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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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The following screen dumps feature land currently for sale. Most are within ‘neighbourhood centres’ and one is in Elsternwick. Council is now asking for a year’s extension on its interim heights amendment, with no clear dates set for its neighbourhood centres structure plans where plenty of development is occurring. The future is writ large in these shots!

 

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?

The ABS has today released its figures for building approvals for the months of July and August, 2017. They have also updated their data for the 2016/17 financial year. Glen Eira’s numbers for the past financial year were upgraded to 2021 building permits granted.

Please consider the table below. Glen Eira is now not only the biggest development municipality in the south east, but is winning hands down for the Northern suburbs alone. If the current rate continues, then Glen Eira will well and truly surpass another 2000 net new dwellings per year!

We have uploaded the full Excel spread sheet HERE

Readers may also find the suburb analysis of interest as well (uploaded HERE). Please note that Bentleigh-McKinnon is now far ahead of Carnegie. Quite incredible considering that McKinnon is merely a poor old neighbourhood centre in council’s heirarchy and Bentleigh is supposed to have only ‘minimal’ growth according to the structure planning documentation. The bottom line remains, we believe, that land zoned GRZ provides easier and cheaper pickings for developers – and McKinnon, Ormond have plenty of land zoned GRZ. Our prediction, unless zoning changes dramatically, is that these figures only represent the tip of the ice-berg and more and more development will be focused in our neighbourhood centres – especially since council has not provided any timelines for addressing this crucial issue or providing any information as to its intentions for these suburbs!

Source: http://www.dtf.vic.gov.au/Infrastructure-Delivery/Victorian-Government-land-sales/Recent-sales-history

The above image details recent government sales.  In this instance, we highlight crown land that has been zoned under ‘education’. The site at 100 Queens Avenue is a single storey building (primarily computer labs) plus an adjacent car park that has been there for eons.  Questions abound:

  • Why was the land sold?
  • Who bought the land? and
  • If it is Monash, then why on earth spend $8m for a quarter of a hectare?
  • Or is the buyer a private developer?
  • And if a private developer, does this mean high, high rise residential?
  • How much does council know?
  • Why the total lack of transparency, discussion?
  • What will this now be rezoned to?
  • What role has the vpa played in all of this?
  • Exactly how much do our elected representatives know?
  • What are the implications for the adjoining open space? Will this be flogged off too?
  • How many storeys are required to recoup a reasonable profit on $8m?
  • Finally, as a worst case scenario, is the MRC involved in any way?

Until facts are forthcoming then residents have every right to be concerned about the lack of transparency at all levels of government!

Source: https://vpa.vic.gov.au/project/caulfield-station-precinct/

The issue of density has received very little attention from our planners and from councillors as a whole. Yet it is crucial to an understanding of what is happening and what is forecast. Remember that Glen Eira is already one of the densest municipalities in the state and it would seem that council is gearing up for even more!

According to Victoria in Future, 2016 Glen Eira’s density (persons per square km) was 3,544 based on 2011 Census figures. If we look at the 2016 Census data this figure has now risen to 3,621 per square km across the entire municipality. What these figures don’t tell us is ‘residential density’ – that is, the number of persons per square km of residentially zoned land. This measure provides a far more realistic reflection of liveability and ‘capacity’ for that matter. It also reveals those areas that are probably under extreme pressure in terms of infrastructure, traffic, etc.

Our figures are based on the State Government’s spatial mapping facility and date from soon after the introduction of the residential zones in August 2013. Since this time there have been plenty of changes to industrial zoned land to either Mixed Use or Commercial. These latter zonings allow residential development as opposed to the former ‘industrial’ zoning. Hence, our figures are in all likelihood an underestimation of what is the current situation.

Our calculation of ‘residentially zoned land’ includes the following – Commercial 1; Mixed Use; Neighbourhood Residential (NRZ); GRZ ; RGZ. Parks, roads, public utilities, etc. have been excluded. We concentrate exclusively on land that is deemed suitable for ‘residential’.

Our analysis reveals several fascinating results that are a major cause for concern.

  • Many of our ‘neighbourhood centres’ are the densest in the municipality – some exceeding the so called major activity centres (ie McKinnon, Ormond, Caulfield North, Murrumbeena).
  • If this is indeed the case, then it reveals again the disaster of the 2013 zoning where developers exploited the zoning in these smaller centres rather than the major activity centres (apart from Carnegie that is).
  • Yet, when work on these neighbourhood centres will be completed is anyone’s guess. In the meantime the zoning remains and that means more development if current trends continue.
  • There is absolutely no excuse for council not to address the zoning in these neighbourhood centres – especially if the plan is to increase the potential for more development in the major activity centres.

BENTLEIGH

In 2013 Bentleigh had 4,123,990 square metres of residentially zoned land. Converted to square km, this equals 4.123 square km or 412.39 hectares. The 2016 census tells us that Bentleigh’s current population stands at 16,153. That means that Bentleigh has a residential density of –3,917 per sq.km

The same process has been used for the following neighbourhood centes –

ORMOND

1,793,474 sq.m of residentially zoned land converts to 1.793 SQ.KM. Population is 8417 = 4,694 PERSONS PER SQUARE KM

MCKINNON

1,392, 499 = 13.92 square km – 6064 POPULATION = 4,356 PERSONS PER SQUARE KM

MURRUMBEENA

2,237,382  – 22.27 sq.km – 9926 POPULATION = 4457 PERSONS PER SQUARE KM

CAULFIELD NORTH

3,798,341 = 3.798 SQ.KM = 15269 POPULATION = 4,020 PERSONS PER SQUARE KM

This data flies in the face of council’s past strategic planning. And it should have been obvious 12 months into the new zones. When huge swathes of our neighbourhood centres are zoned for 3 storeys, why wouldn’t developers go for these areas instead of the more expensive and problematic commercial zoning in the major activity centres? Leaving neighbourhood centre planning to the end is not a solution – not whilst more and more development is occurring in these centres.

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