GE Council Meeting(s)


Another disappointing VCAT decision for 33-35 Belsize Avenue Carnegie. This consolidated site runs across both the GRZ and RGZ (ie 3 and 4 storey) current zoning. The applicant got his permit for these heights and 29 dwellings.

Council’s draft structure plans featured this area south of Neerim Road as being ‘downgraded’ to double storey. This decision is simply another nail in the coffin for council’s plans – exacerbated even further by the request for another year’s extension on structure planning and the interim height guidelines. By 2019, we can only speculate as to how many other such developments will occur in these streets!

Below is what the member had to say about council’s plans and their current ‘value’.

Source: http://www7.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT//2017/1399.html

There has been some recent attempt by Council to manage this rate of change including the introduction of interim height controls and the preparation of a draft concept plan. I was provided with a copy of the Carnegie Draft Concept Plans and Carnegie Background Report-Building Transition Plan both dated July 2017. These documents propose side-by-side townhouse style development of 1-2 storey scale for all of Belsize Avenue and surrounds, other than along Neerim Road where terrace/ townhouse development of 2-3 storeys is contemplated. The document states that:

Carnegie has experienced a significant transformation in recent years with apartment developments being constructed in traditionally low scale areas. Current policy supports dense apartment developments with little consideration for the area’s existing character. The scale, rate of change and quality of new building stock are all issues that have been raised through consultation.

The Building Transition Plan looks to limit the amount of four storey apartment buildings in the long residential streets of established homes in Carnegie.

Ms Maude expressed concern that if the future changes set out above are implemented that the proposal before me will stand in complete contrast to the new planning framework. I find this strategic work is in its very early stages and cannot be given weight as a seriously entertained planning proposal. I cannot speculate as to future changes in planning policy and must apply the current planning scheme that seeks increased development throughout the urban village with the scale and intensity generally guided by the differentiation between the zones. I must apply the planning scheme as I find it.

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Apologies for this long, long post. It concerns the agenda for Tuesday night’s council meeting. There are many items that deserve comment – some good, some bad, and some particularly atrocious and misleading!

THE GOOD

After years and years of complaint regarding council’s lack of transparency and accountability, there does appear to be some movement at the station –

  • Item 9.8 recommends a tender be decided for telecasting both ordinary and special council meetings. We certainly welcome this and hope that those councillors who previously opposed such a move will now vote in favour. One proviso however is that no mention is made of when this will be up and running (if voted in).
  • For the first time there is now a running sheet of motions to be put forward at the MAV state conference – including how council will vote on the various motions. Previously these were all decided behind closed doors, so again a welcome new initiative. However, we also note that the rationale behind council’s position on many of these motions has not been included.
  • Another item features the review of the Community Engagement Policy. One important advance is the promise to ‘monitor’ and ‘evaluate’ the outcomes. For some unknown reason however, the actual policy is not included in the online agenda!

THE BAD

The most important item for this section is council’s application for an extension on the interim height amendments for Bentleigh and Carnegie. The current amendment expires on December 31st 2017. Council is now requesting a one year extension. What this basically means is that residents will not have the structure planning work completed and gazetted for the major activity centres until at least mid 2019! Worth remembering is that there is not even any ‘interim’ protection for Elsternwick! Further, no mention is made of the current neighbourhood centres – these could be waiting well into the 2020’s! Our concern is that with the constant delays more and more development will occur that will undermine the very objectives of the structure planning work itself. For example: it will be very hard to argue for a 5 storey mandatory height limit when countless buildings already exceed this height and which leaves the door open for similar developments over the next 2 to 5 years. What is certain is that if development continues as it has, especially in neighbourhood centres, then any attempt to rein in development will be that much harder if not impossible!

The above leads onto questioning council’s whole approach to their planning process – namely:

  • Why has it taken til now for those in power to realise that council’s approach to consultation has only now become ‘tangible’ to residents? What does this imply about the intent of the ‘consultation’? We have remarked previously on the lack of detail provided, the lack of strategic justification provided, the lack of genuine reporting of community feedback. From the first stage we have queried the validity of council’s approach – ie asking questions such as ‘what do you love about your shopping strip’ only serves to focus residents’ attention on the commercial strip itself. It does not guarantee that feedback will focus on the primary issues of development, open space, traffic, infrastructure, etc. As an example of what should have been done, and could have been done, readers may find the following screen dumps informative. They come from the Banyule consultation on Fairfield. Please note that the same consultants were used by Glen Eira. The difference in approach is staggering. Why is it that for the Banyule consultation this company included direct questions on height, traffic, etc. and in Glen Eira none of these queries were specifically included in the initial consultation. Surely the only reason to explain this is the brief provided to the consultants! In other words, hired guns again doing council’s bidding!

 

   

 

 

Plus some screen dumps of the initial ‘consultation’ processes employed in Banyule. Compare this with what Glen Eira did!

  • Given the amount of work required why has it taken over a year to advertise for an additional 4 planning staff (ie consecutive ads over 2 weeks). And this is on top of continued planning applications, VCAT appeals, etc. and council repeatedly bemoaning the fact that they have been inundated with applications and that more and more cases end up at VCAT. This trend has been evident since the introduction of the zones but it has taken 4 years to act!
  • Making matters even worse is item 9.2 in the agenda. For a ‘simple’ 2 double storey application in Thomas St, East Brighton, council couldn’t reach a decision in the required 60 days. This, despite the fact that they admit the following – The application was lodged on 28 November 2016. The application was advertised from 27 April until 15 May 2017 and 1 objection was received. The applicant lodged an appeal at VCAT on 6 September 2017 against Council’s failure to make a decision within 60 statutory days. Our sympathies to the developer in this instance since it is unfathomable why such an application should take forever to finalise! Of course, this means more money spent by ratepayers at VCAT! Please note we are not commenting on the merit of the application – merely on the unbelievable time lines.
  • We also observe that in the past year or so the number of refusals for 2 double storeys in the NRZ has gone through the roof. Invariably, our analysis indicates that in over 95% of cases that end up at VCAT, the applicant gets his 2 dwellings!
  • The only ‘positive’ out of all this is that council has at least had the good grace to publicly admit how inept it has been – there has been community feedback regarding the overall process including:
    • Requests for city-wide dwelling forecasts that inform the structure planning
    • Improved communication to all residents and landowners within the study area for the next stage of engagement
    • An appropriate level of detail for best consideration of positive and negative impacts of the proposals

Ensure the next round of consultation period allows affected parties enough time to read through the released information in detail, attend information sessions and provide a response to Council.

Surely this should have been a given right from the start? 

THE UGLY

The ‘ugly’ aspect of this agenda is council’s continued inability to reveal the truth in an honest and upfront manner. Instead we are presented with the usual spin and misleading statements designed to basically cover up what actually happened. Here is the offending extract –

We have commented on this issue previously, (see: https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/inept-or-indifferent/) but will repeat the evidence which shows beyond any shadow of a doubt that:

  • Senior officers knew of this ‘error’ back in July 2013
  • That from the department’s point of view this was not an ‘error’ but a required trade off for the introduction of the residential zones
  • Council also knew that at least one case went to VCAT where the developer tried to use this clause to his advantage (unsuccessfully).
  • To now turn around and claim that this ‘error’ has only been ‘recently’ discovered is a blatant lie! Even if Akehurst and Camera (the ‘architects’ of the residential zones) are now gone, Torres is still at council as are many other senior planners. Where is corporate memory? Why can’t council simply admit the truth?

Council’s response to a public question asked at the last council meeting continues the tradition of – (a) not answering what was specifically asked; (b) revealing only half of the story, and (c) resorting to a plethora of meaningless motherhood statements.

We ask readers to especially focus on the highlighted sections in the following image. The question asked two specific things – why all of council’s documentation largely failed to take into account the development potential of Caulfield Village and Virginia Estate AND why council is proposing the expansion of our activity centres and hence more development when council is already well and truly surpassing its housing targets.

THE ‘ANSWER’

  • Council refers to the current planning scheme. Well the current planning scheme which is so out of date it is irrelevant states clearly that: there will be a need to plan for the additional 6,000 dwellings which are predicted for Glen Eira by 2021 as well as encouraging a more diverse housing stock (Department of Infrastructure, 1999, Victoria in Future).
    Not a word about 9000 or 2031!
  • Council then conflates the consultant’s Housing Study with Victoria in Future 2016. Far more damning however is the deliberate omission of some vital information. Here are the Victoria in Future projections where the 9000 additional dwellings is to be found in the time span from 2016 to 2031. Even these figures result in an average new dwellings per year of 642. Glen Eira’s average is practically triple this.
  • Nowhere in the housing study is the figure of 9000 mentioned. In fact, we’re told that in 2013 the available land promised 87 years of growth, but as of now this has been reduced to only 37 years. Are we therefore to conclude that development in Glen Eira has been so dramatic and drastic that in the space of 4 short years developers have gobbled up 50 years worth of previously available land? If so, then what does this say about our rate of development and the need for more development?
  • We might also ask what is the motive behind the use of the word ‘just’? Does this mean that according to council the projected housing growth is barely achieving what it must and this is the ‘excuse’ for facilitating more development? Where is the data to support such an outrageous claim?
  • Further the entire statement ignores what has been happening prior to 2016 and the amount of new dwellings that have already occurred in Glen Eira. Here are the figures for building approvals from 2011 to 2016 –
  • 2011/12 – 912
  • 2012/13 – 957
  • 2013/14 – 1,231
  • 2014/15 – 1,786
  • 2015/16 – 1,680
  • 2016/17 – 1991

That makes a grand total of 8557 in the space of 6 years. Victoria in Future 2016 projections are 13,000 from 2011 to 2031 – again reinforcing the fact that Glen Eira is capable of meeting its housing needs with an average of 650 dwellings per year. Even if this years Victoria in Future increases the number of projected dwellings needed, we maintain that Glen Eira remains well and truly ahead of the pack in the development game.

  • As for the 10 hectares of land now claimed to be ‘saved’ from 4 storey development it would be far more credible if council actually calculated how much land in the current RGZ areas was already chocka-block full of four storeys. Perhaps that would leave only 6 or 5 or 4 hectares that are now ‘saved’?
  • The most unbelievable statement is – the issue is not just about numbers. Surely it is the numbers that determine the required extent of new development? Surely it is the numbers that determine whether activity centre borders need to be doubled in size? Surely it is numbers that determine whether or not the municipality requires 12 storeys of mainly residential development in order to play its fair share in accommodating population growth? And the most important question – if structure planning is meant to apportion appropriate land use outcomes, then numbers are integral to decisions on where, how much, how high, and can the municipality cope with these numbers?
  • Please also note the failure to respond to the issue of Caulfield Village and Virginia Estate. With another potential 5000 dwellings to go up, then ‘first principles’ means nothing. Again, its back to numbers.

The really sad aspect of such a response is that councillors allowed this to go out in their name without a murmur. Do they really understand what is going on and have they heard the growing public resentment?

How much more public money is about to go down the drain because council refuses to accept the outcome of its first round of ‘consultation’ on the proposed redevelopment of Harleston Park? A million dollars was the original planned expenditure for this single park. We are now about to enter another phase of ‘consultation’ if the recommendations are voted through next Tuesday night.

We estimate that close to 90% of resident feedback was against the creation of a basketball area in the park. The vast majority of comments wanted to maintain the park’s passive atmosphere. So what does council do? Does it listen? It recommends a smaller ‘three point’ basketball court in a different spot. No dimensions are given and no comment is made on resident objections to the lurid blue originally suggested. Nor is there any evidence provided that a smaller court will create less noise or less conflict with passive areas.

This entire project raises innumerable  issues:

  • Why does every single park need to be a duplicate of each other – ie. some comments compared the proposals to what has been created in Booran Reserve. We also note that the Australian Standards do endorse that parks should differ and suit the local community. Glen Eira’s ‘interpretation’ of this comes via this paragraph – Public open spaces are a shared community asset. Living in proximity to parks does not afford residents greater rights over the use and development of these spaces than the wider community.
  • Why does council insist on spending a fortune on concrete plinths, so that again and again there is this ‘standardised’ look for all our open spaces?
  • Why can’t council publish concept plans that are legible and clear – which they certainly aren’t in the agenda papers?

We also challenge many of the comments included in the officer report. For example: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles do not suggest lighting necessarily improves safety, and in some cases it may attract people to use the park later in the evening and night. This is not an intended outcome of the project and as such lighting has not been included – consistent with the status quo. 

If this is indeed the case then why has council spent millions upon lighting in so many of our parks – ie Princes Park, Allnutt Park to name just a few. More importantly, both the Victorian Police and Planning Vic recommend park lighting – ie Proper maintenance of landscaping, lighting treatment and other features can assist in the prevention of crime. (http://www.police.vic.gov.au/content.asp?document_id=10444)

AND

OBJECTIVE 4.3

To ensure lighting is carefully integrated to further enhance visibility and natural surveillance of parks and open spaces. (https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/4631/Safer_Design_Guidelines.pdf)

The bottom line is that the community has been asked for its opinion and they have spoken. Council however is unwilling to accept the majority view based on this report. Possibly this will become another Caulfield Conservatory fiasco where 3 ‘consultations’ were undertaken.

Our position is: –

  • Allow diversity and uniqueness. Don’t clone each park into a pale imitation of each other
  • Give greater emphases to ‘passive’ and ‘green open space’
  • Stop spending a fortune for unnecessary works
  • Stop filling our parks with tons of concrete
  • Develop a playground policy that establishes expected work and budgets
  • And most important – listen to the community!

PS: We are in error. The site is zoned Commercial so technically ResCode does not apply. However, this still doesn’t obviate the need to assess applications against Section 58 of the Planning Scheme.

Another mammoth agenda (in paper weight) of mumbo-jumbo that would fit exceedingly well into any episode of Utopia. Until officer reports become truthful and provide detailed justifications for all recommendations, then good governance in Glen Eira is well and truly dead.  Here is our first example of what can literally only be called devious or incompetent – the rest to follow in the days ahead!

Planning Report

One application is for 4 storeys in Tucker Road, McKinnon. The Tangalakis recommendation is to grant a permit but for 3 storeys instead of the 4. What is totally unforgiveable in this report comes from page 73, where we find this paragraph –

Amenity impacts

There will be overshadowing of the rear open space of the neighbouring property immediately to the south, however State Government requirements remain silent in relation to the overshadowing of neighbouring properties. They makes specific reference to overlooking impacts, but does not provide detailed requirements for overshadowing compliance

Apart from the shoddy grammar and lack of proof reading, this statement is blatantly untrue! ResCode via Planning Practice Note 27 does have very specific criteria for overshadowing as well as overlooking! (see below). Only two conclusions are therefore possible. Either the planner is entirely incompetent and does not know or understand the planning legislation, or this is a deliberate attempt to mislead. Either way, it is unacceptable.

Council never fails to surprise when it comes to open space. The announcement that they have purchased a site in Neerim Road, Carnegie is, in our view, a mixed blessing indeed. Whilst we have consistently argued that it is Carnegie that requires a huge investment of funding for open space, we also query the motives behind this purchase.

Residents have been repeatedly told that council’s rationale for all its open space endeavours is based on the 2014 Open Space Strategy. Well, unfortunately, this particular purchase is at odds with what the OSS recommends. The ‘expert’ recommendations were for the purchase of land on the WEST SIDE of Koornang Road. This property is on the east. See the two images below –

Points to consider:

  • Will this purchase become the $3.61 million reason to ram through the sell of council’s carpark and set the stage for 8 storey developments?
  • Neerim Road itself is hardly a ‘pedestrianised’ street. It is full of high density dwellings already. Thus access from Neerim Road itself would certainly be limited
  • Residents on the south side of Neerim are also ‘disadvantaged’ given that the OSS decries the creation of open space that necessitates the crossing of major roads.
  • The crucial question of course is what does all this say about council’s intention to first listen to the community and then to act on the community’s views. If this sizeable amount of money has already been signed off, then what prospect is there that if the community doesn’t agree with the sell off and ‘repurposing’ of council land, that residents will be listened to? Or is 600 square metres in the most noisy, and inaccessible position, plus being overshadowed by 8 storey dwellings, all that residents can hope for?
  • Finally we again question the consistency and value of any council ‘policy’ when it can function to justify any decision when council so pleases, and then be ignored – also at council’s whim and hidden agendas!

Not for the first time does it appear that those residents living in Camden ward are for more ‘privileged’ than those living in other parts of Glen Eira.  In the Records of Assembly minutes we find that council has been considering creating open space in Long Street, Elsternwick. We also assume that this was the item discussed at the closed August 2nd Special Council Meeting for which no minutes have as yet appeared!

We unequivocally support the creation of new open space. Thus far however, Camden ward has been the major beneficiary of council funds expended. Here is the list of very questionable ‘purchases’ or the mega bucks spent on under-utilised and in our view, totally inappropriate placements –

  • Aileen Avenue house for $2.1 million which is currently rented and a stone’s throw from Princes Park
  • Closing off of street between Eskdale and Fitzgibbon –another stone’s throw from Caulfield Park
  • Elsternwick Plaza – continued problems with ‘paving’ and tons of concrete
  • Proposed $1m ‘development’ of Harleston Park – meeting with strong community opposition

Now we have another proposal we assume to purchase a property in Long Street. As the map below reveals this is barely 500 metres from Harleston Park!!!! Hence the following questions:

  • Why is Camden Ward the flavour of the month when Carnegie in particular is crying out for additional open space given its continued over-development?
  • What kind of ‘business plan’ accompanies these proposals? Why is nothing published by council to justify the expenditure of millions in Camden?
  • What vested interests are possibly at play here?
  • Why isn’t the available funds spread where it is most needed, or at least equitably?

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