In 1993 Council opened Gardenvale Park and established a Public Acquisition Overlay (PAO) on the adjacent property at 53 Magnolia Road, Gardenvale, with the aim of eventually acquiring it to extend the Park. Around 2008 however, adjacent residents supported a Council initiative to remove that PAO, on the basis that the land involved had by then become too expensive for Council to acquire, especially as it would only extend the Park by a relatively small area. As neighbors, we also felt that this would only be fair to the owners, who could then renovate, develop or sell the property without restriction. For reasons known only to the owners, over the last seven years, the property has been uninhabited, the utilities disconnected, the building has taken on a derelict appearance, with broken windows, open doors and an untidy, overgrown yard that receives only occasional rudimentary maintenance. This in turn has attracted the following anti-social behavior to the house and adjacent park, which has impacted negatively on the amenity of Gardenvale Park and the lives of nearby residents:

  1. Teenage groups, sometimes even in school uniform, regularly trespass inside the house for underage drinking, sexual activity and smoking, including marijuana (as evidenced by the alcohol containers, used condoms and cigarette packets they leave behind and the odor of marijuana).
  2. Graffiti gangs have covered every interior wall of the house with their efforts, not to mention inflicting some of their work on properties in nearby streets for the first time.
  3. Cars full of youths occasionally meet up in the early hours of the morning in the cul-de-sac next to the house, with one person from each car entering and then quickly returning to their respective cars, which then head off off in different directions – drug deals?
  4. Vagrants routinely squat at the property.
  5. Bags of rubbish, including food and human waste, are piled ceiling-high in some rooms, attracting flies and rodents
  6. Evidence that trespassers use candles and light small fires inside the building and at the rear of the property to keep warm, heightens the risk of a serious house fire.

Police have been called on several occasions and have promptly attended. They managed to catch one of the squatters and move him on, and some patrolling of the vicinity may act as a welcome deterrent, but police can only respond to reports of incidents of trespassing or possible criminal activity as they occur. A Glen Eira Civic Compliance representative has also inspected the property and some action may be taken to encourage the owners to tidy up, fence off or board up the property to deter trespassing, however the legalities involved if the owners prove uncooperative may result in a long, drawn out process before the property is secured.

On 17th March 2015, Council advised nearby residents that Amendment C135 was being proposed to establish a new PAO on 53 Magnolia Road, again with the intention of extending Gardenvale Park. While all local residents are obviously pleased with this development and support the Amendment, based on the indecision exhibited by the owners and Council during previous years, we are rightly concerned that further delays will see the situation regarding the house deteriorate further. With Council now cashed up to purchase more open space, thanks to the 5.7 per cent levy on developers, and the property owners due for a nice windfall, thanks to current land prices, we trust that this time around, the Public Acquisition will come to pass – very promptly one would think. However, should this not be the case, local residents are not going to look on patiently while the property attracts escalating anti-social elements and criminality and further erodes our right to the quite enjoyment of the area. It is time that this fiasco finally ends with the demolition of this uninhabitable eyesore and the promised extension of a very popular local park. It will have only taken 22 years to achieve!

Signed

Gardenvale Park Local

COMMENT

Given the above comments, we ask:

  • Has council enforced its own Local Law to the limit? Under Section 412 of this Local Law council has the authority to order the demolition of any ‘building or structure’ that is deemed to be “detrimental to the amenity of the area’.
  • Have infringement notices even been issued?
  • Is the ‘lack of money’ a decent enough excuse for removing a Public Acquisition Overlay and then 7 years later replacing it, when millions are wasted elsewhere and when both the 1987 and 1998 Open Space strategy clearly identified the lack of public open space in the area?
  • How much more will it cost to purchase the property at today’s prices compared to what it could have cost seven or eight years ago, much less 22 years ago?
  • There is no mention of any potential 53 Magnolia Road purchase in the current draft budget. If Council can foreshadow capital works years down the track and allocate funds for these works, it is quite strange that no mention is made of this Public Acquisition Overlay, nor the much publicised Mimosa Road debacle. Admittedly this still has to go through the normal processes of Panels, ministerial adoption and gazetting. However, if planning is up to scratch, then funding needs to be put aside. The budget and SRP is the place to itemise these plans.
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