourage more cars – but allowing 8 storeys and countless dwellings presumably won’t – or at least this isn’t mentioned. Readers should also note the reference to ‘anecdotal’. Pity that there is not one scrap of data in any part of this report to substantiate any of the claims made!
But the best is yet to come! The Transport Department had this to say – Providing less than half the required number of residential visitor spaces on the site is not appropriate. A minimum of 9 on-site visitor car spaces is recommended.
Urban Design then has this to say: There are several trees on the property to the north which have the potential to be impacted upon by the proposed development. The size and extent of basement will mean there are no realistic opportunities for tree planting and the concept landscape plan is not supported. So, here we have traffic and urban design saying ‘nay’ – yet the proposal gets through. Residents should be asking exactly how many ticks in the boxes does it take before a proposal is rejected? What is the priority listing for all these boxes? For example: is parking given greater weighting than landscaping or natural light?
Then there’s this further icing on the cake: The existing street tree can be removed at the permit holder’s expense. So much for a ‘green, gregarious garden city’!!!!
Item 687-689 Glen Huntly Rd.
The application was for a 4 storey, 29 dwellings, 2 offices, and a reduction in visitor car parking. Recommendation was to accept, but with 28 dwellings! There’s also an interface with Minimal Change Area. The report notes that the property has a permit for 3 storeys and 19 dwellings + 2 offices. This application is to increase dwellings and height. The ‘reason’ not to grant the full 29 dwellings but rather 28 is: ….it is recommended that Units 401 and 402 on the third floor be consolidated to form one 3 bedroom dwelling, thereby contributing to housing diversity and reducing bulk/mass impacts. Wow! Does this mean that out of 29/28 units ONLY ONE will be a 3 bedroom outfit? That is really encouraging ‘housing diversity’ to cater for families, etc.!
On car parking we have this gem: It is proposed to provide 33 car spaces in the basement. This satisfies the planning scheme for the dwellings and offices but not for visitor parking. Only one visitor space is proposed whilst the planning scheme asks for five. Council’s Transport Planning Department has suggested that at least 3 on-site car spaces should be provided for visitors.
Item 6 James Street, Caulfield South.
The application is for 3 storeys and 10 dwellings. Interestingly, the site is labelled as South Caulfield. It is Glen Huntly! Officer’s recommendation is for 9 units. A notation states: In 2011, an application was refused which proposed a two storey building with seven dwellings. It was found to be an overdevelopment of the site…..The current proposal is for ten dwellings. It is however, not an overdevelopment like the previous proposal. Reasons given are that car parking is now ‘adequate’ and site coverage has ‘fallen from 59% to 46%.’
What’s particularly galling is the argument that is then trotted out: …the proposal is more akin to the characteristics of the emerging character of the area. Recently approved, at the direction of VCAT, is a 27 dwelling, four storey development at 18-20 Etna Street, Glen Huntly, located two properties east from the subject site. Once again, the folly of lack of height limits is exposed. Now the argument becomes because the precedent is already there so further development is okay.
One other very important aspect of this application concerns the destruction of a liquidamber. We highlight this aspect given the spin that is the item on Significant Tree Register also in the agenda. The comment reads: There is a tree located at the rear of the site (Liquidambar) that is proposed to be removed. Its removal is considered acceptable given the site’s location in a Housing Diversity area where this type of development is envisaged and where replacement trees can provide for more appropriate landscaping. Housing Diversity Areas are again sacrificed. They do not need trees, open space, or normal amenities. Exactly what “appropriate landscaping’ means is again not explained.
ITEM TREE PROTECTION
We remind readers that the issue of a Significant Tree Register has been rearing its ugly head since at least 2003. That’s ten years of doing absolutely nothing. The unnamed officer’s report on this issue is another piece of spin, dissembling, and the failure to adequately inform. Given the comments from the James St. application the irony of the comments found in this report should be obvious to all readers. We quote:
The normal processing of town planning applications provides on going protection of over 200 valued existing trees and the planning of over 1,000 future canopy trees each year.
Where values trees are identified, the town planning assessment will regularly incorporate permit conditions which require protection during construction and a tree management condition to ensure the ongoing retention of the tree/s. Where a tree to be retained is near a proposed building, further conditions are applied for special foundations which do not disturb or damage the root system. Similarly, the proposed building is protected from future damage from the tree roots. Such foundations often add thousands of dollars to construction costs. Wonderful isn’t it? Who identifies ‘valuable trees’? Certainly not residents or councillors! How many trees have been allowed to be cut down (as with James St) in order to squeeze more units onto a block? How well ‘safeguarded’ are such trees by the planning processes?
We’re then told that there are penalties for removal of trees without a permit. We wonder how many prosecutions this council has carried out in the past decade?
After a page and a half of self praise, the report finally gets to the nitty gritty, with:
Approaches to supplement existing levels of tree protection include the following.
Introduce a Local Law to require a permit to remove any tree of more than a specified size, usually measured by circumference of the trunk. This involves property owners applying for a permit, paying a fee, possibly requiring a report by an arborist, with the Council determining whether to grant the permit or not. Many Councils have this approach.
Introduce a Classified Tree Register where there is a Local Law requiring a permit but only for those high quality trees which Council has included in the Register.
That’s it as far as details go. Nothing about resident rights to object to street tree removal; nothing about private versus public property; nothing about giving residents the opportunity to have input into ‘valued’ trees; nothing to restrain this council from chopping down tree after tree without producing a qualified arborist’s report.
There are many other items in this agenda which deserve to be severely criticised. We will do this in the days ahead.
PS: Just for the heck of it, here’s the 6 James St. proposed development PLUS THE ‘INSIGNIFICANT TREE’ that’s about to get the chop!