Pilling moved motion to accept recommendations as printed. Sounness seconded.

PILLING: started off by going through the various height limits proposed in both amendments. Then said that this ‘came about’ because of the ‘extended consultation’ and how council ‘adopted’ residents views at last council meeting. Plus the motion to apply to the Minister. Claimed that the current motion ‘sets out’ what council ‘hopes to achieve’ via the interim height controls ‘while we do the work of the workplan‘. Called it a ‘targetted approach‘ and that council would ‘advocate strongly’ that the areas abutting residential zones ‘need more protection’. ‘We need to have more controls’ in those areas because they are the ‘most vulnerable’. The Minister has said that ‘mandatory’ height limits in commercial zones ‘will only be given in exceptional circumstances’ and council believes that ‘what we are doing tonight’ has ‘exceptional circumstances’. Said that ‘it is important that we do the work’ and in ‘putting in our reasons to the Minister which are quite reasonable’ and this ‘allows us in the interim to do the work’. Thought that ‘this addresses’ community concerns about ‘what will happen in the next couple of years’ and that this is a ‘good balance’ between ‘putting in some real protection’ and not putting in something that ‘will be rejected’.

SOUNNESS:  stated that this ‘is a contentious issue’ for people and that they want ‘more security’. Council can ask for measures and then the Department and the Minister will make their responses. Fearful that the two areas (Bentleigh/Carnegie) amendments will be rejected because ‘not founded with sufficient cause‘. Other councils have applied and they ‘haven’t been successful’. He thinks that ‘having a relatively simple application’ over ‘part of Glen Eira’s development areas and not all of it’ will be ‘more sympathetically received by the Minister’. If ‘we were asking for something more’ then the chances of rejections are greater. Said ‘we don’t know until we apply’ but it’s better to aim for ‘what we can get’ and what ‘the community wants’. ‘There does need to be some development taking place in Glen Eira’ and council wants to be ‘able to control that’ but like with the Level Crossings Removal Authority, they do what they want and ‘council doesn’t have oversight over everything’.  Saw this as a ‘fairly good attempt at getting a positive outcome’.

MAGEE: said that councillors had ‘sat around this table’ for 8 years and others 4 and there are two words that he has ‘come to dislike’ – ‘discretionary’ and ‘plan’. Said he’s ‘never seen’ either come ‘back in our favour’ from VCAT. When the VCAT member sees the word ‘discretionary’ then he says ‘great, leave it up to me’ and the same for plan, since ‘this isn’t law – it’s just a guide’. Council can only control things by ‘implementing mandatory height limits’ as they did with the new zones. ‘I’m more than happy with the 5 storey area’ but he is ‘unhappy with anything that is discretionary’ and gave the example of the 13 storeys around the Ormond Station where the ‘government has already made the determination that 13 storeys is acceptable’. With discretionary ‘we are leaving ourselves open to getting something we just don’t want’. These are interim while they do the structure planning and he’s not a ‘great fan of structure plans’ although they do ‘show where controls can be brought in’ and it’s just ‘what you think should be there going into the future’. For the Carnegie amendment ‘I don’t mind the 7 storeys’ but ‘again it’s got that word discretionary’. ‘There’s no win, there’s no gain for us having discretionary height limits’. They need mandatory especially when in ‘2 years time we’ve seen what the structure plan looks like’. The Minister has ‘asked us’ to do this not because ‘he thinks we are doing a bad job but because we actually wrote to him, asking could we do it’. Claimed council has got the ‘support’ of Staikos, the department and the Minister. Although there are car parks behind some of the discretionary 5 storeys in Bentleigh, who’s to say that this doesn’t become ‘6 or 8 storeys’ when applications come in. He again ‘cites what’s happening at Ormond’ where the government has ‘said that 13 storeys is acceptable’. So if it’s ‘acceptable there’ then Centre Road is ‘only a couple of hundred metres away’. He is worried that during the 2 years taken to do the structure plans ‘we’ve already got the sevens and eight’ storeys and ‘that becomes the pre-requisite’.  They’ve got 2 years to do the structure plans which will ‘point us in the right direction’ for the next 10 or 20 years and ‘council has always done this’ since they were ‘one of the first to actually have different zones’ and that’s ‘why it was so easy to transfer over’ to the new zones. ‘Mandatory is the protection we need’ and ‘I believe we have the will of the Minister’ and ‘we’ve got a lot of people on our side’. Said he is a ‘firm believer in seize the moment. If the opportunity arises, grab it’.

HYAMS: wanted to go through some ‘history’ since people are asking ‘why’ council is only doing structure plans now and ‘not earlier’. Stated that they had Jeff Akehurst and he was the ‘doyen of town planning’ and he got the first ‘town planner of the year’. ‘So when Jeff said something about town planning, we listened’. Back then you ‘couldn’t get mandatory height limits’ but only discretionary and Akehurst told them that ‘discretionary height limits tended to be in those days’ ‘to act as a minimum’. That meant with 4 storey discretionary ‘they would start at 4 storeys and then go up’ and that council ‘had policies that would protect us from that sort of thing’. Claimed that ‘that worked well until recently’ when VCAT ‘changed its interpretation’ and ‘all of a sudden our policies didn’t work so well’. The policies of council hasn’t changed but ‘VCAT’s interpretation’ of them. Since many other councils have got height limits, and the other policies like ‘overshadowing and setbacks’ don’t count. Council then ‘found ourselves in a position where we had to play catchup’. Claimed that ‘about a year ago’ as a result of ‘various VCAT decision, I and others’ thought that council has to now do something about it and ‘that’s why we are where we are’. Thus even though ‘discretionary may not be so great’ it is still ‘better than the alternative’. Strcuture planning ‘takes a long time’ because ‘you need to provide justification’ for the plan. So there is these interim height limits but ‘anything we do as a council’ still needs government ‘approval’. And council has to ‘prove to the government that we have the capacity to cater for the population growth’. Council can’t say that there are other councils which can handle this and that ‘we’re not going to’. Said that ‘I would like to put mandatory protection over all these areas as well’ but that’s only allowed in ‘certain circumstances’. Read from the officer’s report about the ‘exceptional circumstances’. Spoke about Mentone’s mandatory heights and how they ‘were peeled back by the Minister’. Hoped that council ‘could get mandatory’ height limits for those commercial areas that backed onto Neighbourhood Residential zones. Went through what the amendments asked for. Said that Carnegie is ‘less linear, has more development’ is it is therefore ‘justified’ that they have 7 storeys. The amendments also include other things apart from height such as ‘streetscape’, ‘neighbourhood character and amenity and so on’. He would prefer mandatory but ‘there’s no point in asking for what we won’t get’. If they ask for everything to be mandatory ‘without discerning where we have a strong case and don’t ‘ then the Minister ‘is likely to come back and say I’ll give you the height limits but’ they will be ‘all discretionary’. Said ‘I firmly believe’ that council will get ‘a better outcome’ by putting the case that ‘this area is special’ so it should be mandatory and ‘this other area we can accept discretionary’. ‘If we ask for all mandatory we don’t have the opportunity to put that case’. Plus the minister ‘might throw it out all together’ because he might think ‘we are being unreasonable and tell us to do it all again’.

COMMENT

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have councillors who stood up and revealed the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? That of course requires an admission that Council’s planning over the years has been abysmal, and represents a dereliction of duty. Further it would tell residents that the zones are all wrong and that council sat back and did nothing, even when it knew things were going belly-up for residents over the past decade.

Things to bear in mind:

  • Akehurst might have been the ‘doyen’ of planners – but did councillors ask for ‘evidence’ that their planning tools were working? When did they last ask? What answers were given? How many of them have even read the planning scheme?
  • Could we please stop resorting to the ‘fear tactics’ that have become endemic in this council – first warning off objectors from going to VCAT, and now the Minister has become the bogeyman. Of course, any chance of ‘success’ relies on the contents of council’s planning scheme and any ‘strategic justification’ that has been put together. Recent history suggests that both are sub-standard.
  • Hyams also neglects to include the basic point that with the introduction of the zones, Council did have the opportunity to have mandatory height limits on Mixed Use Zones. They didn’t of course!
  • And what in the end is the real ‘council vision’ except to have more and more development coming into Glen Eira via the zones and prior to that the carving up of the municipality willy-nilly into housing diversity and minimal change?
  • What on earth have our planners been doing for the past 8 months when the order from Wynne came in December 2015? The statistics and analyses of Bentleigh and Carnegie and Elsternwick should already have been well under way- besides, why spend a fortune on computer systems if they can’t provide the necessary data at the push of a button?
  • Wynne did tell council to pull its finger out because it has had a deplorable history in planning and is so out of kilter with every other municipality that he was forced to act!

Finally we wish to comment on something we have written on peviously. VCAT HAS NOT CHANGED ITS INTERPRETATION AS HYAMS WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE. We could literally pinpoint hundreds of VCAT decisions prior to 2013 and even as far back as 2005/6, where the decisions in favour of permits refused by council could have been written yesterday by the VCAT member. The reason is clear: permits granted have had absolutely nothing to do with VCAT changing its interpretations and EVERYTHING TO DO WITH COUNCIL’S OWN PLANNING SCHEME. Below are just two more examples of this – both from 2006 and both concerning developments in the so-called Urban Villages. We challenge anyone to indicate how these comments are any different to what VCAT members are saying today!

it was put to me that the proposal is an over-development of the site in being too high and/or out of character with the locality, or alternatively that the proposal will have unacceptable amenity impacts on neighbouring occupants. The critical issue in this opposition was clearly the acceptability of having a four level building compared to a three level one. I conducted a view of the site and locality after the hearing.
3 In summary, subject to a proviso listed below, I am satisfied that the proposed four storey building can comfortably sit on the site. I rely here on the strong policy support for the higher density residential use of the site, the context of other 2/3 storey existing buildings nearby, the quality of the design, and my view that any amenity impacts on the neighbours is within acceptable parameters. While I can see his arguments, I am not convinced that it would be a good planning outcome to shave one storey off the proposal as put to me by Mr Fleming.

It is clear to me that Elsternwick Village is one of a relatively few places in the Glen Eira municipality where the Planning Scheme is actively encouraging a bolder approach to new residential development. That is, in light of the reality that the Planning Scheme classifies much of Glen Eira as areas where minimal or possibly moderate residential change is encouraged, it is very significant that Elsternwick Village is one of relatively few locations where the Planning Scheme sends a very different message. It follows that if Glen Eira is to play a legitimate role in accommodating the population growth of Melbourne as per Melbourne 2030 in the face of these constraints on residential development in much of the Glen Eira “residential hinterland”, this arrangement only makes planning sense if urban village locations in the municipality such as Elsternwick make a major contribution to urban consolidation.
36 In this important overall policy context, I have highlighted above those sections of clause 22.05 (Urban Villages Policy) and the draft “Design Vision for Elsternwick” document which seem most applicable here. The key text from these documents send a clear message that higher density residential development is being encouraged in Elsternwick Village.
37 In summary, there is strong policy support for robust residential development in this part of Elsternwick Village, rather than an inappropriately timid approach. This policy situation reinforces the general “rule of thumb” that residents who live in or near an activity centre such as this cannot just expect the built form character in this locality to remain static, and also cannot expect the same levels of residential amenity as persons living in the “residential hinterland”. http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2006/83.html (2006)

As indicated earlier, the Bentleigh shopping centre has been identified as the focal point of 1 of the 3 “urban villages” identified by the council. The MSS states that urban villages are based around the major shopping centres within the municipality. Further, the MSS states that the urban villages are the places where smaller scale office development and higher density housing is encouraged both within and around the commercial zoning.[12] The MSS specifically contemplates that the “Urban Villages Policy” will be used to “promote higher development densities”.
47 The “Urban Villages Policy” at clause 22.05 then goes on to say that these areas are the “preferred location for the municipality’s highest densities of residential development”.

Under the policy, the site is located within precinct 2 – “The Retail Hub”. Outcomes envisaged for this area include the strengthening of retail activity at ground level; offices and residential uses to be located on upper floors and buildings along Centre Road to increase in height. We acknowledge that “parameters” for increased height with respect to matters such as the impacts of shadows, building articulation and the provision of a transition with the surrounding residential area; however, the policy makes a clear statement that increases in building height are to be expected.
49 We acknowledge that the policies and strategies within the scheme call for built form outcomes that respond to the context and character of the area. However, in our view, there can be no escaping the fact that the thrust of the strategic approach advanced by Melbourne 2030 and supported by the council’s own policies is to encourage intense redevelopment and the highest densities in and around the Major Activity Centres and/or Urban Villages.
50 Increases in building height are an inevitable consequence if the intensity of development is to be increased in a particular area and this is acknowledged in the Urban Villages Policy.

We appreciate that the height of the proposed building represents a reasonably significant departure from 1 and 2 storey height buildings that have traditionally been found along Centre Road. However, we do not consider that the assessment of whether the height of the proposed building is acceptable or “fits in” can be solely based on a comparison with what now exists. To do so would present a somewhat confusing scenario whereby on the one hand, the scheme’s policies encourage higher densities, more intense development and therefore “change”; only for this to be stifled by the requirement that new development must “fit in” with what now exists

Part 2 will follow shortly!

PS – We thought it worthwhile to remind readers of the following resolution from the minutes of May 2015 – just a little over a year ago! Please note that the requested reports ‘in 12 months time’ did eventually come up and councillors again voted in their usual manner – let’s do nothing! Thus, when Hyams opens his mouth and starts telling the gallery that he and others were becoming ‘concerned’ about the zones and VCAT, about a ‘year ago’, it is even more remarkable that he could vote for a motion that mandates the ‘do nothing approach’ and how wonderful the existing planning policies are! The gulf between words and action are greater than the Grand Canyon!may 19 2015

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