It was standing room only at tonight’s council meeting which was taken full advantage of by most councillors with further academy award performances by several. Here’s a brief summary of what occurred apart from the Alma Club application which is reported on in full –

  • Alma Club development rejected unanimously
  • Lipshutz arguments totally inconsistent and arrogant
  • Delahunty threw down the gauntlet regarding a request for a report on Notice of Motion and other aspects of the Local Law Meeting Procedures. Newton was looking decidedly uncomfortable.
  • Hyams could not help himself once again with personal attacks on a resident and a former councillor, plus of course, allusions to this blog!
  • Sounness remains a major concern, and Okotel appears way out of her depth. Esakoff was absent again.
  • Not one councillor uttered the word planning or traffic management when it came to how wonderful the Community Satisfaction Survey was despite the fact that the gap between ‘importance’ and ‘performance’ had grown in some crucial areas.
  • Public questions remained unanswered, or even worse, lost in the ether somewhere – for the second council meeting running!

ALMA CLUB DEVELOPMENT

Magee moved the motion to reject on several grounds: minimal change area, size, bulk, traffic, neighbourhood character, landscaping, lack of sunlight for dwellings, etc. Seconded by Lipshutz

MAGEE: asked Akehurst to ‘explain’ why the application has already ended up at VCAT

AKEHURST: started off by saying that under the law councils had 60 days to make the decision regardless of the complexity of the proposal. This one wasn’t ‘minor’ or simple and because of the ‘sheer amount of referrals’ to various departments that caused the delay. The planning conference and its organisation also caused a delay and this was something that council didn’t have to do, but council does it anyway because ‘it provides an opportunity for residents to better understand the application and express their views’. This ‘throws’ some time into the process of ‘getting a decision’. He then went on to ‘conjecture’ and thought it ‘fair to say’ that the developer had ‘read the tea leaves’ and guessed that it would end up at VCAT so he probably ‘thought let’s stand in the VCAT queue’ and that’s the reason for this ‘failure appeal’. Claimed that this was ‘good news’ from council’s and residents’ viewpoints since he didn’t think there was any ‘disadvantage to what council does’ about its position. Said that council still has to ‘form a view’ and that all this means is that council doesn’t have to ‘formalise’ its view and that will be the view presented at VCAT.

MAGEE: said that developers have a ‘right to develop land’ and if this was in a different area, bigger street, then ‘it would be fine’. Claimed it ‘would suit Dandenong Rd’ and other areas in Glen Eira. But it ‘doesn’t suit a street that’s a dead end’. Claimed that he’d sat in his car in Wilks St for about 45 minutes and that he ‘didn’t see a lot of traffic’ but that he would ‘hate this development to be in my street’. Admitted that none of the councillors are town planners or experts and all they do is ‘look at the information we’re given’ and then they make a ‘judgement call’. Councillors after all are only ‘mums and dads’ and they judge ‘things on what is acceptable’ and what should be ‘imposed on others’. Said that they’re there to listen and sometimes they make decisions that aren’t popular but this one is ‘easy’. Councillors at last election said they wouldn’t support inappropriate development and ‘this is an imappropriate development’. Finally it’s not the ‘right development for the right street’. (applause).

LIPSHUTZ: started with what he’s always said that ‘I won’t make a decision because it’s a popular decision. I will make a decision because I believe it is the right decision’. People have told him that they voted for him and now he should do what they say but ‘I won’t do that, I’ll do what is right’. Said that he looked at the plans, the site, and thought it was a ‘good development for the site’ because it was large and was going to be developed anyway. Said that he’d been ‘contacted about 50 or 60 times’ by residents and had emails, phone calls, letters, and ‘many of them I disregarded’ because he didn’t ‘think they were valid’. In the end he did what Magee did by asking himself if he was living there ‘would I want this in my street’ and decided ‘I wouldn’t’. Also thought that if they reject and it goes to VCAT then VCAT ‘won’t have anything in-between’ and thought that councillors could still seek to ‘modify’ the development and it will be developed but ‘it has to be appropriate development’. Said he wasn’t ‘convinced’ by arguments about looking at a wall across from houses because the set backs allow it. Also wasn’t convinced that ‘there may be flooding’ because that’s a building issue and ‘not a planning issue’. Traffic also wasn’t convincing because if you’ve got 73 apartments or 50 apartments ‘you’re going to have traffic’. Said that council would probably make this non residential parking permits for the units. Said he was ‘concerned about the mass and the bulk’ since it was ‘too big, too large’ and inappropriate. Said he represents ‘you as residents’ and that he’s ‘got to do what is right’ and ‘not popular’ but here ‘it’s probably both’. Went on to say he was concerned about ‘mischief making’ by some people for claiming that ‘this wouldn’t have happened’ if council had bought the land. Claimed that ‘it was never offered to council’…’council was never going to buy this development’…’it was never offered to council’. Said that council wouldn’t spend 8 million to buy the site and that it is ‘an inappropriate place for a park’. Said that ‘it was always going to be a development site’.

DELAHUNTY: spoke to the gallery saying that they are a wonderful community group and hoped that their opposition would continue and that she’d been told that people had met each other and that’s what ‘community groups are about’. Went on to pay her respects to the work done by the community on this and to Cheryl Forge who was present. Said that all of the points people wrote were ‘well made’ and even though ‘they may feel flippant’ to some other councillors they do ‘impact’ on people’s lives. The points people raised ‘informed our discussions’ and officer reports and her decision to reject the application. The main question was whether the application is ‘appropriate to the site’ and most agree that it isn’t. Even though the officers’ report tried to make this more appropriate she still ‘rejects the premise of the argument’ – that it can be ‘intense development’. Instead of ‘fiddling’ with the proposal via conditions and since they’re not experts then it ‘makes sense’ to reject it. Said that her job as councillor is to ‘bring together the objectives of the planning scheme and your views’. She quoted from the planning scheme about ‘protecting the liveability’ of residents and ‘amenity of Glen Eira’ and any new development ‘provides a high level of amenity’. Admitted that ‘amenity’ was hard to define but it also included parks and as far as as 1998 the old Open Space strategy noted the lack of open space in this area of the municipality. Another statement from this old plan was to be continually on the lookout to acquire more open space ‘so I don’t think it’s mischief making to wonder whether or not Council seriously considered’ buying the land. It’s too late now and ‘nothing’ can be done (applause). Told people ‘never to feel’ that their participation has ‘been a waste of time’ and ‘don’t listen to anyone who tells you that’…’even if those people are sitting around this table’….your participation in this process is what gives our argument validity’. Residents put councillors in their position to ‘carry your arguments forward’. (applause).

SOUNNESS; said if the site was ‘elsewhere’ it might be okay but not where it was in a minimal change area. He would love council to be able to say we’d love only ‘so many units’ but they can’t since it ‘would become unrecognisable’ from its ‘current form’. ‘I’d like to say 20 is enough, 2 storeys is enough’ but ‘we can’t do that’ only respond’ to what has been submitted. When the VCAT hearing come up ‘there will have to be negotiations’. Hoped that there would be ‘a satisfactory outcome down the line’.

LOBO: started off by reading from the Local Government act talking about the role of council to ensure the ‘long term’ benefits for residents. Said the development was ‘an eve of destruction’ and that its ‘intensity’ would ruin ‘neighbourhood character’ and have impact ‘long after the developer has disappeared with a fortune’. (applause). Said that residents need to be ‘looked after’ because they pay their rates and pay for the councillors ‘including the Mayor and all the officers’. ‘Our duty of care and loyalty must be towards our masters and that is you in the gallery’. The development will be an ‘eyesore’ and building it will be like ‘establishing the second alcatraz prison’. Mentioned a couple of permits granted to places in Wilks st – such as a doctors rooms and another 2 unit lot so the impact of traffic and parking is already felt. Said that people are wondering why there isn’t such development ‘on the other side of the road’ in Stonnington, ‘they feel that Glen Eira is a soft target to the developers’ when compared to Stonnington. Houses will be overshadowed and that will affect the existing solar panels on some. ‘This monstrosity of a development’ will cause ‘stress’. Said that ResCode was a ‘joke’ with its parking quotas. The development could have 125 cars and comparing this to what the traffic was when the club was operating is like the second ‘coming of David and Goliath’. Constructionww ould also create ‘chaos’. Let the State Government ‘have blood on their hands’ and the ‘madness of development’. (applause).

OKOTEL: others had already spoken well and ‘eloquently’. For here 2 issues – minimal change area and an ‘overdevelopment’ and ‘inappropriate development’. Said there were ‘technical defects’ like ‘overlooking’ and ‘lack of natural light’ and ‘landscaping of area’. Therefore there are ‘many reasons’ why the application should fail. (applause).

HYAMS: started off by saying that ‘council’s role is not to necessarily represent the people’.Rather they are a ‘quasi-judicial body’ and have to look at planning law. He decides on how he thinks the planning law should ‘be interpreted’. Trouble with saying that they represent the people is that if there is an objection then they’d have to vote with that objection ‘so nothing would ever get through’. ‘So we do need to be responsible’. His decision is ‘therefore based on planning law’. Said it wasn’t an ‘easy decision’ and that he could understand the officers and their recommendations. Saw the ‘major stumbling block’ that it was in a minimal change area but there’s an ‘exception’ if it’s a large block which this is. Said that people who live in a minimal change area have the ‘right to expect’ that there be town houses next to them but not something like this. He would prefer subdivision into houses but ‘it’s not our role to tell the applicant what to do’. Said that a public question asked about the VCAT appeal and when council found out about it. He provided the answer here even though public questions swere usually held at the end. Said that the 60 days ended on June 17th; the appeal was lodged on 21st June and council were notified on the 26th June. Went on to explain that VCAT will now come back to council and ask them to provide a set of conditions for what might be acceptable  if they would contemplate giving a permit but this still doesn’t negate council’s opposition to the permit, it will just be a ‘draft permit’ with ‘conditions’.

Went on to answer some of the questions raised at the planning conference. Drainage is part of the building permit so not ‘ignored’. Parking permits would also be banned. Named one individual who had said that Glen Eira is the ‘fastest growing municipality’. He didn’t want people to think that they’re cramming people in so got the ‘census figures’ and ‘there are 17 that grow faster than us’ and ’13 that grow less fast’. Claimed that population had increased by 5.5% and Whyndham had increase by over 40% and Port Phillip and Yarra had also increased more than Glen Eira. Said that it was also ‘suggested that we do nothing to protect our residents from overdevelopment’ but that Glen Eira does have a minimal change policy and ‘that does a lot to protect’ people.‘So it’s a shame that someone who didn’t really have a connection to this application felt the need to come in and say things like that’. Went on to talk about the purchase of the site and said that ‘there was an offer put to us’ to pay off the 3 million debt but ‘we wouldn’t have had the site’ because ‘to buy it would have cost 8 million’ and then redeveloping it another ‘couple of million more’. They also didn’t think that this site was appropriate for a park since they want parks to be ‘more accessible to the community’ but this one was ‘down a narrow one way street’. Said he was ‘surprised’ that Forge suggested this since in her ‘election campaign’ said that ‘our debt was unmanageable and there should be no rate rises’ but still find 10 million for this one. Wished everyone ‘luck’ at VCAT.

MAGEE: disagreed with what Hyams said about Forge since she has always been an ‘advocate’ for ‘financial management’ and always did things with ‘the best conscience’ and ‘best intentions’ whilst a councillor and that ‘she’s still a good friend of mine’. Went on to give advice to developer that it should ‘improve the amenity of the street’ and that it shouldn’t ‘set the amenity’. They have potential to set precedents but change has to ‘enhance’ and not reduce amenity. (applause)