Last night’s council meeting was another marathon of posturing, self congratulations, and inconsistency from one item to the next. Developers of course had a field day!

Below is our report on one of these items – a six storey building, 12 units and one shop of 37 square metres at Kokarrib Road, Carnegie. We are highlighting this decision since it features all of the negatives outlined above. Surely after 6 months as councillors we should expect a far better ‘performance’ than what is currently being dished up?

Hyams moved motion to grant permit with added conditions regarding screening and visitor and shop car parking. Seconded by Athanasopoulos.

HYAMS: said that the recently approved interim height guidelines ‘allows’ for a 6 storey building. Claimed that ‘it does fit in’ with recent developments in Rosstown Road and issues of ‘overshadowing’ are within ResCode provisions because the overshadowing basically occurs across a ‘driveway’.  Didn’t want a waiving of visitor car parking because he was there on Sunday and it was ‘certainly all parked out’ in the area. Said that the additional car space could be accommodated within the plans so ‘it wouldn’t be like we’re knocking back’ an apartment. There’s a ‘small shop’ so that ‘fits with the commercial area’ but doesn’t divert shopping from Koornang Road. Overlooking is an ‘issue’ because the building next door is ‘actually screened’ and the applicant himself asked for screening to prevent overlooking so ‘that’s what we’ve done’. Admitted that traffic is ‘onerous’ but 12 apartments is ‘unlikely to be significant’ impact on the roads. Thought it was a ‘reasonable application’.

ATHANASOPOULOS: asked Torres whether there will be ‘consideration’ given to road changes with the structure plan work they are currently doing?

TORRES: said that the ‘accessibility of our centres’ would be looked at as well as ‘pedestrianisation’ and ‘safety’.

ATHANASOPOULOS: thought it ‘was great’ that there is enough area to ‘squeeze’ the visitor car parking into the plans. Said that they need to understand ‘how these places actually work’ and how they might work in the future. He asked Torres the question because residents need to ‘understand’ that there might be some changes. If you can’t house people 100 or 200 metres ‘away from a train station I don’t know where you’re going to house them’. ‘Is 6 storeys too tall? – I don’t know’. Currently ‘I can’t say it is too tall’ based on ‘policies in place at the moment’. ‘It fits all the other aspects reasonably well’. Said that on the issue of the commercial area, people have ‘complained’ to him about the amount of housing they’ve also said that there ‘isn’t enough work, whether it be service or retail’ but you ‘can’t have growth’ by increasing population and not increasing commercial zone. Chapel Street ‘died’ over time because ‘there was no increase in amenities’ despite huge increase in population and ‘rentals went through the roof’. All of these things ‘have to be taken into consideration’. So the plan fits into the zone but will ‘hopefully’ help the ‘amenity as well’.

ESAKOFF: started by saying she is ‘struggling with this one’. To the north there’s another apartment block and the residents there said they would be ‘impacted severely’. They will be ‘virtually walled in’. ‘It’s a 6 storey building. It’s a large edifice’. Said she ‘understands’ that setbacks ‘have been applied’ and that the open space isn’t ‘considered as private open space’ and ‘I just can’t fathom that’. ‘They are not going to get any light’ into ‘their properties’. Even that block of flats will probably also be redeveloped. because it’s in the same zone. ‘I am struggling with the amenity issues around this’ and the ‘transition’ of more residential further down Rosstown Road. This ‘sits close to the edge of the zone’. Finished by saying she will listen to the ‘debate’ and decide.

SZTRAJT: agreed with Esakoff and said ‘I too am torn’. Said there’s an issue with zoning in ‘allowing a 6 storey building’ to occur in ‘places like this’. Said that looking at all the items on the agenda tonight that as a council ‘we are providing guidance to developers’ by ‘changing some subtle things in the plan’ by allowing a ‘visitor spot that they asked an exemption for’ yet ‘we couldn’t do it for another development’. Therefore ‘what we are teaching developers’ is that if they want to build in Glen Eira and don’t want to ‘fork out the extra’ for a car parking spot then all they have to do is ‘make sure they’ve got a stacker system’. Said he would have been against the application if council went with the waiver but they’ve now got the ‘additional parking spot. We managed to fit it in’. ‘This applicant was unlucky that we managed to fit that in’ by putting the shop car parking spot into the stacker thereby ‘creating this spot’. Said he is leaning towards approval because the ‘overall amenity’ isn’t going to be ‘too bad’. ‘I shudder to think how developers will learn from out actions’. They will realise that there is a simple way to ‘lead council by the nose’ by telling them that in every application they put in ‘there is no additional space’ for car parking so ‘I need a waiver for additional car parking’. ‘And we’re now so frightened about what VCAT will say that we are approving’ such applications.

DELAHUNTY: said she was conscious that ‘we have been veering off in our discussions tonight’. Council makes decisions and ‘tries to be consistent’ but applications are decided on the individual merits of the ‘application in front of us’ and ‘sometimes those decisions can seem to be in constrast to one another’. They look at the transport ‘around’ and ‘it’s always taken in context’. She takes the point that maybe they are giving developers a message but there are also other instances where council says ‘it’s not good enough’ and they ‘redesign’. Also going to VCAT has an ‘imposte’ on residents in terms of money spent and officer’s time so ‘there’s an element of that that needs to be taken into consideration’. Said she was in favour of the motion.

HYAMS: said he wouldn’t have done what Sztrajt did by ‘pointing out’ to developers what they might do. Disagreed with this anyway because ‘the site is the size that it is’ and developers ‘aren’t going to buy a site’ thinking ‘oh I can’t fit’ car spots in. Esakoff’s concerns were with amenity impacts but at the planning conference it was clear that these residents weren’t ‘going to be overshadowed’ because they were over on the ‘other side of the driveway’. They ‘will be looking at a unit in front of them’ but there will be other development ‘anyway’. Admitted that this is a concern he didn’t think it was a ‘reasonable’ concern to refuse.

MOTION PUT AND CARRIED. Esakoff voted against.

COMMENTS

  • When 5 of the current councillors decided WITHOUT CONSULTATION that 6 (preferred height) storeys in this spot was okay, surely it is a bit late to start wondering whether or not 6 storeys is too big?
  • 95% of discussion avoids planning issues per se and certainly any intelligent commentary on the application itself. Credit to Esakoff here as the only councillor to even attempt to enunciate what ‘amenity’ impacts are likely to be.
  • An officer’s report that is devoid of all detail, including how many 1, 2, or 3 bedroom apartments nor detail as to how this accords or doesn’t accord with ResCode and the planning scheme.

This is what should happen if a council is determined to be transparent and accountable in its planning decisions – a simple table outlining all the issues and whether or not the application is compliant. Maybe then we could also get councillors to speak to the application rather than regurgitate the nonsensical officer’s report or simply enjoy the sound of their own voices!

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