Caulfield Racecourse/C60


An astonishing item (9.8) features in today’s agenda. Council is proposing to enter into a potential 9 year lease with the VRC (aka MRC) for 2 sections of the Wedge – ie the land that has stood vacant at the top of Glen Eira/Booran Rds for years and years. The terms of the proposed lease are:

  • For the first 5 years the payment to council (as committee of management) of $137,500 and for each 2 year extension up to a further 4 years, a rental of $30,400 per annum.
  • The land under discussion includes a 153 square metre area that contains a water bore, and another area to the east of the Wedge of 675 square metres. This second area abuts the current freehold land containing the stables.

Our take on this is as follows:

  • Why would the MRC agree to pay even this pittance for a lease on land that has stood empty for years unless this is nothing more than a major land grab to accommodate future residential development to the east of this strip? Below is a screen dump taken from the VPA website which makes it clear that the MRC is thinking of more development once training goes.

  • Is the payment of basically $27,000 per annum a reasonable rent given that any commercial block of 675 square metres would certainly receive far more in rent?
  • Does this lease mean that training will not be gone for another 9 years at least? In 2011 a 5 year time limit was put on. We are now talking 2027 at the earliest.
  • Why has this item made an appearance at this stage given that the newly appointed trustees are set to begin their reign on the 1st August, 2018. Does the signing off of this lease usurp their power and authority and hence is the timing deliberate? Surely council could have waited another 2 weeks given the years when nothing has happened?
  • What does this mean for the proposed dog agility facility? How can dogs, kids, and adults co-exist with trucks, workmen, etc having unrestricted access to the bore?
  • Why is the last sentence of the Department letter redacted? What potentially damaging info does this sentence contain?
  • One sentence of the officer’s report is worth repeating –As the lease term is less than 10 years Council is not required to give public notice of the intention to enter into the lease with the MRC. Skull duggery at its best! No publicity, no objections, no community involvement whatsoever! Well done council!

All in all another cave in by council and the department to the Melbourne Racing Club!

The VPA (and Council) has finally released its version of Stage 1 of ‘community consultation’ on the Caulfield Station structure planning with this neat little blurb and a ‘survey’. (See: https://vpa.vic.gov.au/caulfield-station-precinct-vision-survey/

It would seem that the norm now for government and council is to fall back on meaningless jargon (ie ‘Vision’) and surveys that are highly questionable. Our view is that surveys are fine – but only AFTER residents know exactly what they are dealing with. What are the parameters that have been set? What is the proposed land use? Before any ‘survey’ results can be truly meaningful then residents need to know exactly what are the options? We fear that this process will simply mirror what has already happened with Bentleigh, Carnegie & Elsternwick – albeit on a much grander scale!

Here’s part of the ‘survey’. We ask readers to consider its merit.

PS – FROM TODAY’S HANSARD

Caulfield electorate

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield)

(12:00)

My question is for the Minister for Planning. I raise an issue on behalf of 1300 local petition signatories who are outraged by the Elsternwick rezoning master plan, which will increase the local population by over 20 per cent with no consideration of the impacts on amenity, infrastructure and traffic congestion. Residents are also confused at the seemingly different rules for different electorates whereby the areas of Bentleigh and Carnegie are benefiting from interim height controls as low as four to five storeys whereas sections of  Elsternwick have no current height limits and could face up to 20 –storey apartments complexes.

The current Elsternwick rezoning plan is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the local area. Can the minister provide an answer to concerned Elsternwick residents as to why are there are these inconsistencies whereby one electorate, the marginal seat of Bentleigh, is being benefited in comparison with another electorate, my electorate of Caulfield?

Councillors have voted unanimously to abandon the Amendment seeking to achieve a social/affordable housing component  for the Caulfield Village development. What is staggering about the ‘debate’ is:

  • Every single councillor carefully avoided use of the word ‘abandon’
  • Residents would be hard pressed to decipher council’s position on the officer recommendations, especially when Delahunty made such repeated comments as ‘we will not give up’ plus labelling the MRC as ‘disgusting’.
  • Not one single councillor addressed the issues raised by the Planning Panel letter and why council is unable to respond to these legal issues. Was further legal advice even sought?
  • Not one single councillor even mentioned the issue of the MRC’s attempt to tinker with the boundaries to the Mixed Use precinct and how this was also an integral part of the proposed amendment. What happens now on this issue is anyone’s guess.
  • Instead we got heaps and heaps of chest thumping about how important social housing is and barely a word on the amendment itself and why it should be abandoned except for ‘we don’t have the controls’. This was never itemised, spelt out, or even discussed.
  • Significantly, Esakoff (one of the gang of 4 who accepted the Incorporated Plan) did not speak.

For those interested in listening to the discussion, we’ve uploaded it below.

How councillors vote on Item 9.5 next Tuesday night will reveal much about their courage, their integrity, and their overall commitment to social/affordable housing. It will reveal once and for all whether all the recent huffing and puffing about supporting the less advantaged in our society has been nothing more than hot air and political grandstanding.

Item 9.5 concerns the proposed amendment designed to ensure that the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) sticks to the terms of the Incorporated Plan and provides a modicum of social/affordable housing in its mammoth 2000 plus Caulfield village development. The officer’s recommendation is –

Having given consideration to the issues explored in this report, resolves to not proceed with Amendment C151 and support a position to the Panel appointed to consider Amendment C151 that it intends to abandon the amendment. 

We remind readers of the following:

  • The appointment of the gang of 4 (Lipshutz, Pilling, Hyams & Esakoff) instead of the entire councillor group to decide on the incorporated plan in 2011 which agreed to heights of at least 20 storeys.
  • Decision after decision that increased dwelling numbers from a stated 1100 to now over 2000 and by the conclusion will probably total closer to 3000 apartments – the vast majority being single bedroom dog boxes.
  • The continual cave in after cave in on each submitted development plan
  • The ridiculous acceptance of a paltry 4 and 5% open space levy
  • The failure to even have a social housing policy years after VCAT made note of this fact
  • Fences along Queen’s Road still standing though falling apart and
  • A ridiculous acceptance of a pathetic little ‘playground’ and barbecue area that is supposed to represent ‘open space’ for the community whilst the gates remain locked half the time.

Every single aspect of council’s dealings with the MRC has resulted in total disaster for the community. Now we have this latest outrage which will hand the developer millions more in profits no doubt. And one of the major ‘excuses’ for giving up and abandoning the amendment –

If the Amendment proceeds a considerable amount of funding and resources will be required in the preparation of a panel hearing. 

How this sentence can even be included is literally mind boggling – especially when the draft Strategic Resource Plan includes this gem of future expenditure Shepparson Avenue Market Development – $2.95m for design, concept plans and initial consultation (page 6). If we are reading this correctly, council is prepared to spend just under $3 million before the first sod of earth is even turned, yet they baulk at the prospect of even $100,000 to ensure that the MRC holds up its end of what the Incorporated Plan and the C60 schedule states.

What irks us even more is that the entire focus of the officer’s report is on the social housing aspect. Yet the proposed amendment contained much more. It was intended to ensure that the MRC could not alter the boundaries of the 3 precincts which would have enabled them to expand some areas and hence cram in more dwellings. No argument is presented as to why this should not be pursued!

The other issue this item raises is the competence of council’s planning department once more. If there are ambiguities in the draft amendment and therefore open to legal challenge, then what does this say about the expertise of those who drafted the amendment in the first place?

Regardless of the legal wrangles, council now has the opportunity to carry through on all its stated commitments to social housing. It should not come as a surprise that the MRC is fighting every step of the way. But so should council if they have any integrity left! Hire some decent legal eagles, do the necessary homework, and ensure that the MRC does not once again walk all over the community and its representatives! The expenditure of $100,000 is surely a drop in the ocean compared to the vast waste that is endemic in Glen Eira!

The Bill for the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust is now available and uploaded HERE

A quick perusal of the Bill reveals:

  • The Trust is disbanded and a new ‘trust’ to be appointed
  • The Minister will appoint between 5 and 7 members to the new Trust – they can be members of parliament. Nothing is stated regarding community members or council members.
  • Current leases will remain until the Trust is operational and this could be in the latter part of 2018 when the Bill is enacted
  • Leases can now extend out to 65 years with Ministerial approval
  • The Minister can declare ‘event’ days (ie racing, circuses, etc)
  • One interesting section of the Bill – Subclause (7) allows the Trust to regulate its own meeting proceedings, subject to the provisions of this Bill. What this means in terms of reporting and minuting of meetings is anyone’s guess!
  • There will be ‘planning corporate documents’ as well as ‘management plans’. The latter to go out for public consultation.

How all of the above works out in practice is yet to be seen. Please read the proposed legislation and offer your thoughts.

PS: Today’s Hansard on the Bill is uploaded HERE

The prize for the most disingenuous, misleading, and completely ignorant or politically expedient comments for the year must go to Delahunty, Magee and Athanasopolous. How anyone in their right mind could even contemplate uttering the sentiment that 20+ storeys of dog boxes is acceptable, given the community’s outcry about height and inappropriate development is simply staggering. But that’s what has happened as exemplified in the following ‘debate’ on the option of seeking mandatory height controls for the Caulfield Village Smith Street Precinct.

First, some explanation is necessary. The approved Incorporated Plan for the entire Caulfield Village project includes the following:

  • All stated heights are ‘preferred’ and are not MANDATORY.
  • The cited heights are listed according to AHD and for the Smith Street precinct the highest is nominated as 120 metres which is then recorded as ‘typical 20 storeys’.

AHD, or Australian Height Datum involves calculating street level from sea levels. In other words, how much above sea level is the land under discussion. The image we present below comes from the State Government’s Land Services division. It shows the contours of the land. Readers should note that the lie of the land varies from 46 to 49 metres. Since the Incorporated Plan specified 120m AHD that means that the 46 or 49 metres needs to be subtracted from the 120 metres to get any idea of the ensuing height.  If we subtract 50 metres from 120 metres, the result is 70 metres above ground level that the building can reach – unless of course the MRC decides to push the buttons on the ‘preferred’ aspect and go for higher. The Building Code of Australia sets a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.4 metres. Thus even if we have larger floor to ceiling heights for the commercial ground floor areas, that would still leave approximately 60 metres available for residential purposes. The possible results are that the developer could quite easily construct a building of 25 and above storeys. Nothing binds the developer to a mere 20 storeys as this council would like residents to believe! – and especially not when we have a ‘preferred’ height limit rather than a mandatory one!

Please read the following carefully and decide how well these councillors are representing the community and how much they really understand as to the implications of their voting!

Delahunty moved motion to accept ‘as printed’. Magee seconded.

DELAHUNTY: thanked the resident for bringing council’s attention to the issue of ‘additional’ controls concerning heights at a recent council meeting and ‘whether or not we should look at some height controls’. Said the report gave the option that ‘we could apply to the minister to change the height controls’ or they could ‘reserve’ action until after the structure planning is done. Went on to say that ‘at the moment’ the Smith St precinct has height that varies from ’12 to 20 storeys’ and if the developer wanted to go over this height limit then ‘they would have to go through a planning application’. She therefore ‘supposes’ there is a ‘large disincentive’ for the developer to do this. Said she wasn’t ‘of a mind to impose anything additional’ on the developer that ‘isn’t in keeping with that particular precinct’. Her concern was getting ‘nice apartments’ and ‘not how high’ those apartments are. ‘I’m not particularly concerned about that’ or the ‘height of the Smith Street precinct at the moment’ because ‘I do not believe it will go over 20’. Admitted that it has been ‘much debated, much hated, but it is what it is’. It’s on an ‘incredibly major transport hub’ with no open space, but this ‘will change’. ‘So it’s right and proper that it takes a fair bit of development’. ‘So the height is of less concern to me personally’ than who will live there – ie affordable housing. This is where ‘I am suggesting we focus our energies’ and that’s why ‘I endorse that we reserve our considerations’ until the structure planning strategies are done. Said that it was ‘good’ to have to consider this and to have the reminder that there is a ‘built in disincentive for the developer’.

COMMENT

  • As to the Incorporated Plan being a ‘disincentive’ this is utter hogwash. If anything it and the history of this project are INCENTIVES, since the MRC has won every battle it has chosen to pursue at VCAT – and all with council’s complicity, or cave- ins. There is no reason to suspect that any future visit to VCAT will result in a different outcome if council does not strengthen its controls. And that, this motion has explicitly refused to do. Readers need to question why?

MAGEE: ‘like you’, I ‘certainly don’t have any issues with a 20 storey building on that site’.  Said it can already be ’22 storeys because what we’re talking about is height’ and by lowering the ceilings for each storey they can fit more storeys in. So on the ‘number of apartments’ there is ‘room to move’ but the overall height ‘can’t change’. ‘If you’re not going to put this sort of density around major transport’ hubs then ‘where are you going to put it?’ Went on to say that it does lack open space so ‘where can we find open space’ and implied the racecourse. Said that the precinct will also have commercial areas and that will bring ’employment opportunities’ and ‘right next to a railway station is a great incentive’. Didn’t think they should go to the government and try to get anything that’s ‘not there right now’. What’s there was ‘put in place many years ago and I believe we’ve moved on from that’. Went on to say that this is ‘really a great opportunity for people who don’t want to have a car’ to ‘live in a precinct’ that will give ‘unprecedented opportunities for public transport’ and ‘overlooking’ one of the most valued and ‘new open space’. With developments of this size there are ‘security’ issues but what council is ‘talking about today is not security, not open space, but height limits’. What’s there now is ‘may be not’ what was originally wanted but he thought it could be. ‘detrimental if we try and change that’ because ‘it could be changed the other way and we could see something that is quite significantly higher’

COMMENT

  • Money is NOT IN RETAIL, but in residential. That’s why the MRC has almost halved the originally mooted amount of commercial space in the development. For Magee to therefore spruik the ‘employment’ benefits of commercial space is a nonsense. We would not be surprised to find that the next development plan intends to cut the already reduced commercial space by another few thousand square metres and instead go for more apartments. Since nothing about this entire project is ‘mandatory’ the MRC can do what it likes – and it has!
  • Just because something has ‘been in place’ for years and has time and again shown to be inadequate is NOT AN ARGUMENT NOT TO TRY AND REMEDY THE SITUATION.

ATHANASOPOLOUS: asked if there was any site within the area that could provide space for ‘consumer car parking’ and whether ‘we’ve ever looked at the opportunity’ provided by the racecourse for ‘visitor car parking’?

TORRES: said it was a ‘private development on private land’ and so ‘the approval doesn’t envisage private car parking but it does envisage providing enough car parking for the various uses’ that will be ‘developed on this land’.

COMMENT

  • Athanasopolous’s question to Torres displays not only ignorance of the history of this project – for which admittedly some slack may be given – but surely when a councillor is about to vote on an important issue, he should make it his business to find out about the history of the project. If Athanasopolous had bothered to do his homework he would have found that on the issue of using the centre of the racecourse as a car park, both the community and council for that matter were strongly opposed.
  • Torres also needs to be ticked off on his response since it is only half true. The ‘various uses’ may be met, but there is no visitor car parking – agreed to by council!

MOTION PUT AND PASSED UNANIMOUSLY

Another incredible agenda of 273 pages. More developments feature and more ‘let’s do nothing’ recommendations.

Caulfield Village Height Limits

Item 9.10 is the officer report on councillors’ request to investigate the options available to provide more rigorous height provisions for the Smith Street precinct.

This report is the outcome from previous council resolutions that in typical fashion have gone nowhere and disappeared into the dustbin of history. On February 7th 2017, councillors passed this resolution –

requests officers to undertake a review of the current town planning controls applying to the Caulfield Village Development given that planning scheme controls have evolved since the approval of Amendment C60. The review is to identify any potential gaps in the controls including the loss of on-street car parking around the Caulfield Village development site. Should any gaps be identified officers are to commence a planning scheme amendment process to address these gaps.

Then again on the 21st March there was this resolution –

That Council:

  1. notes this report;
  2. notes potential gaps identified in the current controls relating to social/affordablehousing, and the precinct boundaries;
  3. commences a planning scheme amendment process to address these gaps in thecontrols, and seeks authorisation from the Minister for Planning to prepare and exhibitthe amendment; and
  4. seeks a further report from officers on the options available to provide more rigorousheight provisions for the Smith Street precinct..

Nothing could be clearer we maintain that the ‘order’ to begin a planning scheme amendment. It is yet to materialise.

So for this council meeting we get the following recommendations –

That Council:

  1. notes this report.
  2. notes that Council could apply to Minister for Planning to change the current preferred height controls within the Smith Street precinct to mandatory maximum height controls.
  3. reserves its consideration of height provisions for the Smith Street precinct until after Council has completed its Activity Centre, Housing and Local Economy Strategy, and resultant built form guidelines for Glen Eira’s activity centres.

The proffered arguments for this ‘do nothing’ approach are indeed lamentable.

  • First we’re told how wonderful the existing Incorporated Plan is – ie This process provides a significant incentive to the developer to comply with the heights and setbacks set out in the Incorporated Plan. Really?!!!! So this is why the developer has gone to VCAT time and time again and increased his heights and setbacks for Precinct One and now had major victories with Precinct 2? How much longer will council continue with this charade that the Incorporated Plan is worth the paper it is written on?
  • Next, there is the usual scare campaign – ie requesting the Minister to authorise mandatory height limits could very well result in greater than the current 20 storey ‘discretionary’ height.
  • Then finally we get the ‘promise’ of ‘action’ down the track – ie The Activity Centre Housing and Local Economy Stategy will result in ‘built form’ guidelines for Glen Eira’s activity centres, such as the Caulfield Station Precinct. It is recommended that any further consideration of the Smith Street precinct occurs after the completion of the built form guidelines. What this recommendation does not highlight is that ‘guidelines’ are just that, and in no shape or form are they a better option than mandatory provisions.
  • Nor is there any discussion of whether any proposed ‘mandatory height limits’ will be judged on the number of storeys, or what is known as the Australian Height Datum (AHD). We have already seen that because of the slope of the land Precinct 1 now has 6 storeys instead of 5, and the Smith Street precinct is mooting 22 storeys instead of the wonderful council promise of 20 storeys!

Conclusions 

  • How many more times will council resolutions be ignored and not acted upon?
  • How many more times will residents have to wait before council gets off its backside and actually begins reforming its all too numerous mistakes of the past?
  • How many more times will this administration use ‘scare tactics’ as the excuse to not attempt anything?

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