Tonight’s Planning Conference on the Alma Club development revealed in all its sordid glory how rigged the game really is. To their credit however, the developers’ rep did show up and fronted an audience of over 50 people including councillors Delahunty, Hyams, Lobo and Sounness. Magee chaired the conference. Andrew Bromley was the council planner. Even Newton made an appearance for a short time.

Several points need to be highlighted right from the start –

  • The developers and council have agreed that a 4.75% open space levy will be applied. Absolutely amazing when other councils (Bayside, Port Phillip, Moreland and countless others have introduced a MINIMUM of 5% levy across their entire municipalities for a meagre 3 lot subdivision. Here we have 75 units and the blood money is a paltry 4.75%. It would also be interesting to know: who agreed to this? when was it signed on the dotted line?
  • The developers ‘experts’ have verified that 4 visitor car parking spots are ‘adequate’
  • The one bedroom apartments will be exempt from car parking spots!
  • The claim is that the units (in a Minimal Change Area) equate to 42% of site coverage. We are certainly sceptical of this figure judging by the plans!
  • The most vital question however is that given this is in a Minimal Change Area and suggest 4 storey development, then why oh why wasn’t this application rejected right from the start under delegation? The single fact that it is a large site should not over-ride every other single ‘standard’ that is applied to the Minimal Change Area.
  • As a ‘planning conference’ this failed dismally to live up to the published council propaganda – ie ‘Where possible, attempt to resolve or reduce the issues in dispute’. Nothing of the kind happened or was even attempted!

Here is the sequence of events:

Magee claimed that residents were extremely lucky to have these ‘conferences’ because many other councils didn’t do this. Sadly, Magee neglected to mention that other councils have Planning Committees made up of councillors and residents are permitted to address full council on their objections. In Glen Eira objectors do not learn of the planners recommendations until the Friday before the application is set down for council decision and then there is no opportunity to address the council. Magee even had the gall to state that residents should wait for the recommendations and THEN LOBBY THEIR COUNCILLORS!

Bromley started ‘the process’ by explaining the plans. 75 dwellings, 4 storeys. Internal departments had had a look at the application. Objections were basically about: intensity of develolpment, streetscape, parking and traffic, loss of amenity, overlooking/overshadowing, storm water etc. Bromley emphasised that his decision would be mainly looking at the Minimal Change Policy and Neighborhood Character and parking. His report would go to council for decision on the 2nd July.

Objectors then had the opportunity to speak. First speaker said that she represented 22 households and asked for clarification. Said that the Minimal Change policy talked about ‘higher yield’ which doesn’t necessarily mean ‘higher density’ and this term refers to 4 storeys and above.

Asked about the telecommunications pole and the setbacks which weren’t clear from the plans. There was also an issue about an oak tree and wanted to know how this was to be protected. Said there were ‘unclear items’ on the plans. In terms of amenity for surrounding properties, there is a substation kiosk and exhaust right near fences. How many cars each day, etc. Wanted clarification on all these issues. Also wanted to know about the ‘internal amenity’ in the 4 storey apartments because of 4 light courts from the rooftoop to ‘ground level’ as this is the only light source and none will have ventilation. Also asked about drainage and whether this had been ‘factored into the design’. Finally given the layout, how emergency services vehicles were going to have access to the apartments.

MAGEE then said that these were a lot of questions and that the answers would ‘come out in the report’

Next speaker stated that the only large dwellings were basically on Dandenong Rd and a couple along Waiora Rd but they were ‘well set back’. Was also concerned about the body corporate and the decision making when so many owners would be involved and with elevators and other things there would be long term maintenance issues.

Another Waiora Rd residents spoke about a 7 unit development next to her and there were 20 odd cars coming in and out just from this one site. Said it was a ‘complete fiasco’ that that’s been accepted by Council. This application could have over 200 cars and ‘where are they supposed to come out from’? Asked if this was ‘responsible’ for councillors to accept something like this design.

MAGEE then said that it’s the state government who is responsible for setting parking allocations and ‘it’s not something that council can change’.

Another residents said that there were ‘natural springs’ there underground and a while back water came up on Alma Rd. Wanted to know about the water tables on the site and that this site was the centre of the spring, so what measures will be taken to remove the water. And if removed will it come up in someone else’s back yard and what is the process for compensation to residents affected by this? Wanted to know if any of this has been considered and what the strategy is to deal with this. Also wanted ‘assurance’ that the pedestrian right of way would still be open to people. Bemoaned the fact that council didn’t buy the property when it had the chance.

One lady said that she has recently sold her house because she believes that ‘the amenity of the area has been destroyed’ because of all these developments, especially along Dandenong Rd. Said that she lost about $50,000 because of this when she sold. She then took Magee to task stating that the Council had violated  ResCode numerous times and ‘that it is only a guideline not a rule’. Listed several properties that don’t have the car parking that ResCode advises.

Next resident said that anyone who believes that 75 dwellings in a dead end street should have ‘their licence taken away’. Said that plenty of his friends who live in apartments have ‘two or three’ visitor car parks for blocks of 10 units. ‘How 4 car spaces could possibly serve 75′ units ..’is beyond me’.

Another Norwood St resident stated that he had ‘difficulty parking outside my own house’ because of the developments and Norwood has become a rat run through to Dandenong Rd and King David. Said that with what’s happening there are now over 120 new apartments ‘in less than two years’. Said that everything in the area has been ‘altered’ and all to the negative. Said that ‘rates have gone up and property values have gone down’.

One Wilks St resident stated that an application for 2 town houses had been rejected because it was considered ‘high density’ in a minimal change area but ’75 apartments seems to be okay’. Said that in a 16 dwelling street this represents over 400% increase. Said there’s already problems with flooding because of the slope of the land and there have been sandbags in the street.

An Alma Rd resident talked about the traffic which she knows well since she’s lived there since 1986. Said the intersection was dangerous and more traffic is only going to make it worse. Reminded councillors that they’re supposed to represent residents! Caulfield North used to be a ‘blue ribbon’ area and now it’s not. Prices are dropping and thus her children’s futures are affected.

One resident asked that the application not be ‘negotiated’ but ‘flatly rejected’.

The next few speakers all spoke about the traffic and parking and that it’s ‘out of character’ with minimal change. Asked ‘what’s the point of having minimal change’? Reiterated that ResCode is nothing but a guide and an ‘absolute minimum’. Dandenong Rd will have 300% increase in dwellings in the next few years and that ‘will flow on’ into Norwood and Palm Avenue. Said that the area had been flooded 3 times in the last few years and that’s ‘no attention’ in the plan for this. Talked about the tennis pavilion and said that it was considered for heritage listing which never came through and he wonders why. Thought it should be retained in the development.

Next resident asked about the actual construction phase and the congestion, pollution that would occur. Was concerned about the oak tree and the safety issue if it wasn’t protected fully.

One resident highlighted that council approved permits all the time and that if the new unit windows are 9 metres away then that’s okay because these new people ‘are blind’ and ‘can’t see’ anyway! Was disappointed with council for not collecting all the money it could from developers and then open space is further lost to buildings.Asked why this council is going beyond the population figures that the government expects them to meet. Said that the population had increased proportionately more than anywhere else.

One person commented that this would go to VCAT and he doubted that council could stop the development but that they had to ‘draw a line in the sand’ and insist that there be no residents parking permits for this development.

Another resident talked about the tonnes and tonnes of excavation materials that would need to be moved and estimated about 2000 truck movements ‘over four or five months’. Council therefore needs to put ‘a very big bond on the developer’  to ‘rebuild Wilks St’ because it will be ruined. Magee then said that ‘construction plans’ are often ‘put in place’ and that will ‘be part of the process’.

THE DEVELOPER’S REPRESENTATIVE

Said that he wasn’t here ‘to solve’ the issues but that’s it’s all about ‘information’ and him ‘learning from what’s been said’. Said to the first speaker that the architects’ would be happy to sit down with her and explain in ‘more detail’. Said that the planning scheme does acknowledge that it can ‘accommodate’ an area in minimal change if it’s just under 7000 square metres. Said that that’s ‘going to be the real test’ and that’s what ‘officers’ will have to do. Their view is that the proposed density ‘fits’ and that in terms of contemporary planning its becoming less important in the assessment and more about ‘quality of development’. Said it wasn’t an ambit claim and that was put together by consultants.

Said that the telecommunications tower issue is being discussed and will be moved. An arborist looked at the oak tree and they’ll ask that ‘he has another look at that issue’. Said there was no ‘unreasonable overshadowing’; car parking was ‘sufficient’ and that they provide ‘what the planning scheme says we need to provide’ but they are seeking a reduction in visitor car parking. The traffic report says that they’re ‘providing the right nunmber’ but that needs to be ‘tested’. Admitted that there would be ‘additional traffic in Wilks St.’ but they’re not starting from a ‘base line’ where there’s no traffic in Wilks St. There are 100 car parking spots on site and average it out then that will give about 500 extra movements in Wilks St but the street ‘can take that’ according to their traffic advice.

Said that site coverage is 42% because of basement car parking. There is a landscape plan and on drainage they got engineer’s advice. Not a planning issue because there’s no flooding overlay and they are ‘following it up’. If they’re successful and subdivided they will pay 4.75% of land value. Said that insurance, pedestrian right of way still needs to be negotiated with council. On construction there would be a management plan. If successful they were also willing to ‘make streetscape improvements’ in Wilks St.

There was discussion on how the money from the open space levy would be spent and Magee said that would be up to council and not the developer. Also discussion on whether the walkway represents ‘open space’ and the safety given that there had been several attacks in recent years.

When asked if anyone on the team had a concern about the people and ethics the developer’s rep responded that he took advice from experts and was guided by the planning scheme. Said that the traffic engineers have done surveys in comparable developments and they say that 4 spaces are ‘sufficient’.

Magee then summed up saying that on 2nd July the application would be decided but people can’t speak. Their opportunity will come on the 28th when the agenda goes up with the officer’s recommendations. ‘You then have the opportunity to contact the 9 councillors….you’ve got Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday’. Councillors can accept the officers’ recommendations or reject, modify them. Applicants or objectors can then go to VCAT.

One resident asked that the meeting be adjourned and that people who couldn’t be present come along for another meeting. Magee declared the meeting closed.

 

PS: we thought it would be informative if we uploaded one of the pages for the plans. Please note:

  • the ‘gated city’ effect so that emergency vehicles have literally no access.
  • the lack of sufficient open space

130606 Plan 5 of 22 Ground Flr of 1 Wilks Street

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