Caulfield Racecourse/C60


The prize for the most disingenuous, misleading, and completely ignorant or politically expedient comments for the year must go to Delahunty, Magee and Athanasopolous. How anyone in their right mind could even contemplate uttering the sentiment that 20+ storeys of dog boxes is acceptable, given the community’s outcry about height and inappropriate development is simply staggering. But that’s what has happened as exemplified in the following ‘debate’ on the option of seeking mandatory height controls for the Caulfield Village Smith Street Precinct.

First, some explanation is necessary. The approved Incorporated Plan for the entire Caulfield Village project includes the following:

  • All stated heights are ‘preferred’ and are not MANDATORY.
  • The cited heights are listed according to AHD and for the Smith Street precinct the highest is nominated as 120 metres which is then recorded as ‘typical 20 storeys’.

AHD, or Australian Height Datum involves calculating street level from sea levels. In other words, how much above sea level is the land under discussion. The image we present below comes from the State Government’s Land Services division. It shows the contours of the land. Readers should note that the lie of the land varies from 46 to 49 metres. Since the Incorporated Plan specified 120m AHD that means that the 46 or 49 metres needs to be subtracted from the 120 metres to get any idea of the ensuing height.  If we subtract 50 metres from 120 metres, the result is 70 metres above ground level that the building can reach – unless of course the MRC decides to push the buttons on the ‘preferred’ aspect and go for higher. The Building Code of Australia sets a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.4 metres. Thus even if we have larger floor to ceiling heights for the commercial ground floor areas, that would still leave approximately 60 metres available for residential purposes. The possible results are that the developer could quite easily construct a building of 25 and above storeys. Nothing binds the developer to a mere 20 storeys as this council would like residents to believe! – and especially not when we have a ‘preferred’ height limit rather than a mandatory one!

Please read the following carefully and decide how well these councillors are representing the community and how much they really understand as to the implications of their voting!

Delahunty moved motion to accept ‘as printed’. Magee seconded.

DELAHUNTY: thanked the resident for bringing council’s attention to the issue of ‘additional’ controls concerning heights at a recent council meeting and ‘whether or not we should look at some height controls’. Said the report gave the option that ‘we could apply to the minister to change the height controls’ or they could ‘reserve’ action until after the structure planning is done. Went on to say that ‘at the moment’ the Smith St precinct has height that varies from ’12 to 20 storeys’ and if the developer wanted to go over this height limit then ‘they would have to go through a planning application’. She therefore ‘supposes’ there is a ‘large disincentive’ for the developer to do this. Said she wasn’t ‘of a mind to impose anything additional’ on the developer that ‘isn’t in keeping with that particular precinct’. Her concern was getting ‘nice apartments’ and ‘not how high’ those apartments are. ‘I’m not particularly concerned about that’ or the ‘height of the Smith Street precinct at the moment’ because ‘I do not believe it will go over 20’. Admitted that it has been ‘much debated, much hated, but it is what it is’. It’s on an ‘incredibly major transport hub’ with no open space, but this ‘will change’. ‘So it’s right and proper that it takes a fair bit of development’. ‘So the height is of less concern to me personally’ than who will live there – ie affordable housing. This is where ‘I am suggesting we focus our energies’ and that’s why ‘I endorse that we reserve our considerations’ until the structure planning strategies are done. Said that it was ‘good’ to have to consider this and to have the reminder that there is a ‘built in disincentive for the developer’.

COMMENT

  • As to the Incorporated Plan being a ‘disincentive’ this is utter hogwash. If anything it and the history of this project are INCENTIVES, since the MRC has won every battle it has chosen to pursue at VCAT – and all with council’s complicity, or cave- ins. There is no reason to suspect that any future visit to VCAT will result in a different outcome if council does not strengthen its controls. And that, this motion has explicitly refused to do. Readers need to question why?

MAGEE: ‘like you’, I ‘certainly don’t have any issues with a 20 storey building on that site’.  Said it can already be ’22 storeys because what we’re talking about is height’ and by lowering the ceilings for each storey they can fit more storeys in. So on the ‘number of apartments’ there is ‘room to move’ but the overall height ‘can’t change’. ‘If you’re not going to put this sort of density around major transport’ hubs then ‘where are you going to put it?’ Went on to say that it does lack open space so ‘where can we find open space’ and implied the racecourse. Said that the precinct will also have commercial areas and that will bring ’employment opportunities’ and ‘right next to a railway station is a great incentive’. Didn’t think they should go to the government and try to get anything that’s ‘not there right now’. What’s there was ‘put in place many years ago and I believe we’ve moved on from that’. Went on to say that this is ‘really a great opportunity for people who don’t want to have a car’ to ‘live in a precinct’ that will give ‘unprecedented opportunities for public transport’ and ‘overlooking’ one of the most valued and ‘new open space’. With developments of this size there are ‘security’ issues but what council is ‘talking about today is not security, not open space, but height limits’. What’s there now is ‘may be not’ what was originally wanted but he thought it could be. ‘detrimental if we try and change that’ because ‘it could be changed the other way and we could see something that is quite significantly higher’

COMMENT

  • Money is NOT IN RETAIL, but in residential. That’s why the MRC has almost halved the originally mooted amount of commercial space in the development. For Magee to therefore spruik the ‘employment’ benefits of commercial space is a nonsense. We would not be surprised to find that the next development plan intends to cut the already reduced commercial space by another few thousand square metres and instead go for more apartments. Since nothing about this entire project is ‘mandatory’ the MRC can do what it likes – and it has!
  • Just because something has ‘been in place’ for years and has time and again shown to be inadequate is NOT AN ARGUMENT NOT TO TRY AND REMEDY THE SITUATION.

ATHANASOPOLOUS: asked if there was any site within the area that could provide space for ‘consumer car parking’ and whether ‘we’ve ever looked at the opportunity’ provided by the racecourse for ‘visitor car parking’?

TORRES: said it was a ‘private development on private land’ and so ‘the approval doesn’t envisage private car parking but it does envisage providing enough car parking for the various uses’ that will be ‘developed on this land’.

COMMENT

  • Athanasopolous’s question to Torres displays not only ignorance of the history of this project – for which admittedly some slack may be given – but surely when a councillor is about to vote on an important issue, he should make it his business to find out about the history of the project. If Athanasopolous had bothered to do his homework he would have found that on the issue of using the centre of the racecourse as a car park, both the community and council for that matter were strongly opposed.
  • Torres also needs to be ticked off on his response since it is only half true. The ‘various uses’ may be met, but there is no visitor car parking – agreed to by council!

MOTION PUT AND PASSED UNANIMOUSLY

Another incredible agenda of 273 pages. More developments feature and more ‘let’s do nothing’ recommendations.

Caulfield Village Height Limits

Item 9.10 is the officer report on councillors’ request to investigate the options available to provide more rigorous height provisions for the Smith Street precinct.

This report is the outcome from previous council resolutions that in typical fashion have gone nowhere and disappeared into the dustbin of history. On February 7th 2017, councillors passed this resolution –

requests officers to undertake a review of the current town planning controls applying to the Caulfield Village Development given that planning scheme controls have evolved since the approval of Amendment C60. The review is to identify any potential gaps in the controls including the loss of on-street car parking around the Caulfield Village development site. Should any gaps be identified officers are to commence a planning scheme amendment process to address these gaps.

Then again on the 21st March there was this resolution –

That Council:

  1. notes this report;
  2. notes potential gaps identified in the current controls relating to social/affordablehousing, and the precinct boundaries;
  3. commences a planning scheme amendment process to address these gaps in thecontrols, and seeks authorisation from the Minister for Planning to prepare and exhibitthe amendment; and
  4. seeks a further report from officers on the options available to provide more rigorousheight provisions for the Smith Street precinct..

Nothing could be clearer we maintain that the ‘order’ to begin a planning scheme amendment. It is yet to materialise.

So for this council meeting we get the following recommendations –

That Council:

  1. notes this report.
  2. notes that Council could apply to Minister for Planning to change the current preferred height controls within the Smith Street precinct to mandatory maximum height controls.
  3. reserves its consideration of height provisions for the Smith Street precinct until after Council has completed its Activity Centre, Housing and Local Economy Strategy, and resultant built form guidelines for Glen Eira’s activity centres.

The proffered arguments for this ‘do nothing’ approach are indeed lamentable.

  • First we’re told how wonderful the existing Incorporated Plan is – ie This process provides a significant incentive to the developer to comply with the heights and setbacks set out in the Incorporated Plan. Really?!!!! So this is why the developer has gone to VCAT time and time again and increased his heights and setbacks for Precinct One and now had major victories with Precinct 2? How much longer will council continue with this charade that the Incorporated Plan is worth the paper it is written on?
  • Next, there is the usual scare campaign – ie requesting the Minister to authorise mandatory height limits could very well result in greater than the current 20 storey ‘discretionary’ height.
  • Then finally we get the ‘promise’ of ‘action’ down the track – ie The Activity Centre Housing and Local Economy Stategy will result in ‘built form’ guidelines for Glen Eira’s activity centres, such as the Caulfield Station Precinct. It is recommended that any further consideration of the Smith Street precinct occurs after the completion of the built form guidelines. What this recommendation does not highlight is that ‘guidelines’ are just that, and in no shape or form are they a better option than mandatory provisions.
  • Nor is there any discussion of whether any proposed ‘mandatory height limits’ will be judged on the number of storeys, or what is known as the Australian Height Datum (AHD). We have already seen that because of the slope of the land Precinct 1 now has 6 storeys instead of 5, and the Smith Street precinct is mooting 22 storeys instead of the wonderful council promise of 20 storeys!

Conclusions 

  • How many more times will council resolutions be ignored and not acted upon?
  • How many more times will residents have to wait before council gets off its backside and actually begins reforming its all too numerous mistakes of the past?
  • How many more times will this administration use ‘scare tactics’ as the excuse to not attempt anything?

PS: Last night’s meeting was largely all about planning and ‘consultation’. It is a continuing shame how incompetent planning is in Glen Eira when we find (finally) an admission that Council with its proposed interim height amendments (ie Amendment C147) was nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction and a pretense that it was ‘listening’ to the community. It is no wonder that Minister Wynne has refused to gazette these amendments.

We draw readers’ attention to the following paragraph from a VCAT decision where the member granted the applicant a permit for an 8 storey building in Rosstown Road, Carnegie. It shows clearly how – (1) residents have been conned – again, and (2) the quality of council’s planning department, plus (3) why must such information be discovered from third parties and not directly from council itself? Here is what the member stated in his judgement –

Fourthly, I choose to give limited weight to Amendment C147 to the Glen Eira Planning Scheme which seeks to apply a Design and Development Overlay to the review site, which will apply a discretionary height limit of six storeys. The proposed height limit is discretionary, so it does not preclude the consideration of a well designed eight storey building on the review site. Further, in response to my specific question, I have been informed by Council that there is no strategic work that underpins or informs the proposed height limit of six storeys. If such strategic work did exist, and had been adopted by Council, it may have provided me with some understanding or basis on which to further consider whether a reduction of height is appropriate for the review site. In the absence of any such strategic work, I am left with what appears to be an abstract proposed discretionary height limit, which I can only presume is based on the aforementioned development at 2 Morton Avenue, and which is not a seriously entertained planning proposal.

Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2017/158.html

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Here’s a summary of how the voting went at tonight’s council meeting – plus a few ‘highlights’.

Ormond Road Eight Storeys – Council will be supporting 8 storey mandatory height limits

Virginia Estate & Victorian Planning Authority – Council will forge ahead with the ‘partnership’ and hold ‘community consultation’ earlier.

Cr Silver distinguished himself by stating that he does not support social housing in Camden Ward.

Council will not be seeking to amend its local law on meeting procedures until at least 2018/19 when the current sunset clause for the law kicks in. Remarkable we say, given that emasculating the public question component of the local law was done so easily and on the whim of Lipshutz, Hyams and Esakoff in particular.

Caulfield Racecourse Trustees have signed the resignation paper but there is a hold up since the question of leases is yet to be finalised. We wait with bated breath!

The details of the above will be forthcoming in the next few days.

Delahunty moved a motion for a Request for a Report on the Caulfield Village. Her request was that the report include ‘planning options’ available to council on the social housing issue for the Village. Taylor seconded.

DELAHUNTY: said that the VCAT decision on Precinct 2 was that council was ‘unsuccessful’ in the attempt to ‘require’ the developer to include social housing. Called this a ‘surprising judgement’ and wondered whether the member had ‘actually seen or heard of’ social housing. Said the judgement was ‘so far removed from the way social housing operates’. Claimed that for the member to state that the ‘requirement to provide social housing’ is ‘financially prohibitive is rather surprising’. Said that ‘of course’ there’s a financial ‘imposte’ but ‘that’s what it is’. Called it an ‘incredibly disappointing result’ and when you have such a massive development almost like a ‘new suburb’ that there should be ‘some proper social housing provider attached to it’. Acknowledged that the developer ‘came up with their own scheme’ but this ‘doesn’t meet anyone’s definition of social housing’ and this looks like a pay later ‘lending scheme’. ‘It was an attempt to circumvent this requirement’ and all it would do would be to ‘help people access deposits’ or ‘get their hands on the deposit faster’.  Claimed that this doesn’t ‘address disability at all’ but helps the developer ‘sell their properties faster’. Said she ‘doesn’t understand at all’ how the judgement ‘was made’ and ‘won’t let this rest’. The report is asking for help to ‘understand what levers, what tools’ can be used. Said ‘noise’ is ‘available, appealing to the hearts of the developer is available’ but there ‘must be some planning levers that we can still pull’. ‘It’s unconscionable to let this go’.

TAYLOR: thought about the cost and ‘access to public land’ and ‘it’s not all about take, take, take’. The developer ‘can’t have it all one way’. On accessing a ‘social housing organisation’, ‘how difficult is this?’ Said there are ‘at least 39 social housing providers’ and it’s a ‘matter of liaising with them’. It’s ‘not onerous’ and a few meetings or emails can set this up. This ‘didn’t sit well with me’ so she ‘highly commends this report’.

ATHANASOPOULOS: started by saying that ‘we live in a society that is very inclusive’. Said he had visited a family member in London who lived in a property bought from the government and it was ‘very nice’ in an allotment of ‘maybe another 30’ units in a village that ‘probably had another 100’ units. Said it was ‘great’ that this ’90 year old lady’ could walk everywhere and there was a ‘sense of community’. If it can happen in a ‘massive city like London’ then ‘why can’t we create’ something similar here? They need more ‘than vcat on our side’ but also ‘local members’ and ‘ministers’ in order to ‘get something better than this’ because ‘people deserve it’.

SILVER: asked that the motion also include ‘examples’ of social housing from other municipalities and their major developments. Went on to say that the judgement was from a ‘legal member’ and ‘whether something is regarded as reasonable is a matter of policy’ ‘rather than planning scheme’ so it’s not necessarily ‘fair to the tribunal to say’ that it’s a bad decision because they have to ‘implement the law’ even though council mightn’t like the decision.

Delahunty then asked Torres whether this amendment would ‘slow down our efforts’ on advocacy? Torres said ‘no’ in that there ‘are other examples in other councils’. Delahunty accepted the amendment.

HYAMS: said ‘there is also a matter of principle here’ because VCAT was supposed to ‘apply the objectives’ of the Incorporated Plan and the ‘objective is social housing’. ‘They are now saying they are not going to have social housing’ and he ‘can’t see’ how this is in keeping with the plan. Claimed that another objective was ‘that there be no loss of on street parking’ and the VCAT decision means that they are losing car spaces to the ‘net loss of 45’. These are mostly metered parking spots, so ‘it will be a cost to the community’. Hoped that they would ‘also be looking’ to see ‘how we can reverse that’.

MOTION PUT AND CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

COMMENTS

 

The history of Caulfield Village is literally the history of utter failure by Council to do its job of land management competently, transparently, and for the benefit of residents. Over the years, every single aspect of this project has been mired in controversy, lies, and repeated cave-ins. The machinations go back right to the beginning with the establishment of a Special Committee to decide on the C60 and which consisted of Hyams, Lipshutz, Esakoff and Pilling. These 4, together with Newton and this administration did everything in their power to accede to every MRC demand.

Not surprising that the developer keeps winning when the Incorporated Plan is literally such a joke and should never have been accepted by the 4 councillors involved. The municipality is now paying the price for this collusion and incompetence.

Admittedly, Delahunty was not part of these earlier decisions and to her credit she, Magee and Lobo have been consistent on their demands for social housing. The same cannot be said for Hyams and Esakoff. Here is what the former said when the first amended Development Plan for Precinct 1 came in – ie more dwellings and reduction in 3 bedroom apartments leading to more single bedroom apartments.(taken from our post of May 3rd, 2015)

HYAMS: said there will be more apartments, thus more people, but the ‘building still stays’ within the parameters of the incorporated plan. Said that objectors raised the issue of ‘lack of diversity’ but ‘I don’t know that there needs to be that diversity in every site – there needs to be diversity across Glen Eira’. So even though there will be many one and two bedroom places there are ‘family sites around the area’ so that’s the diversity. As for social housing ‘that is a requirement’ for the end of the development but ‘I don’t think there was a requirement’ for social housing in ‘every single part’ of the development. Didn’t think that it was ‘appropriate’ for council to ‘move the goal posts’ now in regard to social housing. He was ‘sure this would be enforced in due course’.

As for the role of the administration and its planning department, the following quote from the Camera report on the first Development Plan should be enough to convince readers of either how incompetent they are, or how committed they are to basically duping residents.

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

Finally, a word of warning to residents on the Virginia Estate proposals. Their draft ‘management plan’ is basically a duplicate of the MRC plan for social housing. They have undoubtedly witnessed the successes of the MRC and are employing identical tactics. We can only hope that with this new council, they will have learnt the lessons of the past when it comes to deciding on the Virginia Estate development – which we believe will dwarf what is occurring in the Caulfield Village.

Readers might also like to revisit one of our earlier posts – https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/are-we-about-to-be-screwed-again/

There is a salutary lesson for residents and council in the comparison of the Caulfield Village development process and what is fast approaching for the Virginia Estate project. Residents need to be fully aware of:

  • The impact of rezoning (ie Caulfield Village rezoned to Priority Development Zone, and Virginia Estate now mooted rezoning to MUZ and/or Commercial 1)
  • Council acceptance of an Incorporated Plan for Caulfield Village and the potential acceptance of a ‘Management Plan’ for Virginia Estate – both of which will allegedly provide the ‘conceptual framework’ for development but without real detail. No objection rights for residents – decision is made by council.
  • Development Plans (ie the details) which then follow for each precinct but which only have to be ‘generally in accordance’ with the Incorporated/Management Plan. These Development Plans can be amended time and time again, and have been for the Caulfield Village.

Readers will remember that the Precinct 2 application (just under another 400 dwellings) for the Caulfield Village was refused at ‘manager’ level by Council without Council displaying this until after the fact. The developer immediately went to VCAT, where the decision has now been handed down. Once again, the developer has basically won, and all previous promises (ie real social housing element, ‘housing diversity’ has gone).

The ‘problem’ with this entire process is that the Schedule for the Caulfield Village which Council accepted and which provides all the ‘musts’ is so vague, and basically useless,  that the developer has all the cards stacked to his advantage. Fundamentally,  council’s requirements were inadequate and our fear is that unless some real lessons are learnt the same will occur at Virginia Estate. For example, the Caulfield Village history is:

  • No on-site visitor parking required (at this stage 2063 dwellings – originally mooted at 1100 in the Incorporated Plan). Precinct 2 now has 45 on site car parking spots but this is dependent on the ‘largesse’ of the developer and not on council’s Schedule.
  • Amendment after amendment that allows balconies to encroach on setbacks
  • No definitive statements on social housing except this useless sentence in the Schedule – The provision of affordable housing in the form of social housing. No definitive statement on how many ‘social housing’ units, or how this is to be managed. Readers will remember that council wrung its hands in dismay when Precinct 1 was allowed without any social housing and the arguments of Hyams et al were that future precincts would meet this requirement. So much for promises!
  • No definitive statements on ‘housing diversity’ – thus Precinct 1 has over 40% as one bedroom dwellings and Precinct 2 will likely have 2.2% of three bedroom apartments according to the plans.

For the full VCAT decision, please see: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1965.html

As we’ve said above, unless the lessons from Caulfield Village are learnt, and learnt properly, then we fully expect that the Virginia Estate project will follow in the same manner . It is the job of this new council to ensure that every single potential gap in any Management Plan and accompanying Schedule is spelt out so that the developer has as little wriggle room as possible. If this is not done, then we can rest assured that the eventual Management Plan will not be worth the paper it is written on and the entire project will duplicate the abysmal planning that occurred and is still occurring with the Caulfield Village!

A quick report on tonight’s marathon council meeting:

  • Development applications went according to officer recommendations
  • Hard copy again different to online agenda in terms of the in camera item – more monumental stuff ups regarding potential purchase of open space with no explanation or apology offered
  • Amendments C147/8 on interim height limits were passed with Magee and Lobo voting against on the basis that everything should be mandatory. Arguments (if they could be called that!) put up by Lipshutz, Hyams, Esakoff, and Pilling, were once more based on ‘trust us, we know what we are doing because if we went for all mandatory, then the Minister would be likely to make it all discretionary’.
  • Caulfield Racecourse another monumental ‘let’s wait for the Minister to act, rather than have council reps resign now’ because there is a danger here in what the MRC could do!
  • Public question time reminiscent of kindergarten playtime, where the CEO asked questioners to put up their hands if they were present in the gallery. By this stage, after 2 hours of councillor waffle and woeful debate, most people had left and who could blame them given the fact that most of these councillors simply like the sound of their own voices and the quality of ‘debate’ is totally underwhelming! Please remember that if the questioner was not present then the question nor answer was read out and neither will this appear in the minutes. Thus the wider community has no way of knowing what the issues are, nor council’s responses. This is called open, accountable and transparent government – for which we’ve got Lipshutz, Hyams, Esakoff, Pilling, Ho to thank!
  • Magee being Magee – a useless request for a report on the Claire St VCAT decision. Asking what recourse council has – ie whether an appeal to the Supreme Court has any merit? No doubt the eventual report will come back and state that there is no grounding in law for an appeal and that it would cost hundreds of thousands. We suggest that the cheaper and quicker remedy would be to change the zones, which after all is what the community has been demanding for ages!

Full reports in the coming days.

Finally, ‘victory’ appears to be on the horizon for the local community with the release of the committee’s report on the Trustees and Caulfield Racecourse issues. We’ve uploaded the full document HERE

In short, the recommendations are:

  • All trustees to resign. If they refuse the government will introduce legislation which revokes the Crown Grant
  • The department to be interim ‘manager’
  • Preference is for a “separately legislated trust with specific accountabilities and functions” rather than a Committee of Management.
  • Training to go within 5 years of renewal of leases

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