Apologies for what is an exceedingly long post but which focuses on 2 vitally important Amendment proposals that basically admit council’s previous stuff ups, plus the public relations exercise on the C60 and Caulfield Village. Please refer to the actual agenda items on council’s website for other items including – walking strategy, sporting ground allocations policy, and some very interesting in camera items concerning the Audit Committee.

Caulfield Village Development

Rocky Camera’s report is in response to the following Request for a Report passed at last council meeting – “That a report be prepared to determine the best methods to engage with the community surrounding the Caulfield  Racecourse in light of impending developments which will impact their amenity. That the report recommend ways to involve the community in helping to shape the future of their area be that through structure planning or another method used by other councils.”

We note at the outset that the request for ‘methods’ is not really addressed by Mr Camera’s response and ‘structure’ planning is mentioned only twice in passing, in the entire 6 pages of script! Instead, the report is a follow up to the Akehurst comments from this council meeting and the admission that residents’ opportunities to ‘object’ to the Caulfield Village are dead and buried!

Once again there is plenty of misleading information. Even though Probuild has formally announced its intention to build 1500+ units, this report still maintains – “Caulfield Village will contain 1200 dwellings’ and ‘improvements to three main road intersections’. The report then continues with assurances that “details” are known and this followed (of course) ‘extensive community consultation’. Probuild could not have employed a better public relations firm that Glen Eira City Council in spruiking the development as evidenced by the following highly dubious claims.

This document gives certainty to the local community by precisely stipulating building envelopes; their heights, setbacks, and siting. It can be said that the Caulfield Village development is one of the most planned development sites in the municipality. The future development of this land has been “locked in” following a rigorous community consultation and amendment process, the community now has a high level of certainty in what to expect at Caulfield Village. This certainty even extends to the location of new roads, infrastructure upgrades, and the use of laneways. If any person is unaware or unsure of the future development of the Caulfield Village, they simply just need to turn to the Incorporated Plan. In this respect, the community’s involvement in “helping shape the future of the area” has occurred.

The degree of detail and certainty far exceeds what a structure plan could offer. At best, structure plans are policy documents, providing general guidance on future development. The framework for Caulfield Village, with precise controls, and a rigorous ‘recipe’, means there is already absolute certainty about what the extent of future development will be.

Thus, after a page and a half of unfounded assurances, the real truth emerges. All residents will be able to do regarding the Development Plan is submit ‘comments’. They will not have any objection rights to VCAT. The best residents can hope for is that someone with common sense realises that 1500+ units as opposed to 1200+ units, does in fact constitute a marked departure from the Incorporated Plan. The domino effect should then be applied to traffic, etc. But all we’re told is:

if the developer deviates from the Incorporated Plan (‘recipe’) and proposes, say, taller buildings than what is specified in the building envelope. In this case, a full town planning process, together with typical third-party rights must be undertaken. That is, if a proposal contains taller buildings than the agreed envelopes, or departs from the Incorporated Plan, the community needs to be further consulted.

What will be interesting is how ‘deviates’ is defined and by whom and what constitutes a ‘deviation’ from the sorely lacking detail of the Incorporated Plan!

There are several other admissions most notably that the open space levy extracted from the developers only amounts to $4m for the residential components. Given that the law at the time permitted up to 5% Council has again let the big boys off very cheap at 4%! Mention is made of the possibility of ‘back dating’ rates, but we assume that this will be calculated on the miniscule rates that have been part of the Planning Scheme since 2006/7 and not the uppermost limit currently available. Another present to developers!

We urge residents to read this report very, very carefully and to note the following:

  • The first development plan is already in the hands of council and will be made public early 2014
  • After so many assurances that ‘precise details’ are known about the future of this area, the recommendations confess that the C60 in effect only supplies ‘broad parameters’!

NEIGHBOURHOOD CHARACTER AND HERITAGE CONTROLS

If ever there was an admission of a total stuff up then Item 9.9 is the living proof. This harks back to Amendment c87 where the Neighborhood Character Overlays were introduced into the planning scheme. Readers will remember that councillors in their wisdom promised those residents who asked that their areas be included, or not excluded, that they could present their case to the Planning Panel, only to find that the ‘terms of reference’ could not be altered. Hence, all those individuals who believed council found out to their horror that their claims were not relevant to the deliberations of the Planning Panel. We also remind readers that both residents and councillors were not given the opportunity to put in any recommendations – it was all done ‘inhouse’ by officers and through the Planisphere report.

Well now (a year later) there is a massive public relations exercise about to happen, where a handful of residents from that time will get a look in. The proposals are minimalist in the extreme – a couple of more houses added to the heritage listing and basically one more street included. Of course, none of this will happen in the short term, given the length of time it takes for Amendments to get through. We simply ask why this couldn’t have happened right from the start? Why does it take this council attempt after attempt to get something close to ‘correct’?

LARGE SITES – NEIGHBOURHOOD RESIDENTIAL ZONE

This is nothing but a confession that the zone reforms are another major stuff up and this is purely a limited attempt at ‘damage control’ given the outcry from developers. It does not excuse, nor solve the problem as we see it because:

  • The proposed amendment only addresses lots that are larger than 2000 sq. m. What if block of land is 1000sq.m for example?
  • With no minimum size prescribed in the planning scheme we can have subdivisions upon subdivisions so the myth of two dwellings per lot may stand – but the overall effect would mean 2 dwellings on each subdivision. There is nothing in the planning scheme to prevent this and we believe it is already happening.

There is much, more more of significance in these agenda papers. As per the norm, major issues are all presented at the one time so that real discussion, debate, and the prospect of intelligent and careful decision making is jeopardised. We even wonder whether councillors have taken the time to actually read all 377 pages!

PS: We’ve neglected to mention the Elsternwick Plaza item. At last council meeting the following resolution was passed – “That Council not accept VicTrack’s revised offer and continue to advocate for finalisation of the lease as per the original plan.”. This was after the Lipshutz/Hyams motion was defeated. However, being persistent little councillors, we now find that Newton has undertaken further negotiations and that there has been some ‘movement at the station’. This new recommendations DOES NOT ADHERE TO THE EXISTING RESOLUTION. We presume that the motto of the gang is that if you don’t succeed first time around, try, try, try again! It will be fascinating to see if councillors have got the gumption to stick to their original motion or whether they will cave in as per usual. This item just happens to be 9.20 – last cab off the rank when ‘determination’ and ‘stamina’ have been well and truly exhausted by everyone! Ah, the games that we play!

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