GE Council Meeting(s)


Finally, after years and years of naysaying, council had the first live streaming of its meeting last night. It went well but does raise some questions in relation to its Local Law. For example:

  • Given that presumably more residents can now see who votes for what, couldn’t the minutes reflect this vote instead of simply having ‘carried’, ‘unanimous’ or ’lost’?
  • The ‘public participation’ segment is now also available. These ‘questions’ and ‘responses’ could therefore also be included in the minutes.
  • Since these recordings will be ‘archived’ and available for viewing at any time, surely it makes no sense to have the official paper record (ie the minutes) not in line with what can be watched over and over again?

As for the meeting itself and its contentious items, not much has changed. Early on it was the Esakoff and Hyams show on the Rigby and Newman Avenue multiple dwelling applications. The ‘solution’ as moved by Esakoff and seconded by Hyams was to grant a permit but instead of 4 out of the 5 dwellings being double storey, the permit now states that 3 out of the 5 be double storey. No other councillor spoke on either of these items. Hyams did refer to Wynne’s VC110 amendment but neglected to also say that according to the Planning Scheme large size lots in the NRZ have, since time immemorial and not just since 2013, had the potential for multiple dwellings! More dubious was Hyams’ subsequent  comment that because of the introduction of the zones in 2013  no such applications ‘would have been attempted’. He neglects to mention of course that council’s position to the department was that the ‘hurdle’ of 2 dwellings per lot could be overcome by subdividing first and then submitting an application!

We remind readers of several past VCAT decisions, where the member made it absolutely clear that large size lots can hold multiple dwellings because that is council’s ‘policy’ and is enshrined in both pre and post introduction of the zones. One such application was in St Aubins Court, Caulfield North. Even though the application came in prior to the introduction of the zones in 2013 and thus had the advantage of ‘transitional’ provisions, the outcome was still a 2 storey development of 22 units – based almost entirely on council’s ‘policy’. We quote:

However in this case there remains, even post the application of the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, strong and clear local policy support for the development of large sites such as the review site with medium density development……. While this policy intent has always applied to the Minimal Change Areas, we note that this policy statement was amended as part of the application of the new residential zones into the  Glen Eira  Planning Scheme. That amendment provided for the potential to rezone large sites with the Minimal Change Areas, so that they could continue to provide opportunities for medium density housing, despite the provisions of the Neighbourhood Residential Zone. We consider such an amendment to affirm for us the continued role expected in policy for large sites such as the review site, despite the applications of the new residential zones to the  Glen Eira  Planning Scheme. (http://www7.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2014/664.html)

Wynne’s introduction of VC110 has major ramifications for Glen Eira and other councils. The 2 applications decided last night might be an anomaly because of their size. Thus far we believe that 14 applications have come in for multiple dwellings. Not all are large sites. The latest application for 3 double storeys is a mere 585 square metres (see below). Worth remembering as well is that according to the Housing report they accord only 0.6 net new dwellings in the NRZ and this is for sites over 700 square metres! Such applications show how far out council’s maths on dwellings truly are.

Whether or not this application receives a permit, or ends up with a permit from VCAT will reveal much about council’s agenda in relation to the Neighbourhood Residential Zones. The ‘requirements’ for this zone has remained unchanged since 2004. The Schedule introduced in 2013 simply incorporated what was already there. No new work was done. Now work is desperately required. Other councils managed to have schedules that had greater permeability, less site coverage, and subdivision sizes included in their schedules. Council has the opportunity to amend the schedules. But will they do this or remain content with facilitating more and more development in the NRZ?

PS: FYI, council has granted a permit for 6 Hudson St., Caulfield North for one double storey apartment block with 8 dwellings. The land size is approximately 1300 square metres. Please note this was not decided at council level and it shows that there is nothing to stop apartment blocks from now being constructed in the NRZ as opposed to ‘townhouses’ etc. The flood gates are well and truly open across Glen Eira!

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PS: Here’s a photo sent in by a resident to show what happens when loading bays are waived. (1) truck parks in ‘no standing zone’ (2) parks next to white line forcing other cars into oncoming traffic (3) no safe ‘sight lines’

one_street_off_loading_wheatley_rd_bentleigh_1_18-12-17

An application for a 13 storey, 115 or 117 unit development at 233-247 Glen Huntly Road & 14 Rippon Grove, Elsternwick raises innumerable questions about ‘consultation’ within Glen Eira and the quality of officer reports.

The recommendation is for a 12 storey building and the reduction of units to 111. VCAT has already approved a 10 storey development.

Below is a screen dump of the current zoning. What this means is that there is the potential for a 13 storey development sitting alongside 4 storey developments, according to the zoning. Council sees no problem with this – in line with some of its current ‘structure plan’ for Elsternwick! Readers should note that the officer report does NOT include this map, rather it is an aerial shot that reveals nothing about zoning! Deliberate?

The vast majority of the proposed dwellings are 2 bedroom. On page 11 of the officer’s report we find this bullet point:

High density residential development is acceptable at this location; however the building should incorporate a more diverse mix of apartment sizes. The design is overly dominated by two-bedroom dwellings and does not contribute adequately to diversity in the centre. 

Then on page 17, ‘compliance’ with the Planning Scheme on housing diversity is listed as – The application consists of a good mix of dwelling sizes’. The point here is that this is supposed to be a response to DWELLING DIVERSITY, and not simply DWELLING SIZE! When the proposal is for 2 one bedroom, 4 three bedroom and 111 two bedroom dwellings for a total of 117, then what ‘diversity’ is achieved? It’s also unclear as to whether we are talking about 115 dwellings or 117 dwellings since this number alternates throughout the report.

On parking we find council is again very generous in what it is willing to waive.

The most disturbing aspect of this report however is the following  –

Council is in the process of preparing a Structure Plan for Elsternwick and Quality Design Guidelines that will potentially inform future planning controls such as local policy, zoning and overlay provisions for the area. These are currently undergoing the second of two phases of consultation before going to Council for adoption in early 2018. In these plans, the site is designated within an area that is identified as being suitable for 8-12 storeys in height.

Whilst the Structure Plan is not at a stage that can influence the decision making process for this application, the recommendation to delete one floor will result in a building height in keeping with the expectations for this area. Notwithstanding, based on the existing character and built form outcome in the area, a building at 12 storeys is considered appropriate.

Everything in the above suggests that council has already determined that 12 storey height limit will remain in its structure planning and that for all the guff about ‘consultation’ and listening to the community, this aspect is set in concrete and will not change.

Finally, we repeat that council’s record in lopping off one or two storeys for cases that end up at VCAT is appalling. They have not been successful in even one such instance that we are aware of. Thus get ready for 13 storeys in Elsternwick and others that will be even higher given this precedent!

PS: We’ve done some double checking. According to the Minister for Planning’s Amendment VC104 and dated 22/8/2013 the maximum height limit in the NRZ is 8 metres if there is no height limit in the associated schedule. On the very next day, council’s Amendment 110 was gazetted. There were mandatory height limits in the schedules for the General Residential Zone (10.5m) and for the Residential Growth Zone (13.5m). Council relied on VC104 for its continuous claims about ‘introducing mandatory heights for all residential land’. Strictly speaking this claim, made time and time again, was and is untrue. The Mixed Use Zoning (considered ‘residential’) did not have height limits imposed – and neither did the schedule to the NRZ. On 23rd March Wynne gazetted his VC110 which has the effect of over-riding VC104 and the height limit there is 9 metres. Thus Glen Eira is now stuck with a 9 metre height limit in its NRZ and even higher if the land slopes. Readers should also note that Wynne has carefully refused to consider ‘basements’ as part of the 2 storey limit and allows basements to protrude up to 1.5 metres above ground level. This has the potential to therefore yield a three storey dwelling in the NRZ!

 

Two incredible officer reports feature in the agenda for Tuesday night. Both are examples of what lies in store as a result of Wynne’s VC110 and the removal of a 2 dwelling maximum for the Neighbourhood Residential Zones. The applications are for 2 Newman Avenue and 3 Rigby Avenue, both in Carnegie and practically abutting each other. The officer recommendations are to grant permits for both with some minor tinkering on conditions.

The details of the applications are:

Rigby Avenue – 4 double storey, 1 single storey

Newman Avenue – 4 double storey, 1 single storey

What is literally astounding about these reports is the failure to even mention Wynne’s VC110 and its ‘requirement’ for the mandatory ‘garden area’. Instead, the reports focus exclusively on the existing planning scheme where large allotments MAY be considered for more than 2 dwellings per lot.

So, if council is determining applications based on its CURRENT PLANNING SCHEME, then the following is unlawful, devious, and inaccurate! BOTH applications exceed the current 8 metre mandatory height limit. VC110 specifically stated that if councils have different heights included in their schedules, then the schedules apply – at least for the next 3 years! Here is a screen dump of the legislation. Please note: ‘must’ and the fact that Glen Eira does have a schedule!

Instead of honouring its own planning scheme, these reports state –

Rigby Avenue – The maximum overall height (at 8.4m) is well within the 9m height limit of the zone.

Newman Avenue – The maximum overall height (at 8.8m) is within the 9m height limit of the zone. There appears to be a minor encroachment to the apex of the roof, which can be addressed by conditions.

Adding salt to the wounds for the Newman Avenue application is the recommendation to waive one car parking spot with this nonsense – The requirement for one visitor car space is proposed to be waived. This is considered reasonable given there will be one on-street car space maintained at the front of the site. 

There are plenty of other dispensations provided that reveal the inconsistency of this council’s application of its own planning scheme. More to the point, we find it reprehensible that a report can be written which deliberately includes false and misleading information!

Agenda Item 9.6 – Council’s submission to Smart Planning ‘Reforms’

Smart Planning basically represents the State Government’s further tinkering with VicSmart – the system where permits for various ‘minor’ applications aren’t publicised and approval is granted in 10 days. It also represents the attempt to further deregulate planning and pave the way for less council and resident ‘interference’. Whilst it is true that the current planning system is unwieldy and basically a mess, this doesn’t mean that ‘improvement’ is synonymous with less transparency and more advantages being handed out to the development industry.

The proposals, in broad terms, include –

  • align the State Planning Policy Framework and Local Planning Policy Framework into an integrated policy framework
  • review and rationalise planning permit triggers•
  • review and increase permit exemptions

All of the above basically means that:

  • Local council policies will now have to fit into those ‘themes’ specifically determined by State Policy
  • Less application ‘triggers’ means less control and oversight
  • More permit exemptions means less people know what’s going on until it’s too late

So the $64,000 question for residents is – how does Glen Eira Council respond to this ‘discussion paper’? How does council’s submission differ from other councils?  Council SUPPORTS either fully or ‘in principle’ every single thing suggested! The pro-development agenda is obvious!

Unlike other council submissions, Glen Eira makes no comment whatsoever on the following important proposed ‘revisions’ – Heritage, zoning, liquor licenses, etc. Here are some responses from various councils. We ask that readers compare what these councils have submitted and what our council has produced!

BRIMBANK

Additional exemptions should not be supported (in Heritage) as the alterations to verandas and pergolas can significantly impact on a heritage precinct.

Unintended consequences – The reformed provisions will potentially change standards zones, including the Activity Centre and Mixed Use Zones where there is currently no equivalent zone. This will not change the intent of the zone, however could impact on Council’s ability to customise land uses in specific areas, as there will be increased ‘as of right’ uses (no permit required) and prohibited uses may be considered as a section 2 use (permit required subject to policy).

Liquor Licences and Gaming – Council has highlighted the opportunity to give local government greater jurisdiction over the assessment of planning permit applications for liquor licences and gaming.

Ensure that the parking overlay continues to allow the collection of cash to enable Council’s to gain some compensation for constructing public car parking and when applicants cannot provide car parking on their sites.. The recent introduction of the residential zones, specifically the Residential Growth Zone, requires further consideration of car parking rates and how they apply to this zone. It is noted that the last ministerial advisory committee examined car parking rates in 2012, prior to the changes to the residential zones.

MORNINGTON

MPSC does not support the proposal to expand VicSmart on the basis that it reduces the inclusion of third parties in the planning process.

MPSC do not support the VicSmart assessment pathway in the first instance given its inability to consider and allow third party concerns and review rights

A key concern of the MPSC are the proposals that will make a number of land uses as of right. Such land uses are a common source of amenity and land use conflict. For example, industrial areas are being constantly challenged by an influx of non-industrial land operators being attracted by the cheaper lease opportunities. Frequently planners are required to strike the balance between preserving industrial land for manufacturing and/or warehousing with ‘new age’ commercial land uses such as gyms, dance schools and breweries. Carparking and conflict between operations is a genuine issue that requires careful balancing through a detailed planning permit consideration

Additionally, the reforms seek to enable licensed premises to be ‘as of right’ within commercial zones. There is concern that this could have lasting and direct impact within the townships of the Mornington Peninsula. For example, under the Commercial 1 Zone a restaurant, tavern (aka bar), nightclub and bottle shop are all ‘as of right’ land uses under the zone

STONNINGTON

One example of a potential consequence of being made to fit into the new policy structure is that Council’s substantial investment in structure planning for activity centres could be undermined or even wasted if the hierarchy of centres implied in Stonnington’s current MSS, Local Polices and Incorporated documents is made to align more closely with the hierarchy of centres outlined in Plan Melbourne when translated into the new PPF structure. This could result in Council not being able to achieve all of the currently intended policy outcomes for activity centres in Stonnington.

The introduction of code -based assessment for simple proposals is intended to eliminate much of the subjectivity and delay in decision -making. However, it could also result in some loss of planning control over issues that are important to the municipality and should be assessed against the appropriate planning provisions, e.g. liquor licensing and single dwellings on small lots (i.e. under 300m² or 500m²).

Liquor licensing can contribute to adverse impacts on residential and commercial amenity if not appropriately regulated. Therefore, proposed measures to remove liquor licensing from assessment under the planning scheme (Proposal 3.2 and Proposal 5.1 -Clause 52.27 ‘Licensed premises’) are not supported.

The inclusion of smaller lots standards as part of code assessment is not supported, especially if it could result in the loss of the assessment process against the relevant planning provisions in relation to side and rear setbacks of dwellings and upper -storey additions. This could result in unacceptable visual bulk and detrimental impact on neighbouring private open space.

Finally, we’ve uploaded an article written by Prof Michael Buxton in March this year. Whilst this preceded the publication of VC110 and the release of the current discussion paper, most of the points made remain valid.

Quite a few interesting items in the agenda papers for Tuesday night.

Item 9.3 – Visitor Parking for Residential & Mixed Use Developments

No surprises here. The recommendation is to do nothing again and wait until the Integrated Transport Strategy is completed. Part of the ‘let’s do nothing’ justification rests on council’s: acknowledge(ment) that there are planning tools available to Council to manage car parking provision but the implementation of these tools requires a lengthy planning scheme amendment process underpinned by strong strategic justification 

As a result of the above the conclusion is:

The planning scheme sets out a basis upon which to assess car parking provision for new developments in Glen Eira. Given the complex pressures the municipality is facing with population growth and the resultant traffic congestion and parking demand, a more sophisticated approach is needed. This will likely involve a move from the current ‘one size fits all’ approach and one which uses a combination of planning policy and parking overlays.

To do so requires a planning scheme amendment, and the requisite strategic justification. The current structure planning program and the upcoming Integrated Transport Strategy will form an important part in the strategic justification that is required. Once this is completed, more detailed preparation of the necessary planning tools can commence. 

Our conclusion? At least another 2 years, if not more, before any thought of parking overlay amendments are introduced – and this despite the fact that residents have been screaming about the lack of adequate parking for at least the past decade!

Item 9.5 – 282 Centre Road, Bentleigh

This involves an application to extend liquor hours to 10pm Tuesdays & Wednesdays and until 1am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There were 17 objections highlighting noise, parking, impact on residential amenity, etc. Council’s ‘solution’ was –

It is also proposed to include a new condition that advises patrons to respect the neighbours and minimise noise when leaving the premises.

We question first of all the legality of such a ‘condition’ and secondly even if legal, how effective it would be? Is this ‘condition’ merely there to placate objectors?

Item 9.8 – Harleston Park Basketball Court 

We’ve now expended further ratepayer funds on a second consultation on the proposed basketball court in Harleston Park. Again no surprises in that the recommendation is basically to ignore the majority of respondents and to go ahead with installing the court. So much for ‘community consultation’!!!!!!!

Item 9.10 – Access to Ripponlea Gardens 

A good outcome in that Glen Eira residents will now have free access to the Ripponlea Gardens area. It will however cost council $250,000 per annum over the next 3 years. We do not bemoan this funding. What should however be acknowledged is the fact that:

  • This issue is not new. Now we learn that the reason it did not come about years ago is because Council’s previous position has been that it would not provide funding.
  • Last council meeting resolved NOT to appoint extra staff to insist on building/parking/construction compliance by developers because the monies had not been budgeted for. The recommendation was do nothing until the funds are possibly made available in the 2018/19 budget. Strange then, that we now have the ability to miraculously find $250,000 for Ripponlea and don’t have to wait for another year before something eventuates!

Finally a few minor points worthy of consideration:

  • The McKinnon Basketball Association’s winning of the GESAC basketball courts allocations until April 2018. This of course begs the question of why they didn’t get their lease years ago and how much the Bob Mann group (now gone bust) might still owe council given that the ‘reason’ for the choice of the latter was that they ‘guaranteed’ up to $98,000 per annum to council.
  • Talk of ‘refreshing’ the Open space strategy but not a word about the promised increase in the levy!

Council has finally published what is supposed to be the latest version of a draft structure plan for Virginia Estate. It is anything but a comprehensive and detailed set of proposals. At the time of writing no other documentation has been forthcoming – ie no traffic report, no economic analysis of impact of surrounding businesses, no urban design guidelines, no indication of setbacks, nothing on environmental sustainability and drainage. In short, another exercise in pretty pictures (all of which fail to present one image of an 8 storey building!) and grandiose, unproven statements that ultimately boil down to spin and more spin.

All that we are told is that the prospect is for another 3000 dwellings. Since this will ultimately become a ‘development plan’ akin to what happened at Caulfield Village, we won’t hold our breaths that the final figure will remain at 3000. Remember that the MRC started out with 1100 dwellings. It is, after 2 approved development plans for the first two precincts now standing at about 2063 dwellings in total. What precinct 3 will come up with is yet to be seen. We do not see why this project will be any different!

Some changes are apparent from the July version, namely – East Boundary Road developments go from 4 storey to potentially 6 storeys; the area of 8 storey development is slightly decreased.

Finally, until council releases all of the necessary documentation, this is anything but a genuine community consultation. People can only comment once they have been provided with the necessary information. This effort fails dismally on this important step!

We’ve uploaded the full document HERE AND PRESENT BELOW THE DIAGRAM OF PROPOSED HEIGHTS.

PS: VCAT has handed down its decision on the 18 storey, 150+ student accommodation application in Derby Road, Caulfield East. A permit was refused. What is concerning however is that Monash was not opposed to the height and the member commented that anything approaching 10 or so storeys was ok. See: http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT//2017/1768.html

Officers have recommended the granting of a demolition and planning permit for 10 St Georges Road in Elsternwick. The application is for a 4 storey and 12 unit development in an area currently zoned Residential Growth Zone and is covered by a Heritage Overlay.

The report itself is remarkable. First off, we find innumerable contradictions from page to page. On page 23 of the agenda we are told that there have been 41 objections lodged. This changes to 39 objections on page 39. Next we are told (page 31) that there will be 25 car parking spaces in the underground basement. Since the proposal is for 8 three bedroom dwellings and 4 two bedroom dwellings, this should equate to 20 residential car parking spots plus 2 for visitors (at 5 per unit). We are then told that there is one shortfall in visitor car parking and that this is ‘acceptable’ from traffic management. These figures can’t both be right. Either there isn’t the provision for 25 car parking spots to begin with or someone can’t count!

The above is the mere trivia – but surely residents should be able to rely on officer reports that make sense and are accurate and non contradictory? The more important issues relate to the zoning and the actual recommendations.

HERITAGE

In the archaic 1996 Heritage Review the site is listed as ‘non-contributary’. Council’s current Heritage Advisor recommends that this be changed to ‘contributary’. We’re even told that he/she recommends that ‘Demolition of existing dwelling is discouraged’ (page 31). The Planning Department however, sees things differently and this paragraph neatly sums up council’s attitude to heritage –

Given the altered state of the existing building, its current non-contributary status, and that the replacement building will provide an additional 11 dwellings for future residents ….it is considered on balance, the demolition of the dwelling is acceptable.

Further on we get another comment that should boggle the mind – ie. a contradiction in terms – ‘modern’ versus ‘heritage’?

It is considered that the proposal has appropriately responded to the heritage context. This has been achieved proposing a modern design which does not mimic surround heritage buildings but uses materials (brick and concrete render) which reflect the surrounding buildings.

The report goes on to acknowledge that council is in the process of updating its Heritage Policy and that the building will now be classified as ‘contributary’. However, only current planning controls have statutory weight, therefore Council must consider the existing dwelling as ‘non-contributory’. Rubbish we say! Council can do what it likes as it attempted (unsuccessfully) to argue at VCAT recently regarding its future structure plans.

What should be borne in mind is that we are still waiting for a full Heritage review. Amendment C149 is only looking at existing Heritage Areas and all it will achieve is becoming a ‘reference document’ in the planning scheme. There must be countless properties that were somehow ‘missed’ in 1996. Thus for 21 years this council has been content to sit back and do absolutely nothing on Heritage.

THE RESIDENTIAL GROWTH ZONE

The fact that countless areas throughout Elsternwick, Bentleigh, and Ormond have been zoned for growth via the introduction of the residential zones in 2013, illustrates again the abysmal and shoddy planning of the time. Admittedly, council is now attempting to rezone such areas, including St. Georges. Too little, too late and granting a permit here does set a precedent. Also, we have repeatedly pointed out how many streets that are now earmarked for height reduction have already been destroyed by the number of 4 storeys contained within them. The current attempt to redress this stupidity is an admission of what a mistake the 2013 zones were!

Since there is no structure plan yet in existence, the argument presented for the heritage component remains the same. The area is zoned for 4 storeys, so it is legal and legitimate!

What is not acceptable in our view is the rationale that the planning department uses. Front setbacks are ‘reasonable’ even though ‘a mimimum setback of 8.7 metre is required to strictly comply’. Yet council is happy to accept 5.7 metres!!! Why shouldn’t developers comply ‘strictly’ with ResCode?

CONCLUSION & QUESTION

It would appear that in the battle between heritage and development the latter wins hands down. This will continue for at least another 2 to 3  years until council gets its heritage amendment up as well as its structure planning.

If council was really concerned about heritage we are certain that the recommendation could have been a refusal. At the very least this would have given time for the amendment to get up. When council is so ‘robust’ as to refuse scores and scores of applications for 2 double storeys in the Neighbourhood Residential zone, and impose these costs and time delays on applicants as they await VCAT hearings, we don’t believe that this couldn’t have happened in this case!

As a final comment, please note that the online version of the agenda was still not available at 4.30pm today. This, despite council’s promise that agendas will be available from 12pm!

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