PS: We now learn that Council is to receive the pittance of $575,000 as the open space levy for Precinct One of the Caulfield Village development (ie 463 units). In their wisdom only a 4% fee was exacted for this part of the development.

Item 9.2 – Riddell Parade, Elsternwick. Application for 12 storeys and 40 dwellings.

Whilst the officer’s report recommends a ‘refusal’ there are several fascinating aspects to this application.

  • Council in its wisdom decided last year to sell the owner of the site a 60 sqm splay from its council owned car park that is also the corner edge of a laneway. This was done in order to “allow them to build a first floor above and a basement below the splay but still allow sightlines along the adjacent laneway.” (Minutes of May 19th, 2015). In return, council received the princely sum of $59,015 and the developer was to pay legal costs of $26,222.
  • The proposed development is deemed as Stage 2 since Stage 1 is for an 8 storey development (under construction) and both sites belong to the same owner.
  • Only 14 properties were notified and 3 objections received.

All the above is merely the ‘background’ to some extraordinary aspects of Rocky Camera’s report. The question is: does this report represent some ‘radical’ change in council’s approach or is it merely Camera once again scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to come up with any justification for a refusal?

For the first time, as far as we know, we have statements such as:

…..the development fails to adequately encourage economic development. A building of this height, scale and location should provide for more economic development opportunities than one ground floor office space.

No communal facilities are proposed within either the approved development (Stage 1- 28 Riddle (sic) Parade) or within the proposed development. This is considered to be a poor outcome for a development of this scale.

A total of 58 car spaces are provided on-site. A reduction in the residential visitor and office car spaces is sought. However, the allocation of car spaces is unclear due to the oversupply of residential car spaces. Further, no disabled car space has been provided.

The application proposes vehicle access through ‘Stage 1’ of the development at 28 Riddell Parade. However, there is no formal legal accessway provided between both properties currently.

These are literally extraordinary ‘reasons’ for refusal – especially when seen in light of previous decisions. For example:

  • In November 2012 the officer report for 1056 Dandenong Road recommended ‘approval’ for a 12 storey and 173 dwellings. Councillors knocked this back to 8 storeys and 97 dwellings. The developer got what he wanted at VCAT. However, there was not a single word in this report on ‘communal facilities’. Nor do we find any mention of this in the recent 9 storey application in Centre Road, Bentleigh – nor in countless others!
  • The current Camera report also just happens to conveniently ignore other sections of the Planning Scheme that were included in the 12 storey application. Omitted here are – To consolidate retail functions within existing strip shopping centres; To encourage increased densities within and around commercial/transport nodes which respect transition to the surrounding residential area; To ensure future development is appropriate to the constraints of infrastructure and vehicular traffic movement (including parking). We must also remember that the site is within the Elsternwick Urban Village, where everything in the planning scheme promotes higher density.
  • If there is an ‘oversupply of residential car spaces’, then why not simply turn these ‘residential’ spots into ‘visitor’ car parking spots as done in countless other application conditions?
  • If the developer owns both sites, then is ‘formal legal accessway’ nothing more than a furphy? It will be interesting to see how VCAT views the issue.
  • Surely the argument regarding ‘employment’ and ‘economic development’ is on very shakey ground considering that the rationale has always been that increased populations in urban villages via higher density dwelling, will ‘invigorate’ centres and help sustain them?

Thus we are again faced with the conundrum of a planning scheme that facilitates high rise development and planners engaged in major ‘damage control’ forced to come up with ‘reasons’ for refusal that anyone can drive a truck through – especially developers with stacks of money for ‘expert witnesses’ and reports! Residents are now paying the full price of a planning scheme that administrators and councillors have refused to touch since 2002. As we’ve stated previously, the only valid response is a total revamp of the zones and a major overhaul of the planning scheme.