Tuesday night’s council meeting was replete with bouts of amnesia, inconsistencies, and some wonderful (unconscious?) irony found in the bombast of Lipshutz and his cronies – these latter examples still to come!

This was evident in the item on Amendment C102 (Non-Residential Uses in Residential Areas). Amazingly, not one single councillor referred to the watering down of conditions; not one single councillor mentioned that this was a deferred item from 2010, and not one single councillor provided any explanation as to why what was unacceptable two years ago should now be lauded as wonderful.

Motion to accept moved by Hyams and seconded by Delahunty

HYAMS: started off by saying that there’s ‘a need to update’ policies from ‘time to time’ and this is one of those times. Said that the only contentious issue was the stipulation that heights be consistent with what the current zones dictate. There had been one objection. Argued that it would be a pity if the zones provided protection elsewhere but if here ‘they were disregarded’. Said that there are ‘objectives’ and that if an application ‘basically’ complies with policy and doesn’t cause ‘undue’ ill effects on ‘amenity’ then ‘there is a bit of latitude there’. Said that council isn’t making a decision but sending it off to an ‘independent panel’ and objectors can then present their views to the panel and the report will come back to council for decision.

DELAHUNTY: agreed with Hyams about need for policy so that residents would ‘understand’ what is required and the ‘basis of how we make decisions’. Spoke about ‘measures’ and said that even if the measures ‘aren’t met’ then the application can still meet ‘the objectives of this policy’. This is just part of the ‘deliberate ambiguity that’s built into the policy’ and this allows places like schools to ‘lobby council’. There are other measures which ‘aren’t set in stone’ so it’s ‘wise’ to go onto the next step in sending it off to a panel.

OKOTEL: noted the two objections from private schools and how they were opposed to the height limits and the ‘limiting of set backs’. She agreed with the objectors. Gave an example of a doctor’s surgery opposite her parents’ house which wasn’t taking any more new patients because they were already so busy. Same applied to schools and in order to cater for the increase in population and demand that the best way to go was to ‘build up’ and this would also help people recognise and ‘see a GP practise’ from the street, rather than if it was set back. ‘It wouldn’t be set back with a garden at the front’ so people wouldn’t be able to easily identify that it was a GP practice. Therefore didn’t think that the policy should try and limit heights.

LOBO: said that he’s never been in favour of non-residential uses in residential areas because ‘everything has its time and place’. Noted Regent St application as an example. Said that this ‘was fine 15 years ago’ when population was smaller. Said that the policy has to be ‘rectified’ so that ‘no further damage is created’. Said that council need to ‘look after’ residents since they are the ones ‘who pay the rates’. Didn’t like gyms in streets, bars and that these sorts of establishments ‘shouldn’t be put in the streets’.

ESAKOFF: acknowledged that the policy came in in 1999 so it’s necessary to have a ‘review undertaken’ and that it should be ‘updated’ and to ‘conform’ to the way policies work. She has ‘some empathy’ with the objectors and had ‘concerns’ about ‘restricting the growth of schools’ and also doctors surgeries. These places don’t have a ‘lot of space’ and they can’t ‘go out’ so they ‘have to go up’. Noted that schools are ‘immune to’ council planning processes so the policy only applies to the ‘private school sector’. She didn’t want to ‘restrict’ these schools potential growth but ‘has been assured’ because of how the policy is drafted there is ‘some flexibility’ for these schools to make ‘their case’ so she’s ‘happy to take this to the next level’. Noted that the panel’s report isn’t ‘binding’ and that council can make its own decisions when the advice comes back from the panel.

LIPSHUTZ: said that there needs to be some ‘flexibility in terms of heights’. Lobo’s view about no non-residential uses in residential areas meant that he wasn’t ‘sure’ where you could then put ‘schools, churches’ and that he was ‘assured’ that if schools or churces wanted more than 2 storeys that ‘we would restrict that’. He was also ‘assured’ that these are ‘guidelines’ and ‘flexible’ so since they are ‘flexible’ he supports it.

SOUNNESS: started by saying that people who live in cities want facilities and there are residential areas and non-residential assets. Said that even living in a local street people can wander down to the corner and ‘have a coffee’ and that’s part of living in a city. The amendment is to avoid duplication and update policy according to the new zones and therefore it is very ‘reasonable’. Thought that it was good to have the ‘conversation’ about height because necessary to know what ‘the height might be in an area’. But it’s all relative and in a conversation with someone they spoke about height in relation to ‘tree height’ so if there’s is a bush close by then a ‘two storey height seems enormous’ and if there are huge gums nearby then this would ‘seem tiny’. It all depends ‘on the scale of what’s in the municipality’. And this policy ‘allows this conversation to take place’.

MAGEE: said that because there are schools and churches that ‘makes our residential zones’. Said his place was near schools and doctors and ‘two hospitals’. Change was inevitable and there would always be changes to the planning scheme. Although he doesn’t ‘particularly’ want to live in an industrial area or ‘near a beach’ and he picked where he lives ‘because of the amenity around it’. This was only the ‘first stage’ and where people live is ‘what we make it’. It’s okay to say that schools should only be 2 storeys in residential areas but ‘sometimes’ they do ‘run out of space’ and they can ‘only go up’. Gave examples of packed schools like McKinnon secondary. Repeated that this is only the ‘first stage’ of the process.

PILLING: thought that it was ‘quite reasonable’ to give ‘consideration’ to the area but as he ‘understands’ it, ‘there is nothing’ in the policy to ‘preclude schools going higher’. If there was an application for a ten storey non residential use then ‘I don’t think that’s what we want’. What council wants is ‘some form of uniformity’ and that’s why the current residential zones are ‘so unique’.

HYAMS: said that all they are talking about are schools etc. and not ‘commercial uses’. Council should protect height and also heights in General Residential Zones and Growth Zones. Said that if doctors surgeries wanted to be 3 storeys then there are areas in Glen Eira where they can build to this height.

MOTION PUT AND CARRIED – VOTING FOR – HYAMS, LIPSHUTZ, ESAKOFF, SOUNNESS, PILLING, MAGEE, DELAHUNTY.

VOTING AGAINST – OKOTEL, LOBO.

COMMENT

It’s worth asking why have policy at all, if it is ‘flexible’? Does ‘flexibility’ actually provide the ‘certainty’ to residents that this council always claims? Or is the desired ‘flexibility’ simply there to assist developers in building whatever they like, wherever they like? The problem with setting binding standards is that it leaves no wriggle room later on and commits council to a certain form of action. That in itself is anathema to the way this council operates on innumerable issues.

We also direct readers to the Okotel comments and point out the incredible inconsistencies in her logic. On the previous agenda item (9.1- the Ames St application for 13 double storeys) Okotel argued for protection of ‘neighbourhood character’. Five minutes later height limits should go. Surely height is the cornerstone of ‘neighbourhood character’? We are also really bemused by the argument that setbacks shouldn’t apply so that residents can more easily identify what is a doctor’s surgery!