God help us if this is the quality of planning application reports by officers! We are referring to an application for 4 storeys and 49 units at 90-94 Mimosa Road, Carnegie. The area is zoned Residential Growth Zone, and a permit has already been granted by VCAT for 4 storeys and 50 units at 110-114 Mimosa Road – just a few doors down the same road. Of course, this is not even mentioned in the Camera report!

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The recommendation is to refuse the permit. We wonder whether the correlation between refusals and the number of objections has again reared its ugly head (ie 56 objections). Please note, we are not disagreeing with the recommendation to refuse, but are merely pointing out how Rocky Camera is literally scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with any valid reason to refuse the permit given council’s current planning scheme. In our opinion, the officer’s report is not only sub-standard, but hasn’t got a hope in hell of convincing VCAT.

Then of course, there is the argument that if council didn’t want ‘consolidation’ of lots, or 4 storey developments along Mimosa Road, then why did they zone this as a Residential Growth Zone? Trying to put the genie back in the bottle now, is far too late. If instead of simply drawing a circle on a map, council had done its work properly at the time of introducing the zones, we wouldn’t be having the farce that is now standard practice for council. Nor would we be having to cough up tens of thousands of dollars for officers and consultants to go to VCAT on wild goose chases and at ratepayers’ expense. This is literally money thrown down the drain.

Here’s why:

Camera writes – Policy encourages that the highest residential densities be located in Urban Villages, particularly for sites in closest proximity to a commercial activity Centre. The case is different here noting the subject site is located on the outer edge of the Residential Growth Zone with lower intensity zones located to the south and west.

COMMENT: decision after VCAT decision has already commented on the fact that proximity to the centre of an urban village is not an argument, and that if anything it is the GRZ2 zones which are to be taken as the ‘transition buffers’.

This illustrates that the subject site in a more sensitive ‘transitional’ location on the ‘fringe’ of the Residential Growth Zone, with lower density residential zones to the south and west.

COMMENT: When VCAT considers that a 2 storey differential is not enough to refuse a permit, then the difference between RGZ (4 storeys) and GRZ (3 storeys) will not carry any weight whatsoever. Readers should also remember how many developments that directly abutt Neighbourhood Residential zones (ie 2 storeys) have been granted permits by council alone.

Whilst policy also supports a degree of change in this area, the proposal is not site responsive nor is it contextually appropriate having regard to the disparity in scale and massing between the 4 storey building and prevailing single storey development pattern on the west side of Mimosa Road (and beyond).

COMMENT – Again a totally ludicrous argument when back yards in countless streets are the ‘buffer’ between RGZ and the other zones. Or, streets become the buffers between the various zones – ie one side of Garden Avenue Glen Huntly is zoned for 3 storeys (GRZ1) and the opposite side is 2 storeys (NRZ). One section of Balaclava Road is also zoned RGZ and across the road it is NRZ. The same applies for Kambrook Road and Newington Road; Blackwood St in Carnegie as well – or Rowan Street in Elsternwick. There are countless examples of this throughout the municipality. Does this mean that Camera’s argument applies to all? Or is it only that the decision has been made to refuse this application and something has to be coughed up in the attempt to justify the pre-determined decision?

The building will be highly prominent and further exacerbated when viewed at street level and from the wider area due to the site’s overall area (as a result of the consolidation of three lots). As such the development will unreasonably detract from the character and residential amenity of this transitional location (between zones).

COMMENT: All of a sudden ‘residential amenity’ is a concern, when the schedules to the zones do not provide any consideration of ‘amenity’ in the RGZ areas. And doesn’t the planning scheme after all actively ‘encourage’ the consolidation of lots?

Whilst redevelopment of the site at a higher density (than what currently exists) is not opposed, it is considered the proposal fails to adequately respect the neighbourhood character due to excessive mass, bulk and scale of the building (thereby resulting in unreasonable visual bulk impacts to the streetscape and adjoining properties).

COMMENT: how can one speak of ‘neighbourhood character’ when ‘change’ is the purpose and there is no ‘preferred character statement’ whatsoever in the planning scheme for housing diversity. As pointed out numerous times in VCAT decisions.

The development has a Planning Scheme car parking requirement of 62 car spaces (53 resident spaces and 9 visitor spaces). A total of 58 car spaces are proposed on-site (53 allocated to the residential dwellings and 5 to the visitors). This results in a shortfall of 4 visitor spaces. Council’s Transport Planning Department does not oppose the proposed shortfall of 4 visitor car spaces for the development

COMMENT: and the final insult to injury is that council itself does not insist on the requisite number of visitor car parking spaces.

The flood gates have now opened on Mimosa Road – as they have in every street that is zoned RGZ and GRZ. Council can continue to blame VCAT but in our view the fault basically lies with a planning scheme and a planning department that has failed dismally to undertake proper strategic planning. What residents are now faced with is council’s ‘damage control’ tactics. It is very, very easy to refuse application after application and continue to blame VCAT. As for the quality of the Camera report – in our view it is not only sub-standard, but not worth the paper it is written on. There is not one single ‘fact’ – ie what is the percentage of overshadowing? what is site coverage? Compared to the depth and comprehensiveness of other council’s reports on planning applications, Glen Eira should literally hang its head in shame!

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