Election 2016


Set down for decision Tuesday night is an application for a 6 storey building with 33 units, 6 shops, basement car parking and the waiver of parking spots for the shops and visitors, plus a loading bay. The site is along McKinnon Road between Wheatley and Jasper. The officer’s recommendation is to approve a permit.

We highlight this item for several reasons:

  • McKinnon is one of the smallest ‘neighbourhood centres’ – now officially an activity centre. Yet according to council’s planning scheme it sits well below its so called ‘urban villages’ of Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick. Thus we have the insanity of council’s application for height limits of 5 storeys in Bentleigh and now six storeys is viewed as acceptable in McKinnon!
  • Readers should also remember Amendment C143 where councillors changed an advertised amendment from Mixed Use Zone of 4 storeys in McKinnon Road, to a zoning of General Residential Zone (3 storeys) because they argued that 4 storeys was too much. Community opposition does work wonders!
  • This application is supposed to have 6 shops ranging in size from 53 square metres to just over 90 square metres. McKinnon has no bank, no supermarket, no butchers, no fruit shops, no clothes shops, and nothing really except cafes and more cafes. How much employment will be generated by a 53 square space is debatable – especially since council’s consultants predict a decline in ‘retail’ of thousands by 2036.

We have commented time and again on the lack of transparency in council officer reports for applications. This report is no different –

  • Instead of highlighting the number of one bedroom, two bedroom apartments proposed, the report lumps together the number of 1 and 2 bedrooms so that it is impossible to determine the percentage of one bedroom compared to 3 bedrooms. Worse still is the inclusion of totally illegible plans. When council spends millions on IT systems, surely it can provide images that are capable of being read. Is this deliberate?
  • The application has a deficit of 9 car parking spaces for its shops and 2 spots for visitor car parking. The recommendations on shop parking are far from transparent when we get sentences such as – Given the location of the site and proximity to residential areas, it is recommended that all visitor car spaces (6), and at least two car spaces for each commercial space be provided onsite. What is not spelt out is that this only totals 12 parking spots when the legislation required 16. Thus a waiver of 4 spots and no mention of loading bay or any reason for this largesse!
  • The traffic department’s view is also bereft of justification. All we get is this single sentence – Transport Planning is satisfied with the number of customer car parking spaces that has been provided for the shops
  • The best however is to be found in this incredible paragraph that is meant to justify everything but which conflicts completely with the current planning scheme –

The proposal has an overall maximum height of 19.96 metres. While the proposal will undoubtedly be taller and more robust than adjoining existing development, it is considered that it represents what policy expects in terms of change given the size of the site, the emerging built form in the immediate area and its strategic location. 

Where in the planning scheme does ‘policy’ envisage buildings higher than the major activity centre of Bentleigh?

Where in this area is there another building of this height?

Why is it acceptable to have a six storey building towering over a three storey building at its rear, when council first refused a permit in Caulfield North because it was to be a mere 2 storeys higher than its surrounds?

Nor are we talking about a really huge site. It is barely 1150 square metres and of course is not mentioned anywhere in the report!

Nothing changes in Glen Eira’s pro-development agenda. Officer reports are abysmal, deliberately vague and most importantly either conflict with the planning scheme itself or provide practically nil justification for the final recommendations!

 

We’ve pinched part of a dialogue from the Facebook page of the Glen Eira Residents’ Action Group, featuring Newton Gatoff and Jamie Hyams.

HYAMS: It’s (election results) not unbelievable when you look at the latest community satisfaction survey, which is run by the State Government and therefore independent of Council. 56% said Council’s performance was very good or good and 11% said it was poor or very poor (32% said it was average and 1% didn’t know). The survey represents all age groups and suburbs.

GATOFF: I’m not sure the “community satisfaction survey” is borne out by the election result, but when a community elects a majority of new Councillors, it tends to reflect a call for change – In Kingston where the Council had structure plans, collaborative community decision-making and transparent Council meetings, the electorate re-elected every incumbent who stood. Yes, there are many good things being done by good Officers in Glen Eira who get well paid to perform. The Councillors can save their chest-beating for when we have a planning scheme which is fair and a level of governance which responds to the vocal minority. This is not a private club membership; it is an honourable non-executive role which should be performed with sincerity and humility but above all in reflection of the community’s wishes. So congratulations Jamie, you were re-elected again, and I for one will be calling on all three of my ward Councillors to give as much airtime to residents who need your help as you do to celebrating statistics. My commiserations to you Neil, it is not a generous process and I realise how hard it can be 1st time around, but I would invite you to remain a voice of sense and reason in whichever municipality you find yourself in.

HYAMS: Responding specifically to Newton, yes there were only four incumbents returned, but Michael Lipshutz resigned, Kelvin Ho had only been a councillor for a few months, Oscar generally didn’t identify with Council’s successes and while Thomas was a valued and constructive councillor, as an endorsed Greens councillor, his fortunes were more closely tied to the regard voters had for his party. That leaves only five of us whose re-election reflected the community regard for the Council, and four of us were re-elected. It was a great shame that Neil Pilling, who was a fair and diligent councillor who had the respect of his colleagues, was not returned.

Newton, having read your recent and earlier posts, and also listened to your performance on J-Air radio, there seems to be a theme that the wider community doesn’t really know what’s good for them, so Council should listen to the “vocal minority”. I find this to be quite elitist and undemocratic. I’m on council to represent the whole community, not just those who make the most noise. You also attack us for having implemented height limits in all residential zones, and for not having structure plans, the main feature of which would be height limits, in commercial zones. I would think that you can complain either about us having height limits or not having them, but when you complain about both, you just appear to be criticising us for the sake of it.

You say we brought in the zones without consultation and should therefore apologise, but the zones were the direct result of consultation in the form of the 2010/11 Planning Scheme Review, and apart from one block in Caulfield North, it was a direct translation from the Minimal Change and Housing Diversity Areas and Urban Villages to the corresponding Zones. I refer you to my earlier more detailed post on this issue, posted on 10 October. Councils tend not to consult when implementing to the letter the result of a previous consultation, and certainly don’t apologise for it.

I agree that we do need structure plans in commercial zones, and implementing these is one of the priorities of our planning scheme review. However, up till recently, our policies generally provided the necessary protection from overdevelopment in these areas, and this only changed when various VCAT members took it upon themselves to disregard these policies.

CAMDEN – Delahunty, Silver, Sztrajt

camden

ROSSTOWN – Esakoff, Davey, Anthanasopoulos

rosstown

TUCKER – Hyams, Magee, Taylor

tucker

 

COMMENT

Firstly, a hearty congratulations to all newly elected councillors. Residents have ‘spoken’ and their votes indicate a strong desire for change in Glen Eira. There’s also been a non too gentle reminder to the returning incumbents – Esakoff’s primary vote went from 34% down to 23%; Hyams from 23% down to 16% and Magee’s also declined by 0.5%. Only Delahunty’s percentage vote increased from 24.51% to 25.48%.

In a remarkable turn of events, it would appear that Joshua Bonney has officially withdrawn his nomination for the current council election. Since this was post nomination date, his votes will still count. Bonney preferenced Magee second, Okotel third and Karlik fourth.

Today is the last day for residents to get their votes in – although many have undoubtedly made up their minds and already cast their votes. It’s now time for reflection as to the entire process and its potential outcomes.

The Age ran a story a few days ago on council elections and the associated ‘problems’. We will go a step further and state that much needs reforming, especially the legislation governing council elections. It is not enough that candidates have the choice as to whether or not they tick a box on some useless questions. Nor is it satisfactory that candidates are asked whether or not they are ‘endorsed’ by a political party. The Greens are the only party which officially endorses individuals. Labor and Liberal do not. But this doesn’t mean that these major political parties don’t influence the candidates or get involved in what happens in council chambers – Skyrail being the perfect example. Even asking whether or not a candidate is a member of any political party is not enough. The example of Esakoff’s campaign and her claim to be ‘independent’ shows how inadequate this is!  What this election has shown above all is the (deliberate?) impotence of the legislation.

Remember the de-facto How-To-Vote cards? When Liberal candidates can nominate Vote #1, Vote #2 and Vote #3 on their candidate statements, and the VEC can rule that this is okay, then there is something drastically wrong with our system. And since the Bayside Libs did exactly the same thing, we can only conclude that the ‘orders’ came from on high from headquarters! And what influence did the Labor party have on awarding preferences to their members?

In Glen Eira dirty tricks have been abundant –

  • Posters torn down
  • Stooges and trolls operating to their heart’s content on social media
  • Flyers distributed which allege collusion between Labor candidates and sporting clubs
  • Candidates’ billboards advertising real estate agents

It has been a dirty campaign where the gulf between the incumbents’ statements on their flyers and their actions are miles apart. If Magee can state that he supports 3 and 4 storeys in activity centres, yet in chamber supports 7 storeys for Carnegie, then truth has no value. Nor do Hyams’ claims to be working for the ‘community’ hold up to scrutiny when his voting patterns on so many issues clearly show how one sector of the community can so regularly outweigh the wishes of the majority of the community. Pilling of course is the classic case of someone elected on Green credentials, only to become a ‘turncoat’ and basically align himself with the conservatives time and time again. Yet this hasn’t stopped him from producing flyers and posters which are still green in colour – but without naming the Greens.

Here are some suggested reforms that we hope will improve both the quality of candidates and the electoral process. We welcome your thoughts!

  • Prospective candidates to nominate 6 months out from the election date
  • Prospective candidates to undertake a comprehensive ‘induction/education’ process at this time and not once they are elected
  • This ‘course’ to be standard across all councils and conducted by ‘independent’ bodies including – Law Reform Commission; Accountants Association etc. In other words covering all the major areas that councils operate within. If candidates ‘fail’ these courses they become ineligible to stand.
  • Standards to be set on all election material
  • Compulsory ‘town hall’ meetings for all candidates 2 weeks out from the election
  • Councils to provide the facilities for these meetings

Much, much more can and should be done. This of course depends on the will of legislators and whether their primary concern is true democratic process and an equal playing field!

Gary Max interview with 2 Glen Eira Residents on elections, and council performance

PS: The minutes for Monday night’s special council meeting have now been published on council’s website. We believe that an all time record has been set in that the meeting lasted exactly 3 minutes to ratify the most important document that a council can produce – the Annual Report! Both Delahunty and Lobo were absent.

The stuff ups with minutes still continue however. Item 4.1 states that the item under consideration is the Councillor Code of Conduct. Yet when it comes to the actual nominated 4.1, it is on the Annual Report. Would whoever is doing the minutes please, oh please, proof read and ensure that  what goes out to the public is accurate and a true record of what occurred!

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