In 2004 all councils throughout Victoria were given the option of introducing interim height limits for Neighbourhood Centres as well as interim structure plans for their major activity centres. Glen Eira Council voted against doing a single thing to help ameliorate the problems identified by residents as far back as 2003. The issues of 2016 are a mirror image of what was stated way back then and raises the fascinating questions of :

  • what would Glen Eira be like today if in 2005 Council had taken the opportunity to implement structure planning and interim height limits?
  • Would we now be faced with the fact that it has taken an order from the Minister of Planning to ensure that Glen Eira falls into line with every other metropolitan council?
  • To what extent would residents now be better off given the ineptitude of the proposed Amendments C147 and C148 simply because the necessary ground work has never been done and these amendments are merely the most minimalist response to the Minister’s demands?

One must wonder why in 2005 Council rejected the offer from the State Government. Was it because they realised that structure plans and height limits would hamper development? Was it because they simply didn’t have the competence to do a decent job of providing the necessary strategic justification? Has anything really changed in the past 11 years?

Below is one page from the Community Plan of 13 years ago that identifies in black and white the same issues that are still with us – plus another snippet which shows that today’s scapegoating of VCAT is also nothing new – but Council still didn’t address these concerns over 11 years. All that has happened is that we got the atrocious zones and the scapegoating of VCAT has become more vociferous!

Pages from 2004 CPlan2010-050615-2community plan 2003 presentation

 

So here is what residents could have had. On the 7th February 2005 an officer report was tabled which recommended no action be taken by council.  The following are all quotes from this report which we’ve also uploaded in full (HERE). Two councillors who voted for this dereliction of duty are Hyams and Esakoff. They are still there, joined by their fellow pro-development councillors and turncoats such as Pilling.

The recommendations read –

That Council notes that following the approval of former Amendment C25, it now has policy protection in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme for Minimal Change Areas (80% of the geographical area of the city) and Neighbourhood Centres.

C) That Council continue to monitor the performance of its local policies particularly at VCAT. Should it become evident that Council policy is not offering adequate protection for our centres and established residential areas,then use of these tools could be considered

At this stage there does not seem to be the need to embark upon what would be an extensive public consultation and amendment process when a level of protection through local planning policy already exists (introduced by Amendment C25).

Options / considerations –

  • There do not appear to be any neighbourhood centres under particular or immediate threat from inappropriate development which would warrant immediate application of a maximum height control.
  • A certain amount of strategic work would be required to justify any proposed height limit in a neighbourhood centre, balancing the need to protect the amenity and character of a centre whilst not discouraging appropriately scaled development from occurring.
  • The structure planning process needs to have commenced for this tool to be considered.
  • Interim Structure Plans could be a useful tool for the Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick Urban Villages. It is considered the optimum time to use this tool is once Council has adopted the Urban Design Frameworks and agreed to commence the amendment scheme process. In this way the adopted Structure Plan in the form of an amendment, would be given statutory teeth up until final approval by the Minister. (This is the same mechanism that is always used associated with heritage controls)
  • It is anticipated that the Urban Design Frameworks will be reported to Council mid-year

Local Policy Protection

Glen Eira is in the fortunate position of having local policies in place which limit development in our established or minimal change areas as well as guide development in our activity centres. With the approval of Amendment C25, a number of objectives and policy statements in our local policies now deal with the height of buildings. We thus have protection in both our minimal change areas and neighbourhood centres through policy wording. At this stage this degree of protection is considered appropriate.

The additional tools introduced by the State Government are a welcome addition to the suite of tools available for Councils to use where appropriate to improve their planning schemes. At this stage, however, there is no need or urgency for Glen Eira to apply any of these options.

Our established residential areas have policy protection through former Amendment C25, and there does not seem to be any such areas under threat from buildings higher than 9 metres.

Similarly, in neighbourhood centres, building heights do not seem to be a major issue and Glen Eira’s neighbourhood centres currently enjoy a level of protection introduced by Amendment C25 through the performance based requirements of Council’s Housing Diversity Areas Policy.

With regard to Interim Structure Plans, this tool may be useful when the Urban Design Frameworks for Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick have been adopted by Council and a planning scheme amendment is commenced.

It is important however that Council continue to monitor the performance of its local policies particularly at VCAT. Should it become evident that Council policy is not offering adequate protection for our centres and established residential areas, then use of these tools could be considered.

COMMENTS

  • Had council taken decisive action in 2005, then development could have been contained
  • Had council taken decisive action in 2005, then we would not have the need for the Minister to finally order Council to do what every other metropolitan council has done
  • Had council taken decisive action in 2005, then we would not have the knee-jerk and substandard Amendments C147 and C148 because a lot of the groundwork would already have been done to produce planning that is of a sound standard.

And it is worth keeping in mind the following:

  • Hyams and Esakoff were 2 of the councillors who voted for the ‘do nothing’ proposal in 2005.
  • Promises of urban design frameworks have never eventuated. Why not?
  • Monies for structure planning for Glen Huntly were handed back to the government. Council has simply refused to undertake and implement any structure planning
  • The housing trends were already surpassing the 9 metres in minimal change areas – council itself has provided statistics which show that 3 and 4 storey developments were occurring in minimal change. Yet the argument produced in 2005 was that everything is ‘fine’ and that Glen Eira has adequate ‘protection’. Even the period between 2005 and 2010 showed the lack of real policy protection for residents – again met with silence by council.
  • The Planning Scheme Review of 2010 (6 years later, when residents echoed the same concerns regarding overdevelopment) specifically noted that ‘no structure plans’ were to be done.
  • In 2003 council was already complaining about VCAT. Yet in the 2010 Planning Scheme Review it stated on page 8 – As a general rule, Glen Eira has little difficulty defending local policy at VCAT, which is a good indication that the underlying philosophy of policies is sound. We remind readers that our analysis of published VCAT decisions for the years 2008-2010 showed that council had less than a 50% success rate at VCAT.
  • The current mantra proffered by council is that with the new residential zones, resident demands for ‘mandatory height limits’ was implemented. Then why, oh why, is there not a single mention of this resident demand in the 2010 planning Scheme Review Report?

Nothing can excuse this council’s refusal to act. And the same culprits, especially Hyams and Esakoff, who were there in 2005 have been joined by the likes of  – Magee, Pilling, Lipshutz, Sounness, Delahunty, Lobo. Ho is new, but with his developer links and history, we do not hold out much hope that he would be any different if elected!

These documents truly reveal a dismal history of neglect, failure, and indifference to resident concerns.

Agenda Item 9.4: Interim Heights

Council’s agenda features Amendments C147 and C148 which will go to the Minister seeking ‘interim height limits’ for the Bentleigh and Carnegie activity centres. The proposed amendments are for areas zoned commercial and mixed use.

Whilst Council is to be applauded for getting the ball rolling, there are many features of these amendments that are far from satisfactory and which will achieve very little in terms of protecting neighbourhoods. We have uploaded the full report HERE.

The concerns we have are:

  • Many of the proposed height limits are ‘discretionary’ – meaning that developers can, and undoubtedly will, apply for much higher buildings.
  • The metres nominated are highly questionable – given the residential zones. For example: In both amendments we have such schedules as “14 metres comprising up to 4 storeys”. If developers can now erect 4 storey buildings with a height limit of 13.5m, then surely they can cram 5 storeys into 14 metres. All that has to happen is a lowering of ceiling heights, or the slope of the land. Why hasn’t council stuck to the 10.5 and 13.5 height limit here?
  • The amendments also allow a 4 metre extension (ie lift over-runs, antennaes, etc). 4 metres is extraordinary when the zones provide the developer with only a 1.5 metre leeway.

The most grating aspect of these amendments however is the failure to ask residents what they think are the appropriate heights in any of these areas. Now, with a resolution to go to the Minister under ‘fast track’, there will again be the exclusion of the public to provide a viewpoint. Nor is there one scrap of strategic justification provided as to why 7+ storeys is acceptable in Carnegie. Has council really done its necessary homework, or once again sat down at their computer desks and drawn lines on a map? And what of the requirements for setbacks? Why keep accepting ResCode when it has been such a dismal failure? We remind readers that when other councils introduce DDOs (Design and Development Overlays – even interim ones) these features are included. Not in Glen Eira! We suggest that once again this is lazy and poor planning and does not meet the community’s expectations.

Some aspects of these amendments are literally laughable.The Bentleigh one basically regurgitates what the current planning scheme contains – ie Buildings on the North side of Centre Road to be designed and articulated so that they do not overshadow onto the footpath on the southern side of Centre Road at the September equinox at noon. (amendment) and the current planning scheme has – Buildings on the north side of Centre Road are articulated, so shadow is not cast onto the footpath on the south side of Centre Road.  We therefore wonder how on earth the potential for a 5 or 6 storey building on the North side of Centre Road will not cast a shadow!

FYI, we’ve summarised the proposals below:

carnegiebentleigh

PS: we wish to highlight some other anomalies in these proposed amendments. Here is the map of the zoning in Centre Road.

bb

Please note:

  • For the ‘northern’ areas of Centre Road where commercial sits alongside Neighbourhood Residential zones (ie Wheatley Road, Rose St) council has imposed a 4 storey MANDATORY HEIGHT. Thus for this side of the road it was deemed appropriate that the 4 to 5 storeys sit alongside an 8 metre mandatory height limit.
  • On the other side of Centre Road (directly opposite) there is a mandatory height limit of 3 + storeys. Why? Admittedly there is a Heritage Overlay for these streets ( ie Sunnyside, Eddy’s Grove, etc) but this still does not excuse in our view why one side of the street should be given a different mandatory height when both abut NRZ homes.
  • Things get even more crazy when we consider the proposals for Robert Street A 4 storey mandatory height limit for commercially zoned land along the southern side of Centre Road between Mavho Street and Robert Street . Two streets up from Mavho, we have another heritage overlay. But these are zoned Residential Growth Zone. Thus, instead of changing the zoning, Council it seems has simply chosen to once again do nothing about the zones and to use these amendments to simply rubber stamp the existing zoning. When one side of Centre Road gets a 3 storey recommendation possibly because of its nearness to a heritage overlay, and up the road for streets that are in a Heritage overlay are assigned 5 storeys, then planning is awry and incompetent.

The bottom line is that council will do nothing that involves changing one single aspect of its atrocious zoning.

hyams2COMMENT

  • ‘achieving maximum protection’ means keeping the community out of ‘consultation’ whilst hobnobbing it with Matthew Guy and signing away resident objection rights for the Caulfield Village!
  • ‘Maintaining the pensioner rebate’ – NO! lowering council’s contribution so that pensioners pay more out of their pockets – ie government subsidies have increased, whilst Glen Eira’s have decreased ($58 last budget and $55 this budget).
  • ‘Oppose development and fight congestion’ – that’s why Hyams has voted for so many developments and voted against immediate car parking/traffic analyses
  • ‘Improve safety in shopping strips’ – again, why he’s voted against CCTV cameras & alcohol free zones in Bentleigh
  • ‘environmental initiatives’ – that’s why the ‘no’ vote for a significant tree register, time and time again?

Conclusion? Ask yourselves how much this individual has contributed to council wasting hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars on lawyers? Ask yourselves how well this councillor has served for the benefit of all residents – ie Frogmore? Ask yourselves how much this councillor has contributed to the erosion of transparent government in Glen Eira when he has voted time and again against Notice of Motion and recently turning the public questions protocols into a farce? Last but not least, we have the ‘guns in park’ fiasco and of course his temper tantrums and foul language.

Readers will remember the furore over Claire St., McKinnon and how this dead end street of 14 or so houses (zoned GRZ) has been bought out by developers. The first application was for 3 storeys and 34 apartments. Both council and VCAT refused the application. So now we have the new VCAT decision for 3 storeys and 33 apartments. The permit was granted!

The member’s decision should be compulsory reading for every single resident who has any doubt about the impact of the zones and what they mean for their streets and their suburbs. Magee can cry all the crocodile tears he likes at VCAT’s doorstep, but what has he and the other councillors done to review and amend the zones over the past 3 years? The continual lament that VCAT ignores council ‘policy’ is shown up again for the bogus and spurious claim it is. Claire Street and its development is part of council’s ‘local policy’ and thus another street is literally handed over lock, stock and barrel to developers!

Please see the following extracts:

In the Steller Elite decision (ie first application) I analysed the guidance provided by the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, which lead me to conclude that the outcome encouraged for the review site is one of increased housing supply that will constitute a marked change to the existing neighbourhood character. I set out below that analysis and rely on it given that no consequential changes have occurred to the Glen Eira Planning Scheme in the intervening period.

I understand this vision does not agree with the hopes and aspirations of the local community, including those that appeared at this hearing. I was moved by the emotional submissions made by a number of residents that have clearly planned their long term future here in this neighbourhood, and who see this future threatened by the type of development proposed for the review site. While I have been moved by these submissions, I must be guided in my decision making by the content of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. This Planning Scheme has been drafted and adopted following extensive community consultation, thorough analysis by an independent panel of experts, and approval by successive Ministers for Planning. By law, I am required to consider the submissions that I have heard, and assess the plans that are before me, through the prism of guidance contained in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme.

In this proceeding, Mr & Mrs Menko lamented that most of the lots in Claire Street have now been purchased by developers, and are likely to be subject to forms of development like the one before me. They resist this level of change, and the likelihood that only two of the original single dwellings will remain. They also raise concerns about how this extent of development can be suitable for a dead-end street, with its only access point to McKinnon Road, and limited on-street car parking supply. They also question the ability of McKinnon Road to accommodate the additional traffic. I understand the frustrations and anger expressed by residents about the rate of change that might occur in Claire Street. However the extent of redevelopment that is likely to occur is a direct realisation of the very clear intent of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, in particular the local policies created by the Glen Eira City Council.

The Glen Eira Planning Scheme clearly supports substantial development in Claire Street, McKinnon. This substantial development is not expected to imitate or reflect the style and form of the single dwellings that currently exist in this and other streets. Instead, a policy intent has been clearly been articulated for Claire Street, by the Glen Eira City Council, that encourages more intense and more diverse housing forms. Invariably this means that apartment buildings are strongly encouraged in this neighbourhood.

It is clear, when taking into account the policy framework as whole, that apartment style development is the undeniable future for Claire Street, McKinnon, as clearly identified and articulated by the local policies contained in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, as drafted by the Glen Eira City Council.

In their submissions in this proceeding, the Council did not challenge my previous analysis of the relevant planning framework, and conceded that there were no consequential changes to the relevant policy framework in the intervening period. As such I find it appropriate to rely on my previous analysis in this proceeding, an analysis that identifies significant policy support for increased housing that represents significant change to the existing neighbourhood character in this locality.

Clearly this is a typology and scale of development that will still contrast to the surrounding single and double storey dwellings. That outcome is an intended result of the application of the clear policies pursued by the Glen Eira City Council for this housing diversity area. It is an outcome that will continue to prevail throughout this housing diversity area, as more and more sites are redeveloped for apartment style development. However I am satisfied that the revised development for the review site now mitigates the offsite impacts of the proposed built form to the streetscape, in a manner that is appropriate and acceptable.

I acknowledge that the proposed development will represent a significant change for the adjoining property owned by Mr and Mrs Menko. However it is an extent of change that is anticipated, and indeed encouraged, by the provisions of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. For these reasons I not persuaded that the matters raised in the statement of grounds lodged by Mr and Mrs Menko should influence the proposed outcome for the review site.

The proposed development provides car parking for both residents and visitors at rates that either meet or exceed that required under Clause 52.06 of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. Therefore as no permit is required to reduce the extent of car parking to be provided on-site, I have no means by which to review whether the extent of car parking provided is reasonable and appropriate, nor to require additional car parking to be provided on-site.

In their statement of grounds, Mr and Mrs Menko again raise concerns in relation to the traffic impact on Claire Street. In the absence of any new analysis of the current and proposed traffic levels within Claire Street, I must give significant weight to the independent assessment that has been undertaken by Council’s traffic engineers, who support the proposed development, including the extent of traffic increase that will occur to Claire Street. I do not doubt that the additional traffic from the development of the review site will increase delays for drivers exiting Claire Street. However that is an inevitable consequence of the deliberate and informed decision made by the Glen Eira City Council to identify Claire Street, McKinnon as a preferred location for this extent of housing change.  For these reasons I find that there are no car parking or traffic grounds on which to withhold the grant of a permit.

I find that a number of the components as drafted by Council simply reiterate aspects of the proposal that are already shown on the plans. For example a condition requires the provision of car parking at certain rates when car parking is already provided at those rates, and another condition requires the development to have a specified maximum site coverage, when that site coverage is already achieved. I do not consider that an amended plans condition should be used in such a manner, and so have deleted parts of Condition 1 where I find that the requirements are already achieved.

Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1401.html

The Ombudsman  recently met with the CEO and the Mayor in relation to her investigation into ‘secrecy’ and lack of transparency in council decision making. It is therefore astounding that the following has occurred so shortly afterwards.

1.The online and hard copy agenda published on the Friday before the last council meeting did not contain any items for in camera consideration

  1. On the evening of the council meeting (ie last Tuesday week) there was this ‘insert’ into the agenda – please note the in camera item.

P1000440

  1. The minutes have finally been published. Wonder of wonders, the above description has disappeared into the ether. All that residents are now told is this wonderfully uninformative single line –

12.1 Under s89(2)(d) “contractual”.

Then on ‘outcomes’ of the in camera discussion, the minutes state –

Item 12.1

Crs Lipshutz/Delahunty

That the recommendation in the report be adopted.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

What has happened to the far more expansive explanation regarding the open space item? Why was this edited down and by whom? Why is so much effort expended to keep residents uninformed? And why does this council continue to push the envelope when it comes to transparency and sound governance? Who is behind this latest attempt at secrecy? We would even suggest that given the resolution the item is no longer ‘confidential’, since the Local Government Act states on disclosure:

in relation to resolutions recorded in the minutes, incorporate relevant reports or a summary of the relevant reports considered in the decision making process.

Residents have no idea as to the ‘report’ much less any idea as to what this resolution concerns, or what its ramifications are? Will council be spending money for open space? If so, how much? Did the report recommend no purchase? Where is this potential open space?  Is the location good value? We can only assume that if the wording of the item was changed then it is a deliberate attempt to conceal from the public what is really going on! What makes this even easier to conceal is that council sees fit to provide only half a dozen or so agendas in the chamber when the gallery over the past few meetings has at times contained 10 times this number of residents. Please remember that council has ‘promised’ several times over the years to consider displaying motions, amendments via some form of overhead, so that residents can follow what is going on. Nothing has eventuated!

We are confident that the ombudsman would be very interested in this latest example of Glen Eira’s approach to transparency and sound governance and non-adherence to the strictures of the Local Government Act!

Finally, ‘victory’ appears to be on the horizon for the local community with the release of the committee’s report on the Trustees and Caulfield Racecourse issues. We’ve uploaded the full document HERE

In short, the recommendations are:

  • All trustees to resign. If they refuse the government will introduce legislation which revokes the Crown Grant
  • The department to be interim ‘manager’
  • Preference is for a “separately legislated trust with specific accountabilities and functions” rather than a Committee of Management.
  • Training to go within 5 years of renewal of leases

“What effective controls do the Glen Eira City Council have in place to ensure that the personal information of those asking Public Questions is protected and not disclosed or published in the Ordinary Council Meeting Minutes.”

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

“The process for submitting public questions to Council is managed in accordance with the Glen Eira City Council Local Law 2009 together with Guidelines for Public Question Time adopted by Council. Local Law 232 requires that questions bear the questioner’s name, address, date and telephone number.

Public questions submitted to a public forum such as a Council meeting are public in their nature, however, Council has generally followed a practice that only the questioner’s name will be recorded in minutes of Council meetings.

Council’s practice is to include in Council minutes the first initial and surname of the person asking the question together with the actual question. Due to a change in Council personnel Council did not follow the usual practice in its most recent minutes for the public questions on 19 Jul, 2016. However, these minutes have now been revised to delete the full address details of the questioner to comply with past practice.

The Local Government Act 1989 requires the minutes of Council meetings to contain details of the proceedings and resolutions made. Council is of the view that the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 does not preclude the publication of the questioner’s name and address in the Council minutes.”

COMMENT

  • Information Privacy Principle (IPP) No.2 states – An organisation must not use or disclose personal information about an individual for a purpose (the secondary purpose) other than the primary purpose of collection…… The individual has consented to the use or disclosure ….
  • Disclosing the names, addresses, and emails of those who submitted public questions is NOT THE PRIMARY purpose of the collection of such information. Council’s ‘guidelines’ clearly state that details such as name, address, date and phone nos. are required for ‘verification’. That, and that alone, is the primary purpose.
  • Is it really too much to ask (given that this is not the first time this has occurred) that instead of bluff and bluster, council simply proffers a heartfelt and genuine apology?