Item 9.6 Virginia Park Estate

Prior to reporting on this item, some background information is vital so that readers can put the following into perspective.

  • In the past few council meetings alone, 3 proposed draft amendments have been rejected by councillors. Not one single councillor stated why this should not occur with this particular amendment. Instead there was the ad nauseum repetition of the ‘first step in the process’ etc. Past history shows that this is generally nothing more than double-speak for ultimate ‘approval’ of the amendment.
  • Not one single councillor stated that third party objection rights did not exist beyond the amendment. For all the talk about the community expressing their views (when they know absolutely nothing about the ‘detail’ of the proposed plan) is precisely what happened with the Caulfield Village fiasco. The only difference between this proposal and the Caulfield Village is that it will be 9 councillors to decide instead of the annointed 4, and the doubling at least of the number of dwellings.
  • The machinations and back room dealings over this site go back many, many years. Amendment C75, restricted residential development to only the centre of the site. Only one tiny sentence in the original officer’s report mentioned the fact that ten storeys was envisaged. Now it is proposed to make the entire site ‘suitable’ for residential. Magee claims that council and councillors were left in the dark and the Gillon letter of June 17th was asking ‘assurance’ that Council would support the amendment. Then in an email written by Andrew Newton on the 30th July 2013 to Richard Brice of the minister’s department, as an ‘inducement’ for the introduction of the new residential zones, he wrote – Viginia Park industrial estate (12 hectares): Amendment to be exhibited to rezone all to C1. Expected to be finalised next year. We have to query whether councillors knew of this ‘promise’! Needless to say, no resolution has surfaced which would support such ‘approval’. Nor is Virginia Estate mentioned in any of the Records of Assembly for this period. Again, either the records are are not an accurate representation of the topics discussed or councillors were not informed that this new upcoming amendment had received the nod of approval from the bureaucrats!
  • There has been no explanation provided, following a public question, as to why the limited constraints of Amendment C75 are now to be removed with this new amendment (ie setbacks in particular). Basically, we fear, that this is another Caulfield Village in the making and all the bluff and bluster that follows is nothing more than individual grandstanding, and ensuring that all the legal t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted!
  • As for Magee’s silencing of Lobo, we suggest that Magee refer to the Local Law meeting procedures. Any councillor has the right to raise a point of order as to ‘relevance’. Gagging councillors with ‘you wouldn’t be allowed to do that’ is in our view not only incorrect but abuse of his position.

Magee moved motion to accept ‘as printed’ from the chair. Sounness seconded. We point out at this stage that in other councils Mayors must vacate the chair if they move or second any motion. Not so according to the Glen Eira Meeting procedures. More on this throughout the ensuing discussion!

MAGEE: said that the last council group passed an amendment on this in ‘2011 or 2012’. Said that the amendment is up again because it is currently commercial 1 and commercial 2 and with the new zones this gives the developer the ‘opportunity’ to have it all rezoned as commercial one. Claimed that the ‘reasons’ for rezoning are ‘all fair’ but that he has got some ‘serious concerns’. Council got a letter from the Gillon group on the 17th June a ‘few years back’ in 2013. Quoted from the letter which said that they had had ‘discussions with senior officers of the department’ who are in favour of rezoning and that this was to coincide with the introduction of the new zones on July 1st. ‘We seek written confirmation from Council that they would be supportive’ of this rezoning. Magee then said that the ‘developer went straight to the Minister’ and that ‘they had in principle support from them’. Then on the 28th June councillors got ‘some advice from officers’ that the owners hoped this would happen ‘without public consultation’ and that the ‘minister was supportive of this process’. Then there was a ‘follow up letter’ from Elizabeth Miller dated the 24th June when ‘councillors aren’t even aware of this as yet’. Magee quoted her as writing she is ‘supportive of the proposal’ and that this would ‘serve as a model for other precincts to replicate’. Said that the last to ‘know about this were us” the ‘residents of East Bentleigh’. Called this the ‘perfect storm’ and here’s commercial zone in a ‘predominantly’ residential zone with the ‘potential’ for 12, 4 and 6 storeys plus ‘four and a half thousand’ apartments. It would be a ‘mini chadstone’. It will affect amenity and ‘will not be good’. Said every school is ‘full’ with no ‘railway station’ and only ‘one bus that runs along North Road’. Ultimately ‘there is nothing here to support this’. But ‘this is the process of putting it out’ and of ‘going to the community’ and that’s what council ‘wanted’ all along. Magee didn’t think that the community ‘would be supportive’ of the amendment. Went on to say that there is an ‘opportunity’ to develop the land and that the ‘developer has every right to do that’. Magee would prefer that the developer ‘went for a neighbourhood residential zone’.

SOUNESS: called Magee an ‘angry tiger’. Accepted that this is part of the ‘process’ and that there would be many ‘queries’ about the impacts. Said there would also be ‘infrastructure matters’ that shouldn’t fall to council to fix. Talked about the surrounding residential areas and the transition. If a large development is going to happen then he would ‘be looking for’ ‘transport opportunities’ and ‘there are none along here’. But ‘we start to go down this process and see where this process takes us’.

DELAHUNTY: said that Magee reminded them of the ‘dark times’ in planning and the ‘Point Nepean disaster’ when councillors ‘were shocked’ that ‘this sort of process would go on’ in Glen Eira with ‘such an obvious site’. Wondered if any ‘investigative journalist’ would get to the bottom of the relationship between the Gillon Group and the former government. Thought that this is ‘probably a lead worth pursuing’ and that ‘it could have gone ahead without this proper process’. So ‘Council is at step one of a proper process’. Whatever happens the ‘community will have their say’. It’s a ‘massive site’ and does ‘provide’ some jobs and she was looking forward to submissions from businesses because she understood that there were some ‘ownership rights’ involved. Repeated that this is ‘step one of a proper process’ and is the way ‘things should be done’.

PILLING: acknowledged Delahunty’s ‘passion’ but this is the ‘start of the process’ and thought it was ‘quite proper’. Said that with the ‘redevelopment of the site’ there are ‘opportunities there’.

ESAKOFF: said that she was ‘really disappointed with the sorts of comments that I’m hearing’ which make it sound like there is ‘something very underhanded’ going on and that there had ‘been some sort of dealing’ happening. Said that the ‘political side to this’ is both ‘unnecessary and uncalled for’. As a local council they are dealing with an ‘amendment’ and she is ‘very disappointed in what I’ve been hearing’. Said that ‘Mr Burke’ should make sure that ‘we retain those tapes’ of tonight about the ‘comments that have been made’. Went on to say that in comparing what ‘is there now’ to what was there ’50 years ago’. Currently it’s ‘bits and pieces’ but ‘East Bentleigh believe me is coping’ and if there are ‘some residents living there too, they will also cope’. Said she ‘grew up with the North Road bus’ and that it ‘took me ten minutes’ to walk to the bus and ‘three minutes to get to Ormond Station’ – ‘it really didn’t kill me, yet’. ‘The overdramatisation of this item is beyond belief’ plus the ‘political innuendo is moreso – very disappointing’.

HYAMS: asked Torres when the rezoning request came to council.

TORRES: didn’t remember the exact date but it was ‘relatively recently’. Hyams then asked ‘this year?’ and confirmed by Torres

HYAMS: didn’t see anything ‘underhand’ in the developer ‘approaching’ the local member and that the Labor members had also found ‘to their cost’ that they should be ‘advocating’ for East Bentleigh. Apart from the politics the owner is applying for commercial rezoning. The site is ‘underutilised’ and Amendment C75 ‘set up certain heights’ and this amendment ‘won’t change those heights’ or the setbacks. He ‘shares the reservations’ about the impact on the community but this is a ‘step’ in the amendment process. Couldn’t see ‘any reason’ for opposing the amendment ‘going out to the community’. So once they get feedback they ‘might’ decide to go to an ‘independent panel’ or ‘decide otherwise’.

LIPSHUTZ: joined others in saying that he didn’t ‘like the political aspects to this’. But he has some ‘reservations’ about how ‘this property will be developed’. Said that there’s a saying that ‘if you build it they will come’ but if this were Chadstone ‘it might be a good thing’ but whether it’s a good thing or not will ‘come down to the community’ giving their views. Regardless of what councillors might think about ‘appropriate or inappropriate’, the ‘community will have their say’. Said that it is ‘important to do that’ because it’s a huge site and ‘underdeveloped’. Said he doesn’t ‘lionise the developer’ and all this has to be ‘checked very carefully’ because this is a ‘site that can prove’ to be a ‘great benefit to East Bentleigh’ or a detriment. So ‘the community will have their say’.

LOBO: said he could have told Magee to ‘speak to the motion’ (moderators: this comment is in regard to Magee telling Lobo on a previous item to ‘speak to the motion’)

MAGEE: ‘you wouldn’t be allowed to do that!’

LOBO: said this would turn out to ‘be a big Chadstone’ and will impact on ‘neighbouring businesses’ in Tucker,East Boundary and Mackie Roads. They will be ‘suffering’ and ‘maybe closing as a result’. Said that ‘we did not consult on zones’ and ‘we are going to consult on this’.

MAGEE: told Lobo he was ‘incorrect’ in that council did consult in 2010. Said that for ‘clarification’ his comments on Guy ‘were not political statements’ but ‘statements of fact’. He simply quoted from the letters. Said that to the ‘north there is another industrial estate’ and more commercial sites. Thought that ‘in the future’ ‘more will follow’ so if this is to have ‘5000 apartments’ then ‘next door could see the same’. Said that in East Bentleigh there would be ‘upwards of ten thousand’ new dwellings. Called all this a ‘major impact’ on the area, on amenity, and on transport and if there’s a new shopping centre then another impact on existing businesses. ‘But it is Stage 1’ where the community is asked ‘what do you think’. Councillors will then ‘adjudicate’ and have the option of a panel, or do ‘whatever we please’. Said that he thinks the ‘community has a right to know’ what is ‘in store’. Said that he ‘could bet that this has been planned to the last doorway’. Said that the developer ‘knows exactly’ what will be on the site and that the only ‘people who don’t know are you and me’.