We urge all readers to carefully consider the following report. It illustrates fully:

  • The failure of these councillors to address the ‘elephant in the room’ – ie the planning scheme and the abysmal zones. If council is now saying that a four storey development is inappropriate in this location, then why was it zoned as four storey? We also remind readers of the Hyams quote pre zones where he said that mandatory height limits means that developers will build to those height limits!
  • The zoning here is not the result of sound planning but the result of someone sitting at a desk and simply drawing a circle around a number of streets that then became the Residential Growth Zone.
  • The language used is deliberately misleading – Glen Eira does not have TRANSITION ZONES. It has pathetic ‘transition buffers’ but only for sites zoned GRZ2 and not GRZ1
  • Magee’s petty attack on Lobo reveals once more the animosity and dysfunction within this council. Of course Magee shoots himself in the foot by admitting that he also has no clue as to what clause 22.05 says or means!
  • Is Delahunty now changing her tune – ie on the rate of change?
  • Is Sounness vote really a vote for 4 storeys?
  • We also remind readers that VCAT does not legally have any role in council decision making. Its job is to look at the planning scheme that exists. VCAT does this. The fault lies mainly with council
  • Finally, we reiterate THAT ON EVERY SINGLE DECISION THAT HAS GONE TO VCAT AND WHERE COUNCIL LOPPED OFF A STOREY, OR REDUCED THE NUMBER OF APARTMENTS, THE DEVELOPER WAS SUCCESSFUL IN GETTING WHAT HE WANTS. These councillors have obviously not learnt a single thing in their four years as councillors. They keep stupidly, and nonsensically repeating the same errors over and over again!

Item 9.2 – Vickery Street, Bentleigh.

Hyams moved motion to lop off one storey to three levels instead of four and to reduce the number of apartments to 27. Seconded by Magee.

HYAMS:  started by saying that council has got a ‘policy’ about height needing to be at the centre of activity zones and that this application is ‘right on the edge’ and is ‘next to the transition zone’. So ‘it is right on the edge of this Residential Growth Zone’.  He therefore ‘believes that 3 storeys is more appropriate’ than four.  Said that he attended the planning conference where residents ‘raised’ concerns and he ‘shares those concerns’ and the motion is the result.  Residents were worried about overshadowing so 3 storeys takes care of this. Residents concern about ‘density’ is also catered for by removing  ‘a quarter of the apartments’ (ie from 36 down to 27). There are also conditions about site coverage and set backs. The conditions also want the number of 3 bedroom units increased so there will be ‘greater diversity’.  Said that residents and councillors agree that 1 car park per 2 bedroom unit probably isn’t enough but that is what ‘ResCode’ sets out and ‘that’s all that we can require’.  Residents also were worried about traffic, but the Australian Standards set the number of cars travelling  and what the various streets can ‘handle’ and ‘that’s what our officers are bound by’.  Thought that the motion represents a ‘reasonable compromise’.

MAGEE: said that the first thing done is to consider whether the application complies ‘with ResCode’ and the planning scheme.  Said that this ‘does meet those basic guidelines’. For councillors they ask ‘is this the best use of this land?’ and ‘does this improve the amenity or detract from it’. He thinks it ‘detracts’.  ‘We can sit up here and refuse it because we don’t like it’ but that would be ‘stupid’ since they know that it ‘already complies’ with ResCode and the planning scheme which was ‘put together with great community consultation with our residents’ who together with ‘council decided what can be built in what streets’.  Said this is ‘right on the edge. It is that transition zone’. Admitted that this will overlook people as a four storey building. Went on with ‘we as a responsible authority have to decide’ whether to reject the application and ‘send it off to VCAT who are then going to apply ResCode’ and maybe ‘come up with the same conclusion that the officers did’. What councillors want to do is ‘give something to the developer that is still pleasing, that is still profitable’ so they may not go to VCAT. Admitted there are problems with parking and amenity and Vickery Street is ‘right at the extreme where we start changing into the neighbourhood residential zone’. Said that this is ‘a difficult one’ but to ‘simply refuse’ is ‘the wrong way to go’ – it is the ‘weak way to go’ and they still ‘have to be the responsible authority’. ‘We can’t just stand here and want to become popular’.  It’s not ‘about being popular ,it’s about doing the right thing’. They have to ‘suit the developer’ as well as residents and probably only a two storey development will suit ‘anyone living around it’. He wouldn’t like to go into ‘my back yard’ and look up at a four storey building. Thought that Hyams motion was a ‘much better outcome’ than proposed.

LIPSHUTZ: agreed with Hyams and said that when council makes a decision it stands as a ‘quasi tribunal’ and that they have to ‘look at planning law’ and not ‘just what we feel should happen’. If they do only what ‘residents want’ then VCAT will ‘say we have no credibility’. Council has to consider  planning law and ‘issues that residents have raised’.  Said that residents had ‘raised important issues’ like overshadowing and neighbourhood character. He can ‘reject’ the application but that doesn’t ‘achieve anything’ because it will go to VCAT and ‘VCAT will overrule us’. Claimed that they ‘had looked’ at setbacks, overlooking, etc. Said he wouldn’t like a building like this ‘next to me but development is going to happen’ so ‘my job as councillor’ is to ‘ensure’ the ‘least impact’ on residents. The imposed conditions ensure ‘lower mass’, etc. The problem of ‘high rise’ is through all of Melbourne so ‘if you knock off one floor’ that ‘also reduced the number of cars’ in our congested streets.

SOUNNESS: said he had spoken to neighbouring residents and thanked them for ‘inviting’ him into their houses. Thought that reducing the application by one level is a ‘good compromise’ if it goes to VCAT. Thought it was ‘strange’ that they always ‘talk’ as if VCAT ‘were in the room’ but VCAT isn’t in the room so ‘we don’t have that opportunity’ to talk with them. But ‘VCAT is the hidden partner to our discussion’. Said he ‘recognised’ that residents will be impacted and that the planning scheme ‘is written’ and because of the zones, ‘there will be some form of development that will impact’ on people. Said he would support the ‘proposal as written’ but sees that there probably won’t be ‘support around the table’ for anything other than Hyams motion.

LOBO: said that councillors are there to ‘represent the residents’ and not governments or others. Said that the application isn’t in line with ‘clause 22.05’ of the planning scheme, and is ‘inconsistent with the character of the neighbourhood’ in terms of ‘mass and scale’, and doesn’t meet the requirements of Clause 55.02 and other bits from this clause. Said that even at 3 storeys, or 4 storeys, the ‘height of the building will be oppressive and overwhelming’ and impact on residents in Godfrey Street that it backs onto. Said that ‘aesthetics’ would change and noise level from residents living in the units increase plus looking into backyards and backyards are ‘the dream’ of Australians where they have barbecues , a ‘beer and watch the cricket or footy’. Thought that the government and council were ‘wrong’ in letting the ‘residential zones go ahead’ and ‘after seeing the tears rolling on people’s’ faces he now knows ‘they have lost their biggest asset’ – ‘their castle’. (At this point Lobo asked for the extension of two minutes to his time. All councillors except Lipshutz – who did not put up his hand – voted on extending time.) Went on to say that the proposed development will ‘destroy the character of Godfrey St’ plus their privacy. Thought that they should refuse the application like they did with 14-18 Vickery but that ‘ultimately’ was given a permit by VCAT. If the permit for 3 or even 2 storeys is given then ‘residents will be left to sing or hum – ‘there goes my only possession’.

MAGEE: asked Lobo a question in that he said the proposal ‘doesn’t accord with Clause 22.05’ and said ‘I’m not actually familiar with that’ so ‘could Cr Lobo tell us what that might be’?

LOBO: asked to ‘direct’ the question to Torres

Pilling sought to do this but MAGEE interrupted saying –

MAGEE: since Lobo said ‘he disapproved of this development’ because it doesn’t meet the objectives of 22.05 so ‘he must obviously know what that is so I’d like to hear from him what that clause is’.  Pilling then asked Lobo to ‘respond to that question’.

LOBO: said that he relies on the ‘recommendations of Ron Torres’ and that he ‘nor any of the councillors are technically aware of things’ so ‘I have to depend on him’.

PILLING then said ‘I might ask the question’.

TORRES: explained that clause 22.05 refers to ‘council’s Urban Village Policy’.

MAGEE: asked Lobo whether he ‘understands all of those clauses, do you?’

LOBO: ‘I don’t think it is your business, thank you’.

MAGEE: ‘I’ll take that as a ‘no’”

DELAHUNTY: said that she is ‘familiar’ with the policy and has been wondering ‘how to cast my vote’ by listening to everyone. She has been to the site and doesn’t ‘think that we are managing the rate of change’ in these streets and that ‘town planning is about managing that rate of change’. Referred to Lobo ‘mentioning’ some of the clauses ‘where we think this application might fall down’. Although ‘I can see very strong grounds for refusal’ she is concerned about VCAT as ‘that extra person in the room’. However, several months ago they ‘kept hammering VCAT’ for not ‘applying our policy’ and ‘we’re second guessing what they are going to do’. So it’s now ‘come to a point where I’ve got to be consistent in my arguments or I can’t expect them to be consistent as well’. Even though Hyams has done a ‘good job in providing balance, it still falls down’. Since it does ‘fall down’ on ‘so many’ areas then a refusal is necessary. Thought that ‘it is unusual to see so much tinkering’ by ‘tiny degrees’ from council and ‘not a straight out refusal’. It’s on the edge of other zones so they need to think carefully about these situations. Claimed to ‘still be in two minds’.

PILLING: thought all councillor comments were good. Said this was ‘on the cusp’ of the growth zone ‘is an issue’ and asked Hyams if he would ‘like to address those concerns’. Thought that 4 storeys is too much and that ‘I would tend to support the alternative’ since this answers residents and is more ‘realistic’.

HYAMS:   said that ‘there are some things’ in the planning scheme that are ‘cut and dried and mandatory’ and others that are ‘more subjective’ like neighbourhood character. So even though 4 storeys is mandatory they can ‘reasonably say’ that here ‘it should be 3 storeys’. Agreed with the ‘non compliance’ with ResCode that Lobo spoke about but his motion now ‘resolves those issues’.  Thought it was a ‘seductive argument’ to say that ‘we’re here to represent the residents’  and ‘so we should do what the residents say’ but ‘we need to take our responsibilities seriously’ and that means ‘to apply the planning law’. Lobo’s concern about privacy is handled by the condition of ‘screening’ so ‘you should not be able to see into those backyards’ even though the ‘people in those backyards will be able to see the building’. Thought his motion was the ‘best outcome’ and residents wouldn’t thank them if they refuse and then VCAT says that ‘council is being unreasonable’. ‘What we should be doing is to go to VCAT with a reasonable position’. So three storeys is fulfilling both the responsibility to residents and as a council. Lobo’s comments on the zones need a reply. Claimed that the zones were ‘a direct transition from our previous zones’ and the Urban Villages before are now Residential Growth Zones. Before there were no height limits and now ‘we have mandatory height limits’ and that they are the ‘only council in Victoria that has mandatory height limits across all of its residential zones’. Claimed that council also has its ‘transition zones’ and that these didn’t come out of Neighbourhood residential areas but out of ‘where the Urban Villages were’. If these weren’t there, they would all now be ‘4 storey maximum’. Said that every council has a ‘reponsibility’ to ‘cater for population growth’ and that ‘council has done the best’ it could ‘under those circumstances’.