GE Governance


The above table proves beyond doubt what an unmitigated disaster planning has been in Glen Eira and continues to be. If our suspicions of council’s intent of facilitating more and more development bears fruit then the very fabric of Glen Eira will be destroyed even further.

Here’s why:

  • Nearly a 1% increase in vacant properties
  • Instead of a projected 148,000 population in 2016, there’s only 140,000
  • Cars per household increase – and no proper parking precinct guidelines
  • Increase in family households but significant decrease in number of 3 bedroom places and even a decline in number of 2 bedroom places
  • A population increase of 10,000 but over 8000 building permits handed out in the 5 years.
  • Well above Victorian average for apartments in the municipality. Glen Eira’s buildings are composed of 24.2% for ‘semi-detached, row or terrace house, townhouse’ whilst the state average is 14.2%. In terms of ‘Flat or apartment’ Glen Eira has 24.5% and the State average is 11.6%.

Conclusions

  • There is a vast oversupply of dwellings in Glen Eira
  • Glen Eira is well and truly meeting its population growth
  • Diversity of dwellings is declining fast

Source: http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/LGA22310?opendocument

The most important page that has thus far been published by council is the following because it provides a clue as to what council is really planning and why residents across Glen Eira should be very, very concerned. Our take is that council intends to facilitate and expand development across Glen Eira – especially in those areas which happen to be close to railway stations and along major roads.

The Draft Activity Centre, Housing and Local Economy Strategy makes this absolutely clear. Here is the relevant screen dump  (page 10).  Please note the following:

  • At least 3 current Local Centres will be upgraded to Neighbourhood Centres – Patterson, Ripponlea, and Garden Vale. That means more apartments!
  • Moorabbin which is a current Neighbourhood Centre will now be a Major Activity Centre as will Glen Huntly (we acknowledge that the latter has always been seen by the Government as a Major Centre. Council has insisted on calling it a Neighbourhood Centre).
  • Caulfield and Virginia Estate are givens – just the amount of residential development is unclear. We estimate another 5000 dwellings at least on these two sites.

Council has refused to deny the possibility that properties currently zoned Neighbourhood Residential will suddenly find themselves zoned as General Residential or Residential Growth. Or those zoned as General Residential will be ‘upgraded’ to Residential Growth. Without a straight out denial, that convinces us even more that the probability of this occurring is already set in concrete. The question is how many homes will be affected? How many residents will wake up one morning to find that they can now have 11 and 13.5 metre dwellings (at best) right next door to them?

As an example of what currently exists we use Patterson as a model. Here is a map of this currently designated Local Centre. Please note that it consists of a handful of shops zoned Commercial 1, but surrounded entirely by sites zoned Neighbourhood Residential. Activity centres by definition include Neighbourhood Centres and every single activity centre contains sites zoned as either Commercial, Mixed Use, General Residential or Residential Growth Zone. They do NOT contain properties zoned Neighbourhood Residential – especially not in Glen Eira.

It is definitely time that council for once provided residents with a clear and truthful version of what is in store. A simple, unequivocal ‘no’ to our suggestion that countless properties will be rezoned to GRZ or RGZ would alleviate much angst.

One of the stated strategic objectives of the latest Community Plan promises residents that Council will Provide you with regular and transparent reports on key outcomes and on our performance.

If this is truly the objective, then why is the latest State Government Community Satisfaction Survey results buried deep on council’s website and no officer reports extolling the virtues of this council have made it onto the agenda for the past two years – in stark contrast to what was previous practice?

The answer of course is that Glen Eira is on a continuous downward spiral when it comes to residents’ perceptions of performance. The dissatisfaction with those old perennials of planning, traffic, consultation have never reached such a low ebb. Many of the results listed are below both the Metropolitan average as well as the State average for all councils.

The most important indicator in our view is the differential score between ‘importance’ and ‘performance’. In other words, how important residents regard a particular aspect of council’s work compared to the actual performance of that work. Glen Eira has never had a differential of over 30 points as this year’s survey reveals. Year after year these areas have been highlighted by responses as basically failing resident expectations. That this is still the case, and worsening, says much about how council is addressing residents’ concerns.

Below are some screen dumps of the ‘lowlights’ –

Here is a table from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recording the number of building permits granted in each municipality for the 2015/16 financial year and up to the end of April, 2017.

These figures prove conclusively that Glen Eira is the most overdeveloped municipality in the South East. As we’ve mentioned several times, Port Phillip is a very special case – ie parts zoned as Capital City status, plus a huge Commercial area (9.5%) in comparison to Glen Eira (3.1%). These figures come from the State of Play reports for the committee which reviewed the residential zones – MRDAC (Ministerial Residential Development Advisory Committee).

The figures raise countless questions that we’ve previously reported on. For instance:

  • Why, when Glen Eira is basically doubling and tripling its projected required dwelling figures to meet population growth, is there a strong possibility that council will expand the borders of its activity centres and include more sites into its GRZ or even RGZ zoning?
  • Why isn’t council screaming loud and clear about Wynne’s VC110 amendment when countless other councils are? Remember that the mandatory 2 dwellings per lot in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone is now gone and we are already seeing applications coming in for multiple dwellings in this zone? Plus the fact that the General Residential Zone will now not be seen as the area for ‘incremental’ growth, but is the target for major development? That especially hurts neighbourhood centres like Ormond, McKinnon, Bentleigh East, etc where large swathes are zoned as General Residential.
  • Why isn’t council addressing the most basic of questions – what is ‘capacity’?
  • Why isn’t council uttering a single word about ‘density’? Our calculations indicate that at the estimated population for 2016 of 148,000 people, that the municipality’s density (ie number of people per square km for land zoned as ‘residential’) will climb from approximately 3,800 per sqk to over 4,400 per sqk. How sustainable is this? How much will it cost to upgrade basic amenities such as drainage, open space, etc. And who will pay for it – developers or residents?

Another VCAT decision will not please residents in East Bentleigh. Without adequate controls developers are now going for broke. This time it is an amended permit for 669-673 Centre Road raising the height from 4 storeys to 6 and the number of apartments from 32 to 39. And once again the developer appealed to VCAT because of council’s inability to determine its decision within the prescribed 60 day limit.

We now have the utterly ridiculous situation where so called ‘neighbourhood centres’ are being granted permits that in some cases outstrip what council regards as ‘appropriate’ for its ‘urban villages’ or Major Activity Centres. The best example of this is council’s ‘approval’ of 8 storeys for the Ormond Tower (a neighbourhood centre) which is higher than its interim height limits for both Carnegie and Bentleigh.

The reasons for the permit in Bentleigh East ultimately boils down to the following – and we quote:

  • I acknowledge that a building of six storeys may have an appearance from certain views as a dominant element. This arises from the adjoining single storey development and form surrounding the site on Centre Road. However, I must also be mindful of a number of factors including:
  • There are no height controls or development overlays to guide development in the centre or to restrict the height of built form,
  • There is a five storey development under construction located to the west of the review site and other permitted developments of a range of heights within the surrounding area.
  • I am mindful that in the context of the ‘targeted approach’ to housing densities within the municipality, higher forms are contemplated and the area is changing. In the short to medium term the view of the building from the east would be larger than the adjoining buildings but this may change given the centres zoning and policy direction.
  • There is nothing in the Planning Scheme to indicate that a uniform or low building height is anticipated in this location. In a commercial centre, heights often vary. In this immediate future, this building will be one storey taller than its neighbour to its west.
  • A fair reading of the Housing Diversity Policy identifies that change is anticipated in Neighbourhood Commercial Areas such as this. It is recognised by the Planning Scheme that neighbourhood centres will provide significant opportunities for housing diversity. It further recognises that different outcomes are sought in the commercial and residential areas of neighbourhood centres. The proposed additional two levels is in keeping with the vision to provide for further housing diversity.

We remind readers that we have yet to get confirmation that council is intending to introduce structure plans for each individual neighbourhood centre, nor have any specific timelines been provided. All that has been stated is that an ‘activity centre strategy’ will eventually see the light of day. We doubt whether this ‘strategy’ will be binding on developers. In the meantime residents are paying the cost of council’s refusal to enact any meaningful legislation for the past decade.

Item 9.8 – Environmental Sustainability Measures

Sztrajt moved motion to accept ‘as printed’. Seconded by Esakoff.

SZTRAJT: began by saying that he requested the report and that he wanted to ‘ensure’ that those who are ‘building this new generation of houses’ are being ‘compliant’ with ‘our wishes’ and ‘cognisant’ of the requirements for sustainable energy sources and urban design. ‘What’s been fantastic’ is that officers reported back to him with ‘quite a large amount of detail’ about what the ‘State Government is intending’ to do. ‘Upset’ about the ‘lag time’ before the government does anything and council doesn’t have ‘any idea’ about what they will do. This means that until then, ‘we will have a significant number of developments’ that will only be ‘considering’ the ‘current guidelines’. ‘It would have been nice for Glen Eira to take the lead here’ but the ‘reality’ is that ‘for us to put forward’ any proposal ‘would in fact take just as long’ as ‘waiting for the State Government’. ‘It’s a little bit of a missed opportunity’ but ‘we simply don’t have enough time to tackle’ the issues. Council ‘has lead the way’ in ensuring that their facilities are as ‘environmentally friendly as they can be’. ‘It would have been very nice’ with all the development going on, to have something and he is ‘hoping’ that this now ‘happens across the state’. ‘It’s a shame that between now and then nothing can happen’ and he recognises the ‘purely logistic reasons why that is not possible’. Wants council to ‘revisit’ the issue once they know what the State Government is doing. Then council can decide ‘what is the right environmental’ outcome for Glen Eira and if the state government regulations ‘fall short of our standards’ then Council can move to strengthen them for the municipality.

ESAKOFF: agreed with Sztrajt but ‘given the time constraints’ she is happy to look at the government regulations when they come through and to see what council can do then to ‘bring it up to the standard that we would like it’ to be.

TAYLOR: is ‘very passionate’ about ‘enhancing’ the environment and the ‘Integrated Traffic Management’ plan can add further on carbon emissions. If council is going to tackle co2 emissions then they ‘have to be consistent’ across the board. She is ‘disappointed that we have to wait for the State Government’ but rather than proceeding ‘head long’ once the government comes up with its plan it will be ‘easier to implement’. But that doesn’t mean that ‘we can’t revise what we are doing here and now but subject to the State Government’.

MAGEE: stated that on his recent visit to Hanover (Germany) nobidy parks their cars in apartments. It is automatically parked ‘millimetres’ from each other and takes about 42 seconds for people to retrieve their cars. This is also more ‘environmentally friendly’ because ‘there’s no lighting down there’ so if it’s all mechanical there’s also no airconditioning and electricity costs are lower. Melbourne hasn’t seen this yet. There are also trains ‘every 2 minutes’. And ‘visitor car parking isn’t considered there’ because they ‘can fit them’. He wants to see ‘things like that coming through our planning schemes’.

SZTRAJT: said there are 2 options before councillors. One is to ‘ask officers’ to do the work on an amendment for which ‘there is clearly no benefit in us doing’

MOTION PUT AND CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

COMMENT

The most farcical aspect of the above ‘debate’ is that council has numerous times used the argument that ‘no, we can’t do that because the outcome could be worse’. Now we get the reverse – ie if the State Government amendments don’t come up to our (non-existent) standards, then we will introduce more stringent ones! On what basis does Sztrajt, Esakoff and Taylor believe that the minister will allow more stringent rules that limit developer’s options or cost them more? And what if council suddenly has a ‘born again’ conversion after the State Government’s announcements – how long will it take them to get things started? Another two years? Three years?

Clearly this is a council which has no standards, no objectives on the environment and no will to act in an environmentally responsible fashion for the benefit of the entire community. The only benefit is for developers. If it were otherwise then council would act immediately on amending its schedules to the zones by increasing the permeability requirement across the board as well as increasing the open space requirements across the board. Introducing a minimum lot size subdivision would also be of great benefit. There is absolutely no reason why these changes cannot be done now.

PS: As for ‘progress’ in Glen Eira, we recommend that readers have a read of one of our previous posts on Environmental Sustainability Measures. The refrain since at least 2008 has been the same! – https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/how-green-is-my-council/

In the ‘community participation’ segment of Tuesday night’s council meeting, one resident got up and said that ‘large trees’ are being taken down by developers before they put in their applications. The resident claimed that two large trees in Hamilton Street Bentleigh had been removed prior to the planning permit application and that he had sent an email to council ‘asking for them to be considered as significant trees’ but hadn’t got any response. He wanted to know ‘how do I go about’ having someone from council ‘come and have a look at it’. Delahunty answered that ‘council currently doesn’t have any tree protection on private land’. Only when someone has applied for a planning permit can council start assessing whether or not there is any ‘significant vegetation’ on the property.  Delahunty went on to say that ‘unfortunately at the moment there is no ability for us to protect those trees‘. The resident then wanted it confirmed that ‘there’s nothing we can do’. The developer will cut down the trees ‘and they will be gone’ before he puts in the planning application. Delahunty then asked Torres to ‘detail’ the planning scheme’s ‘anti-moonscaping provision’.

TORRES: said that ResCode allows councils to ‘consider significant vegetation’ that are removed ‘in the past 12 months prior to lodging’ the application and that there are ‘principles around that in not granting a development advantage’.

DELAHUNTY: said that ‘that doesn’t necessarily address what you are talking about’.

RESIDENT: said that the property up for decision that night had a ‘big tree removed’ from there and wanted to know ‘what can be done about that?’

DELAHUNTY: passed this onto Torres and said that she didn’t ‘realise’ that there were any trees involved and that councillors didn’t have any information on that. In the end answered that ‘nothing’ can be done.

DAVEY: asked ‘what can we do?’

DELAHUNTY: said that ‘previously council has considered a significant tree register’ and that many other councils have one. Also that this is something they will ‘consider’ in the future.

RESIDENT: asked ‘how do we go about the process’ for getting council to ‘consider that again?’

DELAHUNTY: said she is a ‘big fan’ of a significant tree register. It’s been part of the last Community Plan but wasn’t ‘enacted at council’. ‘We will have to kick off a Local Law Review’ and that’s when they will start to ‘look at this very seriously’.

HYAMS: asked Torres about ‘this moonscaping development’ how council knows whether large trees are gone before the application comes in?

TORRES: said council has ‘detailed aerial photography’. Plus they get ‘information from the community as well’.

HYAMS: asked the resident when the tree was removed.

RESIDENT: answered that it was removed ‘just before the planning application’ went in on the property.

HYAMS: ‘so theoretically, our officers would have taken that into account’ in writing up their recommendations for the development.

RESIDENT: ‘it’s not been listed on the plans at all’. ‘so it’s just bad luck and they can do what they like’. Said this ‘doesn’t give’ him any ‘hope for the future for the place across the road’. Went on to describe how since all the palm trees along Nicholson St had been removed, the birds are now using these trees in Hamilton and if they go, then there’s nowhere for them.

DELAHUNTY: said she would have ‘another look’ at the aerial shots and ‘maybe it wasn’t significant’

RESIDENT: said the tree was ‘absolutely enormous’.

DELAHUNTY: thanked the resident and said ‘that’s interesting’.

 

COMMENT

The above ‘discussion’ highlights everything that is suspect about planning in Glen Eira. Apart from the fact that time after time the possibility of a tree register has been defeated by the likes of Esakoff, Lipshutz, Magee, Okotel and Lobo, we find Hyams doing his best ‘public relations’ performance by implying that council officers ‘would have taken into account’ the missing tree in their permit deliberations. It’s very strange then that the officer’s report states – There are no significant trees on the site that would be affected by the proposed development. Thus, did the planning department even bother to visit the site? Did they actually view these ‘aerial photos’. Even a quick search on Google shows large trees across both properties in the application!

Perhaps Hyams and the planning department should be made to answer this very simple question – how many times in the past ten years has council refused to grant a permit on the basis that a tree has been removed? Or even, how many times has the applicant been forced to amend his planning application to encourage the planting of a new tree in the exact same spot that the butchery occurred?

It would also be fascinating to know whether, and how much, council fined Jewish Care over the Wahgoo fiasco when overnight the bulldozers moved in and destroyed nearly 90 trees (including 4 designated as ‘significant’) prior to a permit being granted?

We also need to question why the emphases is on the Local Law (not due for renewal until 2019) and not ensuring that tree protection is part of the Planning Scheme itself. Local laws have far less weight than a provision in the planning scheme. The fact that something is in the Planning Scheme also ensures that residents have objection rights and can go to VCAT if they so decide. Depending how the Local Law is written, there may not be any objection rights whatsoever! Nor would residents have to wait 2 years for the law to be reviewed. An amendment could be started immediately – that is, if council really had the will. A simple copying from other councils should not take too much officer time!

Davey’s question is also disappointing. Doesn’t she really know what is possible? Doesn’t she work for Boroondara which has a tree protection policy? Or is she playing Dorothy Dix here? Either way, after 8 months as a councillor, and a Green, surely she should be aware of the options? Boroondara even allows the ordinary Joe Blow to nominate a tree for the register – https://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/waste-environment/trees-and-naturestrips/nominate-tree-recognition-and-protection

Plus there’s also this latest move from a resident in Bayside to protect her peppercorn trees once the property is sold to a developer – See: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/inner-south/bayside-council-lists-sandringhams-susan-st-peppercorns-on-their-protective-significant-tree-register/news-story/c8b1172df081b566ba92cb903a05bcb7

New councillors have overall been most disappointing. Goes to show how promises to represent the community all too often and quickly disappear into thin air once elected. Much can and should be happening right now. All it takes is for 5 councillors to have the gumption to get up, move a resolution and have it passed. Of course that would require Glen Eira joining every other council in the state and having what it known as a Notice of Motion – repeatedly defeated by the likes of Lipshutz, Hyams, Okotel, Esakoff, Ho and Tang.

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