Tonight’s Planning Conference on the 9 storey application in Centre Road Bentleigh had a huge turnout of very disgruntled and angry residents. Well over 100 residents and thus far over 150 objections. 6 councillors showed up – Lipshutz (who chaired the meeting), Hyams, Magee, Pilling, Delahunty and Lobo.

It was announced that at 4pm this afternoon the applicant had notified council of his referral to VCAT as a result of council’s failure to reach a decision within the 60 day timeframe. Quite remarkable given that the application was submitted on the 30th June, 2015 – five months ago! Several residents took council to task on this issue, asking why council is incapable of determining something within the legislated timeline.

What makes this even more outrageous is the fact that it only took one month for a decision on a 16 storey application to be rejected by the manager for an application in Egan Street, Carnegie. For this application (and we quote)  (t)he reasons for the refusal relate to planning policy; impact on the public realm, height and scale of the building; traffic impacts, internal amenity; and equitable development rights with the adjoining sites. This is identical to all the objections raised by residents at tonight’s meeting. Hence, why does one application only take 32 days to determine and another application fails to be determined in 5 months? Why is one application refused under delegation by the Manager, and this application is permitted to go on and on and on? Or is this another instance perhaps of the Alma Club fiasco where council also failed to deliver a decision in 60 days and at ‘mediation’ caved in entirely so the developer got his way?

The most promising aspect of tonight was:

  • How well versed residents were in planning law and how little the professional planners seemed to know, or couldn’t answer
  • How residents are no longer prepared to sit and merely accept council’s waffle
  • How residents are now loudly and clearly demanding that councillors introduce planning scheme amendments – although Lipshutz denied that this was an option and the planners pleaded ignorance, thereby contradicting what Magee and other councillors have allegedly told individual residents.
  • How residents are now demanding that council do what it is supposed to do – ie. insist on accurate and valid traffic reports from the developer; that height in basement car parking be measured accurately so that cars over a certain height can enter; that Heritage of nearby streets be protected.
  • How community expertise is prepared to challenge council ‘expertise’ – ie architects, air conditioning professionals, and ordinary residents who have had enough of council’s pro-development agendas and seeing their neighbourhoods destroyed.

Of course, tonight was merely going through the motions. The developer did not front, and Lipshutz performed his usual trick of twice threatening to close the meeting. In fact, he closed the meeting with people still wanting to ask questions. Ultimately, tonight’s meeting was another clear message to councillors – shape up or ship out like Newton and Akehurst have.