According to today’s Leader article, the Alma Club site development is now ‘settled’ when resident objectors agreed to new amended plans put in by Monark Pty Ltd. The upshot is that instead of 75 units, there will now be 69, and one townhouse has been ‘downgraded’ to 2 storeys. The other ‘win’ is that instead of the original intention of 4 visitor parking spots, there will now be a ‘generous’ 10 spots (Even under the abysmal ResCode standards, the number should be a minimum of 14).

‘Mediation’ in this instance is far from an appropriate term when one considers:

  • The huge financial pockets of Monark as opposed to residents
  • The potential costs of a 3 or 4 day hearing at VCAT when residents would feel obliged to hire their own barristers, planners, urban designers etc. The costs involved are prohibitive for any group of residents faced with opposing a Goliath such as Monark.
  • The real failure of council to support residents via its planning scheme and the absolute, total, failure to introduce schedules into the new residential zones which would not allow something like this to ever happen again.

How far removed this council is from residents and how little thought and effort has gone into ensuring the protection of residents’ amenity, is encapsulated by the alleged remarks of Hyams. The Leader article reports him as stating: We’re pleased that the parties have worked together to achieve an outcome that’s satisfactory to everyone’.  When a financial gun is held to your head that’s not our idea of a ‘satisfactory’ outcome! One of the objectors in fact retorts with this alleged comment: It (the outcome) gives some benefit to the neighbouring residents but it’s still not an ideal solution for the site’.

We remind readers that:

  • Council had the opportunity to purchase this site in an area deficient in open space for the bargain basement cost of $3 million. The decision not to purchase never went to a council meeting, and was not noted as being discussed in assemblies. Someone, other than the full crop of councillors made this decision. So much for good governance and transparency.
  • There is nothing in the old planning scheme or the new residential zones which will prevent a repeat of such events. Glen Eira has kept its options open when it comes to the size of lots, even if they happen to be in minimal change.
  • We also do not accept for one moment council’s claim that it was the Minister for Planning who ‘decided’ unilaterally and arbitrarily to remove the minimal change zoning from this land. Given all the huge developments that Guy has not interfered with, it is inconceivable we believe that he would involve himself in something so paltry as a 7000sq metre piece of land – unless he was consistently urged to do so!

Any resident who believes that this council has done its utmost to protect our suburbs is living in a fool’s paradise. The best, and most recent example of this comes with a comparison to the Kingston draft residential zones where they have included 10 specific schedules into their Neighbourhood Residential 1 Zones – following months of consultation of course!. Glen Eira could only manage 2 with no limitation on subdivisions or the number of dwellings that could then be erected. Kingston’s objectives are to negate this cramming of countless units onto a single block of land. Here are their schedules on this. Without such limitations, the Alma Club scenario can, and will be repeated countless times in the very near future. Any block of sizeable land under this regime represents an open invitation to developers.

Here’s what Kingston have done:

“Rather than rely on the default of two dwellings per allotment a series of schedules be developed which provide for the following outcome:

Schedule No.

Lot size

 No. of Dwellings

1

Under 500m2 and/or recently developed greenfield areas

1

2

500m2 – 899m2

2

3

900m2 – 1199m2

3

4

1200m2 -1499m2

4

5

1500m2 – 1799m2

5

6

1800m2 – 2099m2

6

7

2100m2 – 2399m2

7

8

2400m2 – 2699m2

8

9

2700m2 – 2999m2

9

10

3000m2 or above

10

But Kingston don’t stop there. There is also a nice little dig at Glen Eira –

The approach taken by the City of Glen Eira in its approved Amendment is to first rely on a subdivision application of larger lots in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone and then additional development application(s). Such a City of Kingston approach is considered time consuming and costly for the land owner(s). Further by needing to instigate a subdivision application first, it is likely to create an increased potential number of disputes between neighbours due to the lack of clarity about the eventual development outcome and as a consequence create additional constraints on resources and discontent with planning processes.

The approach recommended for Kingston will allow Council through its strategic planning to have a much clearly understanding of ‘development capacity’ across its areas zoned Neighbourhood Residential.

In our view, it is precisely this lack of ‘clarity’ which is the desired objective of Glen Eira Council. Like everything else, when nothing is set in concrete, then all is permitted. When the policy is to evaluate on a ‘case by case’ basis, then chaos and inept planning is the inevitable outcome.

Finally, to return to our erstwhile Mayor, we remind readers that on one of his pre-election promises there was this noble sentiment – Take advantage of the new government planning zones to achieve maximum protection from overdevelopment for our neighbourhoods.

Need we say any more?

PS: WE NEGLECTED TO MENTION THE FOLLOWING KINGSTON INITIATIVES THAT LEAVE GLEN EIRA FOR DEAD –

  • Glen Eira has 25% permeability quota, but only for its equivalent to minimal change. Kingston has decided that 40% is required and not just in its minimal change areas but also for its Growth Zones. In these latter zones there is the stipulation of 30% permeability requirement for each of its 3 Residential Growth Zones
  • Also incorporated into this amendment is the Open Space Levy of 5% across the board and 8% for businesses. Glen Eira is still stuck on 0.25% for some areas. Even if the new Open Space Levy is recommended, it will take another amendment to make this law. That could be years down the track as Hyams likes to tell people. In the meantime developers will continue to get away with paying nothing or a mere pittance.
  • And last but not least there is this commitment from Kingston which is unheard of in Glen Eira –Although the Advisory Note indicates that Councils with existing Local Planning Policies could immediately begin a Planning Scheme Amendment and potentially seek the Minister for Planning’s consent to exempt public notice, this approach has not been followed by Council. The Council has chosen to ensure that community feedback on how the reforms are best implemented in Kingston is sought. The Planning Scheme Amendment is also to include community consultation.

    As a consequence of the consultation period which ran from the 17 June – 26 July 2013, a total of 153 submissions were received. A detailed briefing on the submissions was provided to Councillors on the 5 August 2013 and copies of all submissions have been made available to Councillors.

    Council has maintained the view that it is important that this initiative is broadly promoted across the Kingston Community and opportunities for the community to participate in firstly understanding the reforms (Stage 1) and secondly commenting on the Planning Scheme Amendment which introduces the reforms is provided (Stage 2).

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