GE Open Space


Another great turnout by residents of approximately 100 people. Again butcher paper, facilitator and Aiden Mullen presenting the background, current status and promised future work. There was however about an hour of questions that interrupted Mullin’s presentation. We note once again that the magic words of 12 storey high potential developments were eventually admitted through gritted teeth!

Councillors in attendance: Delahunty, Silver, Sztrajt and Athanasopoulos

Here are a mere sample of the questions asked by residents and the ‘answers’

RESIDENT #1 – One resident asked for hands up from residents, developers, and state government agencies. The vast majority were residents

RESIDENT #2 – When Mullin put up the slide of the Vision for Elsternwick, which still included the word ‘village’, this resident interrupted and stated ‘I am quite frankly struggling to relate that vision plan to the concept plan’. Said that all council’s thinking and what’s presented in the concept plans ‘doesn’t seem’ to endorse the vision statement. Mullin answered that it’s about ‘maintaining that strong cultural and heritage feel’. Mullin then went on with the rest of the presentation – ie spoke about bike connections, and an ‘integrated rail precinct’ and parking ‘opporunities, particularly along Orrong Road’. Said that the ‘fundamental change’ would be ‘creating a new cultural precinct’ near the cinema and ABC studios. Plus the library ‘could be relocated’ to this new precinct. Also said that ‘council’s carparks could have a role in providing more office’ space and employment opportunities (aka flogging off council land to developers is our take on this).

RESIDENT 3 – another resident interrupted and wanted Mullin to explain what ‘community benefit’ means. Mullin responded by saying that Glen Eira is a ‘diverse community’ but developers only build one sort of dwelling – ie 1 or 2 bedroom or double storey attached in the NRZ. ‘The market’ doesn’t do ‘affordable housing, aged care’ and student accommodation and ‘medium density family type housing’. Said that on ‘counciul owned land we can have a lot more control on that’. Resident then wanted to know whether this land would be ‘given to the developer and they produce it’? Mullin responded that there’s a ‘whole range’ of ways this could be done. Resident then persisted with ‘selling council land’ and Mullin answered ‘that is one option’ but that nothing has been decided as yet. The objective is to ‘get something in’ that ‘meets community needs that isn’t being met at the moment’.

RESIDENT 4 – When Mullin outlined that the car park had an 11 storey permit next to it, another resident stated that ‘an 11 storey building doesn’t set a precedent for what is right in terms of development’. Went on to say that ‘someone who wrote these plans missed the church’ and a scout hall both ‘historic buildings’ but the plans have building heights of 8 storeys so ‘what is going to happen to that church’? Wanted Mullin to ‘please explain to me, how does that work out’? Mullin then said ‘I’m trying to get through the presentation and the resident repeated that he would like an answer. When Mullin again said that he wanted to continue with his presentation the resident stated that the evening was about residents asking questions and getting answers from those people who put the plans together. Mullin said that his aim was to ‘take you through to how we got to’ this stage and get your feedback. It’s up to residents to then decide if they ‘agree’. Mullin went on to say that people didn’t want apartment buildings in residential streets and council ‘really’ wanted to protect heritage and the neighbourhood character overlays and these are currently zoned for 4 storeys. Stated that a vcat decision for 8 storeys was given recently in a heritage overlay and vcat is saying that if you ‘lock everything down it has to go elsewhere’. Council was trying to ‘get a better mix’ in housing and in the commercial areas a better mix of employment opportunities like ‘office’.

RESIDENT 5 – said there was no single storeys being built and there was a strong need for this. Wanted to know why this wasn’t in the plans. Mullen said this is because people are trying to ‘protect back yards’ and that with council’s plans for the townhouses they are trying to ensure that ‘living is on groundfloor’.

Mullen went on to say that ‘you can’t lock down everything’ because if ‘won’t get approved by the Minister’. So council is protecting heritage but saying that along the railway line and Nepean Highway this can ‘accommodate’ ‘taller buildings’ which will have an ‘office’ and ‘allow for employment’. This area would be 6-8 storeys but if there was ‘community benefit’ this could be ‘additional car parking’, ’employment’, ‘diverse housing’. The strategic sites ‘can accommodate height behind the shops’.

RESIDENT 6: said that ‘our little court’ disappears from the concept plans but council has ‘rezoned that area’ to ‘be 6 storeys’. Wanted to know why previously it was 4 storeys and now capable of a potential 6 storeys. Repeated that ‘this is in a court and we’re not on Glen Huntly Road’. Mullin answered that he would be ‘happy to discuss’ the matter with the resident afterwards.

CONCLUSIONS?

Once again residents are presented with spin and more spin and no detail, no strategic justifications for anything, and no honest to goodness data. We remind readers that at the Bentleigh forum when asked how many properties were being rezoned to accommodate higher development, Mullen stated that the data would be provided. It is yet to make an appearance!!!!!

Nor have we had a single word to justify why 12 storeys is fair and reasonable. Why not 6 storeys, or 7 storeys, etc. On what basis is the figure of 12 storeys plucked from the air?

There is much, much more that could be said. We will simply reiterate our conviction that decisions are already set in concrete and that these forums have been nothing more than a public relations exercise designed to meet state recommendations for ‘community consultation’ when doing structure planning.

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!

The Elsternwick draft concept plans are ‘interesting’ to say the least.  First off there is the admission how badly this council and its zones architects stuffed up in 2013. When an activity centre has so many areas covered by Heritage Overlays, Newton, Akehurst, Hyams, Delahunty, Magee and Esakoff, all saw fit to go ahead and allow these areas to be zoned as Residential Growth Zone (RGZ). Thankfully the current plans attempt to redress this incompetence. However, they do a lot more ‘damage’ elsewhere in another example of clearing the ground for major high rise development!

Here is a summary of what is proposed –

  • As with Carnegie, the central shopping strip will have 3-4 storey (orange) but some of this strip will allow 8 storeys directly behind Glen Huntly Road (ie Sinclair and Beavis Streets) which abut heritage areas. Thus like Carnegie, heritage areas will be overshadowed by anything up to 8 storeys.
  • Several heritage sites along Nepean Highway will be, as with Carnegie, directly overshadowed by 12 storeys
  • The ‘borders’ of the activity centre have, like Bentleigh, mushroomed out to practically double the size – now extending to Glen Eira Road.
  • Ripon Grove and Gordon Street will now also become 8 storeys (from the current 4 storeys) and once more they sit alongside Heritage areas.
  • The most startling changes will occur all along Horne Street to Nepean Highway. These sites can now become 12 storeys – again encircling previous NRZ zones that are now upgraded to 4 storeys.
  • The amount of land now given the go-ahead for 12 storeys is alarming!
  • Possibly the most important change is the inevitable rezoning of those areas currently marked as C2Z to Commercial 1. This would allow residential and the height proposed is 12 storeys (ie along Nepean Highway).

The map below shows one example of what is envisaged. The yellow markings indicate some sites which are now being upgraded from 2 storeys to 4 storeys.

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?

We’re focusing on one tiny corner of the Carnegie plan this post as the perfect example of planning gone mad. With typical double speak nonsense, council tells residents that they are concerned about ‘transition’ – we even get titles like ‘Building Transition Plan’.  We urge all residents to carefully consider the following and at tonight’s public relations exercise at Carnegie to really hone in on this lunacy.

Here’s what the above image reveals:

  • Rosstown Road ‘upgraded’ to 4 storeys from 2 and now abutting some remaining 2 storeys to the South-West of Rosstown Road.
  • The ‘pink’ coloured areas in Egan and Arawatta (up to 12 storeys) enclose ‘heritage character/shop top’ of 3 to 4 storeys
  • These ‘pink’ areas of 12 storeys also overshadow Chestnut Street (heritage overlay) of 1-2 storeys.
  • To the north of Chestnut we again have 4 storeys along Dandenong Road overlooking 2 storeys.

When all of council’s propaganda for the past 4 years has been about protecting the community via appropriate transition (ie 4 storeys, down to 3 storeys, down to 2 storeys via RGZ, GRZ1 & GRZ2 respectively) to now come up with this nonsense is literally beyond belief. It is even more unbelievable that such plans could even get off the ground and be put up for ‘consultation’. Who is responsible for this? Where is the strategic justification? What secret deals have already been made with developers and/or governments? And how on earth can 9 councillors even come close to believing that this is worthy of consideration by ratepayers? We would also question how much of ratepayer’s money has been spent on ‘consultants’ and producing glossy flyers, letters, and brochures that are nothing short of embarrassing!

Aiden Mullen has admitted that the residential  ‘demarcation’ zones  introduced in 2013 made ‘no sense’. The critical question now is whether council’s proposals do in fact make more ‘sense’ and whether they are justified in strategic terms as well as improving residential amenity in our local streets. From what has been published thus far, the answer is an emphatic and unequivocal ‘no’.

Council has produced some ‘Quality Design Principles’ that are literally nothing more than pretty picture pipe dreams and totally unattainable given current State legislation, council’s own planning scheme and the schedules to the zones. In this post we will focus on Council’s version of ‘garden apartment’ which is really the current Residential Growth Zones allowing 4 storey development. The definition of this component, as supplied by council, reads –

The Garden apartment (three to four storeys) building type seeks to ensure that apartments located within these residential streets look and feel residential with a strongly vegetated garden setting, and a recognizably residential building form.

A nice bit of mumbo jumbo with no specifics, no detail, and not a hope in hell of achieving any of these aspirational objectives. In addition we also get this bit of humbug –

Several things are clear from these ‘principles’ and the examples:

  • There will probably be no 3 or 4 bedroom apartments in these buildings given the groups selected in the ‘housing opportunities’ section. Most will be 1 or 2 bedrooms – which does not match council’s own current planning scheme!
  • Does council really believe that any developer would constrain himself to build 3 storeys instead of the allowable 4 storeys? The past 4 years provide ample evidence of what a joke this is. Or will we eventually see some further zoning that differentiates between 3 storeys (GRZ) and the 4 storeys (RGZ)?
  • How can a ‘front and back corridor’ be maintained when nothing in the legislation mandates this beyond the current inadequate ResCode ‘standards’ that are not worth the paper they are written on and which both council and VCAT disregard repeatedly?
  • 4 storey ‘garden apartments’ are supposed to be along ‘residential areas along arterial roads’. Why then do we have a large section of Rosstown Road in Carnegie changing from 2 storeys to 4 storeys WHEN IT IS NOT AN ARTERIAL ROAD? Why do we have sites along Centre Road, Bentleigh changing from 2 storey to 3 storey, when Centre Road IS NOT AN ARTERIAL ROAD? Why do we have Truganini, also falling into this category? How much more misleading information will council put out for ‘consultation’?

The real sticking point however is the legislation and Wynne’s recent introduction of Amendments VC110 & VC136. The important points to note from these two pieces of legislation are:

  • There is no mimimum ‘garden requirement’ for the Residential Growth Zones (RGZ)
  • According to Clause 55.07, the only mention of ‘communal open space’ is when the number of dwellings exceeds 40 or more. Anything under this number would therefore be exempt according to the legislation!
  • Council’s current schedule to the RGZ zones has the mimimalist standards of 60% coverage, and 20% permeability. There is nothing in these schedules, or in the entire planning scheme, that will MANDATE anything like a ‘garden setting’. Thus is council deliberately conflating ‘private open space’ with ‘garden’ requirement in order to mislead?

CONCLUSION

Council has not provided any information as to how it will:

  • Change any of the schedules and what these changes might be. We are confident that what will happen is that these crucial ‘details’ will be held back until the very last moment when council will vote to write off to the Minister under Section 20(4) of the Planning & Environment Act and thus deny residents all objection rights, much less their final say on what will be in the final amendment.
  • Most alarming is that not council, nor any single councillor has made mention of the Minister’s latest amendments when they are so crucial to determining sound strategic planning.

A great turnout at tonight’s Bentleigh meeting – well over 80 residents we estimate. Councillors in attendance were: Magee, Hyams, Athanasopolous and Taylor.

The outstanding pattern of the night however was that those in attendance had definitely had enough of spin, obfuscation, lack of detail, and definitely lack of strategic justification for any of the ‘concepts’. The anger in the room was palpable and expressed time and time again. Council’s responses were, to put it bluntly, pathetic. Here’s how the evening went–

  • Facilitated once more and room set up with tables, butcher paper and planners assigned to each table
  • Following on from facilitator’s introduction, Aiden Mullen provided the ‘background’ – ie what’s happened thus far and what’s still to be done and what previous feedback had been. Some new stats were put up purportedly displaying the percentages of homes in the various zones in Bentleigh. Noteworthy is the fact that Mullen NOT ONCE SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED THE PROPOSED 8 STOREYS HEIGHT LIMIT. These areas were referred to as potential ‘office’ space! Did admit that the current circle designating the RGZ ‘didn’t make sense’! – that means that the August 2013 introduction made ‘no sense’!
  • Residents then wanted to ask questions – and they did!

RESIDENT NO 1 – wanted to know what the strategic justification was for the 5 and 6 storeys and now 8 storeys and what is the definition of ‘community benefit’? Also said that he didn’t see ‘any connection’ between the vision statement and what the concept plans proposed in terms of height. Mullen answered that an ‘activity centre is typically a 10 minute walk’ from the station. Said that ‘feedback’ from community was that developers ‘were taking, taking, taking’ and ‘not giving back to the community’ and council will be looking at every application and deciding ‘what the community really needs’. Thus ‘greater employment’, ‘office’ opportunities meets ‘community benefit’ plus ‘additional car parking’ and street connections. The resident then again asked about the vision that’s been proposed and how this fits in with 8 storeys. Wanted to know how that figure was reached and that ‘it seems a bit arbitrary’. Mullen answered that the vision was about a ‘more family friendly vibe’ and have a better ‘mix’ of housing.

RESIDENT 2 – how many properties were being rezoned from 2 storeys to 3 or 4 storeys? Mullen answered that he didn’t have those figures.

RESIDENT 3 – asked about current applications and whether they would be limited to the new heights. Mullen answered that once they’ve got their permits that’s it.

RESIDENT 4 – stated that there’s a childcare centre next to an 8 storey building and didn’t think this ‘benefited the community’ and ‘wasn’t very family oriented’.

RESIDENT 5 – queried council saying that they ‘heard’ from the public agreeing to some parts being 3 and 4 storeys. Went through the number of developments in Bent Street along a 250 metre stretch of road and these totalled well over 200 new dwellings. Said ‘that’s what people are up in arms about’ and ‘to fix that you’re saying’ that houses opposite can also now be 3 storeys when they are zoned for 2 storeys. ‘You’ve ruined Bent St.’ so ‘leave that alone’. Went on to say that ‘no-one gave you the okay’ to change some houses in Vickery from 2 to 3 storeys. (applause). Said he lives near Patterson and he has opposed development because of lack of parking and now council has ‘the audacity to say that’s what we heard from the public’. ‘You did not hear that from the public’.

RESIDENT 6 – asked ‘what gives you (council) the confidence that consultation has informed’ the plans? Mullen answered that the feedback made it clear that people didn’t want to see apartments in residential streets. Resident 5 then came back and told Mullen to stop talking in percentages and to give precise figures. ‘We want to know absolute numbers so tell us the truth’. Mullen said he would ‘update numbers and put them on the website’.

RESIDENT 7 – said she’s been to a meeting years ago and about a development in Centre Road and that ‘it was loud and clear’ that people ‘went against development along Centre Road’ that was high ‘because of the shade’ and would make Centre Road a ‘wind tunnel’. Concluded that those people weren’t listened to ‘years ago’. Also permits that were then granted had 2 years to start building but council simply granted extensions after extensions.  So how can residents have confidence that this won’t happen again and the ‘new plan’ and the ‘old plan’ don’t look any different’. The old plan has heritage but ‘we know’ by driving down these streets that they are ‘not’ being protected. Mullen responded that it’s important for council to get ‘policy’ written into the scheme. Facilitator then said that policy makes it harder for VCAT.

RESIDENT 8 – asked about balconies and that people use these for hanging out washing, sheds, etc. and what council is going to do about this. Mullen responded that council is looking to ‘tighten controls’.

RESIDENT 9 – asked about the interim height guidelines and what this means for Centre Road. Mullen said that this allowed council to get on with the structure planning work without having to worry about VCAT.

The facilitator then tried to put a stop to the questions. However one resident stood up and insisted on being heard.

RESIDENT 10 –  was told to be ‘brief’ by the facilitator but the resident answered ‘I’ll take my time thanks’. Said that we’ve got the lowest amount of open space and Stonnington is developing an underground car park and open space on top. Why isn’t Glen Eira doing the same? Mullen said ‘that we’re proposing to relocate our parking to the central strip’. Resident went on to density of population, and rates of development, and that ‘we’ve got enough housing supply’ for the next 35 years, so why ‘when we’re pulling our weight’ and the ‘critical issue’ for people is about ‘overdevelopment’ are they recommending 8 storeys in Bentleigh and 12 storeys in Carnegie and ‘repurposing council land for development’. Thus ‘how are we meeting the first principles of the origin’ of the planning scheme review and the rounds of consultation? Mullen’s answer was ‘you can’t reverse what’s happened’ and ‘you can’t put a stop to development’. Resident then asked ‘why’ and Mullen answered ‘because the Minister won’t approve’ it. Resident then said that ‘Boroondara is challenging it’. Mullen said that council is trying to provide the ‘right building in the right place’.

RESIDENT 11 – queried the boundaries since it was said a 10 minute walk and he lives near Thomas St which is at least 15 minute walk to the station. So why are these houses being rezoned and ‘I query the boundary of the activity centre’.

Facilitator then intervened and insisted that people now break up to discuss issues at their tables.

The final part of the meeting included Magee being invited to speak. He started by saying that it’s important for residents to speak up and that nothing ‘was set in concrete’ and that residents could always speak with councillors. One resident then said that he’d been to forums before and questions of height keep coming up. Said he was ‘quite amazed’ that ‘the message isn’t getting through to council’ that people don’t want 8 storeys. Said ‘it would be good to see a show of hands’ from those people who wanted 4 storeys. Magee answered that it’s about context and that if you asked people if they wanted 8 storeys most would say no. But if you asked them about 8 storeys at Ormond Railway station ‘I guarantee you that most would not say no’. The resident insisted on asking the question whether people wanted a maximum of 4 storeys. Our observations indicated that just about everyone put up their hands!!!!!!!!

MEETING CONCLUDED AT THIS POINT!

PS: IF ANYONE WAS IN DOUBT ABOUT THE INCOMPETENCE OF THE CURRENT PLANNING IN GLEN EIRA, THEN THE LIBERALS ARE QUICK TO POINT THIS OUT!

Southern Metropolitan Region

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan)

— My constituency question relates to the Minister for Planning and is about the precinct surrounding Chestnut Street in Carnegie

That area has a significant set of protections over the streetscape and the properties there . It is also an area in which the government has recently put an interim design and development overlay in place . The City of Glen Eira is currently consulting with the community but has proposed an area where up to 12 storeys will be built. This would be a very significant increase in height and would put massive pressure on traffic, with congestion .

There is obviously an area already impacted significantly by the sky rail, and the risk of this imposition and overshadowing is significant.

. What I ask is whether the minister in his planning scheme amendment will rule out a 12 -storey tower or 12 storeys that overshadow heritage protected areas?

 

Next Page »