Councillor Performance


From today’s Caulfield Leader

Below is an email that was sent by council to all Trade Associations in Glen Eira. Nothing wrong with this except:

1. Why aren’t residents included since the blurb below speaks of the ‘community’s views’?

2. Why is this the first we hear of council’s plans for A Place Making Action Plan?

We do not wish to diminish the importance of local business. However, we do not believe that traders should get precedence over the general community on something as important as planning and residential amenity. Furthermore, very little reporting of such meetings ever makes it into the public domain. It would appear that traders very definitely are at an ‘advantage’ in Glen Eira compared to the ordinary run of the mill resident!

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Local Economy and Place Making Action Plan – Traders Associations Consultation

Glen Eira City Council warmly invites you to participate in a discussion to help shape the development of a new Local Economy and Place Making Action Plan for our municipality.

As with Greater Melbourne, Glen Eira is currently experiencing a time of significant change, with transport upgrades, population expansion, shifting land use and changes to the way people work and do business. These significant, externally driven changes present both challenges and opportunities with regards to the economic and social viability of our municipality.

As a Traders Association you play a vital role in capturing and representing the views of the traders in your centre. We would like your input into what would make Glen Eira an even better place to work and do business, and how this could be achieved.

This is an exciting opportunity for you to help us ensure the Action Plan is informed by the community’s views and vision regarding developing our local economy. (our emphases). We really hope you are able to make it and contribute to this important conversation. 

Date:     Wednesday 27 February 2019

Time:     6:30pm for 7pm start. Concludes at 8.30pm (includes light refreshments on arrival)

Where: Glen Eira Town Hall, Caulfield Cup Room

RSVP:    cityfutures@gleneira.vic.gov.au by Wednesday 20 February

Background information

Regards

 

Alex Francis-Yu
Place Making – Business Support

City Futures

PO Box 42 Caulfield South VIC 3162
T 9524 3464 M 0466 027 490
E afrancis@gleneira.vic.gov.au

Moonee Valley council a global finalist for plan to grow urban forest

Peter Barrett Feb 10, 2019

An ambitious plan to create an urban forest and plant 30 per cent more trees by 2040 has the City of Moonee Valley shortlisted for a major new international prize.

A panel of judges including entrepreneur Arianna Huffington and architect Daniel Libeskind recently gave the nod to the Melbourne municipality, which takes in Airport West, Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Flemington.

The prize, known as the Wellbeing City Awards, is divided into four categories: Community, Economy & Opportunity, Public Health, and Sustainable Environment. The birthplace of Dame Edna remains the only Australian city left in a field of 16 heavy-hitters that includes Milan, Lisbon, Vancouver and Los Angeles.

“We’re very excited to be part of this award, particularly as we are the only nomination from Australia,” says Moonee Valley mayor Narelle Sharpe. “It certainly makes it a bit more special, considering there were 100 applications.”

With a population of 126,700, the municipality is competing directly with Lisbon (Portugal), Avia (Spain) and Curridabat (Costa Rica) in the Sustainable Environment category, which promotes the idea of recognising city-led action on “urban wellbeing”. Lisbon is adopting an EU Sustainable Development Strategy, Avia is focusing on reducing emissions and Curriddabat is banking on a holistic approach.

Cr Sharpe says their plan to significantly grow Moonee Valley’s tree canopy came after two years of community consultation and was endorsed before the award nomination. “The main area that kept cropping up was ‘a healthy city’,” says Cr Sharpe of the resident feedback, adding that by greening the streets by 30 per cent the urban environment will benefit from cooling due to shade and provide a more pleasant place for people to live, shop and socialise.

To date, the council has planted trees at Aberfeldie Park, Afton Street Conservation Reserve, Boeing Reserve, Thompson Reserve and Travancore. While the mayor would like to see increased tree canopies across the whole municipality, she says areas along the Maribyrnong River will see a particular focus.

As well as plantings the council has endorsed moves to protect existing large and significant trees using mechanisms similar to heritage overlay. Local residents have also been encouraged to nominate trees they think are worthy of protection. “People are really getting behind it,” says Cr Sharpe. “[We] had one gentleman who was upset that his tree hadn’t been nominated and it was on his property.”

Last October the Byron Shire Council in NSW declared a state of climate emergency and several Victorian councils including Yarra, Darebin Moreland and Port Melbourne have been taking action on reducing fossil fuel use in a bid to address climate change. But Cr Sharpe says her municipality’s urban forest plan is not politically motivated.

“In the grand scheme of things it’s all inter-related but our focus is on building a healthy city for our future generations,” she says. “I’ve lived here for my whole entire life and I certainly hope my children do, as well. We’re just planning for our future and making sure our kids see the great work that we’re starting now.”

Winners of the Wellbeing City Awards will be announced in April at an event in Montreal, Canada.

Source: https://www.domain.com.au/news/moonee-valley-council-a-global-finalist-for-plan-to-grow-urban-forest/

COMMENT

We’ve recently reported on Moonee Valley’s tree register process where not only was the register included in the planning scheme, but each tree (over 500) was also given the added protection of an overlay – again included in the planning scheme. No such luck in Glen Eira since all that is currently under discussion is a Local Law!

We also remind readers that Glen Eira’s attempts at an Urban Forest include the locking up of a sizeable piece of land at the $13m Booran Reserve. How long the public will be locked out is anyone’s guess – yet this is still counted as public ‘open space’!!!!

Data from council’s Annual Reports also makes for interesting reading in terms of tree plantings and loss of trees. According to council’s own figures we have –

2017/18 – 2038 trees planted of which 913 were replacement.

2016/17 – 2090 (STREET TREES PLANTED) –no indication of replacement numbers

2015/16 – “1,050 replacement and 950 additional street trees”

The 2012/13 Annual Report claimed that the city had 46,000 street trees. No figure was provided for park trees, or those on private property. No study has even been undertaken by council to determine the overall loss of tree canopy in the municipality, nor where the greatest loss is occurring and how this should be rectified. Nor do we know how many permits for additional crossovers in developments result in the removal of trees.

If council is really serious about ensuring that Glen Eira remains ‘green’, then far more attention must be given to protecting and expanding what we already have.  That has to come with proper planning initiatives plus far better maintenance.

The minutes from last Tuesday night’s council meeting on the sale of the aged care facilities make for very interesting reading. Please note the following:

  • The emphases throughout is on the ‘commercial’ aspect. Not a word ensures that the sale will be allowed only to another aged care provider.
  • Council is giving itself plenty of leeway it seems with the repetition of ‘all or some’ of the designated land. Given that Weeroona is a massive site of approximately 1.6 hectares, developers would perhaps be eyeing off such a sized property – and not necessarily for aged care but for residential development. How many apartments could be fitted onto 1.6 hectares we wonder?
  • Finally please note the outcome of this vote. Clearly, not every councillor was ‘happy’ with the motion. Whether this ‘unhappiness’ related to the publishing of the resolution, or against the proposed sale itself is anyone’s guess.
  • How many councilors voted ‘nay’ so that the motion was only ‘carried’ and not endorsed unanimously. On such an important decision surely one councillor at least had the guts to call for a division so that residents would know which councilors favoured sale and those opposed! No such luck in this happy group of campers.

Council has resolved to sell off its 3 aged care facilities. Whether or not this is the appropriate decision is not the point. What concerns us is the manner and process by which this decision was made. There has been:

  • No community consultation whatsoever
  • No warning to staff, residents of these homes, or volunteers
  • No public documentation indicating the reasons why such a decision was made
  • The decision was made behind closed doors
  • No financial report tabled in council on the parlous state of aged care
  • No upfront admission by council that for the past 4 years at least council has been in the red for between $1m and $2m per annum in this area.

We certainly acknowledge that recent federal legislation has impacted severely on councils’ ability to provide such services. This however does not obviate the need for full transparency and communication with ratepayers and those directly impacted by such a decision. Our view is that it should be up to residents to determine how their money is being spent. Are residents willing to have their rates subsidise aged care in the community? Or, do they believe that private companies are the best option? Such decisions can only be based on council providing the community with the full facts. That has never happened in this council. No document has ever been tabled to explain why aged care has been running at such a loss for year upon year. Nor has any document been tabled which outlines a business case for the sale. Residents have been kept in the dark. That is tragically the modus operandi of this council on so many issues!

The very fact that such a momentous decision can be made in secret and that 9 individuals are totally complicit in endorsing this veil of secrecy is frankly unconscionable.

Many more questions need answering. For instance:

  • Will council also be ‘outsourcing’ its home care assistance functions – ie cleaning, carers, etc?
  • What guarantee do employees have of future work?

What irks us even more is the tone of the public statements issued by Hyams and the CEO. As shown below the Hyams document is nothing more than spin taken to the nth degree. The fact that employees can ‘transfer’ if they wish to the new employer ignores completely the fact that this only applies to permanent staff and not long term casuals and is at the mercy of the new owners as the McKenzie document (uploaded here) makes clear.

To see the impact that such a decision has had we publish one of several emails we have received. This is the human cost – something that our 9 councillors have obviously ignored and refused to put out for public debate!

This is my first time to get in touch with you, although I read your work with great interest. 

I do need to stay anonymous, as I am an employee …. of one of the aged care residents. Do with this information what you will but please let me stay anonymous.  

….. the very first I heard of this was this morning, February 6, 8.38 am in an email from mayor Jamie Hymes. Next communication came from the union, at 1.38 pm as I am an in-home-support staff as well. At 2.08 pm another email arrived from CEO Rebecca McKenzie, addressed to all employees of council. 

All this without any inkling or whisper and with not much notice either.  

As a permanent part-time staff of xxx years , working as an in-home-support worker, I can’t help but feel this is our fate for next year and this is exactly how it is going to be handled as well.  

….. as an employee, what I find most offensive is 1. this was all done in secrecy, 2. no ifs and buts 3. Council is offering for residents and staff free “shrink” sessions.  

Regards, 

And finally, the Union reaction –

 

In a packed gallery last night, overflowing into the passageways, councillors voted unanimously to refuse the Selwyn Street application for the 10 and 14 storey towers. Hardly a surprise given the failings of the application itself and the strong opposition mounted by residents.

Objectors asked several questions in the ‘community participation’ section of the meeting. One wanted a commitment that when the developer headed off to VCAT, that council would employ a top quality ‘silk’ to defend the refusal. The response was that council had already held discussions with lawyers and would provide a good ‘legal team’.  Hence, the question whether more than a (lowly) solicitor would be employed was never really answered. Readers will of course remember the Calvary/Bethlehem Hospital case in Kooyong Road where council’s ‘legal team’ consisted of one hired ‘solicitor’ (Mr Vorchheimer) and 2 expert witnesses – a traffic engineer and an urban designer. It was up to the residents themselves to hire a barrister and town planner.

As for the comments of councilors themselves, there was the usual grandstanding and claims of caring about community and what a wonderful job council has been doing with its structure planning and how it has been listening to resident aspirations.

Interspersed throughout the various comments there were blatant untruths and distortions of historical fact that are mind boggling. We highlight these below.

SILVER: Admitted that the structure plan is not as yet an accepted document in the planning scheme and that it would anyway be of the ‘lowest order’ – ie merely a ‘reference document’. He then goes on to state that the Urban Villages policy provides greater guidance and that …’we are in the unfortunate situation this site is about to accommodate, based on the planning scheme, more than many people would be comfortable with’. Thus council’s planning becomes dependent on a document that began its life in 1999 and was finally gazetted in the early 2000’s. If Silver and the other councillors therefore rely on the planning scheme it should be asked:

  • how can they suggest in their draft structure planning a height of 8 storeys for this site when residents’ throughout the ‘community consultation’ phase were vehemently opposed to such heights.
  • And if the planning scheme’s Uban Villages policy is the be all and end all as claimed by Silver, then how can they now support an 8 storey height that differs from what the planning scheme states – Development in Selwyn Street be of scale similar to surrounding buildings with buildings greater than two storey being located towards Glen Huntly Road, and buildings to the northern end of the street being sympathetic to the character of the surrounding streets due to its visibility.
  • There is also this gem – No retail activities occur along Selwyn Street.

DELAHUNTY: “that design and development overlay has been in place for some time’…’it was certainly no surprise to the applicant’ and we ‘rested upon it quite successfully for a number of years here in council’.

Absolute hogwash. The DDO10 was only gazetted by the Minister on 16th August 2018 – hardly a period of years as Delahunty goes on to claim. The first developer application made it into the public arena in February 2018. Discussions with council had clearly been on the cards well and truly before this time. The overall draft structure plan only made it onto the council agenda on 27th February 2018 when it was resolved to seek the Mnister’s intervention without further community consultation. And please remember that the first inkling that residents had that council was contemplating 12 storeys anywhere in Elsternwick or Carnegie came in July 2018.

SZTRAJT: claimed that council’s structure planning was to give the community ‘reassurance’ as to ‘where development should go and where it shouldn’t go’. Said he didn’t believe that the application ‘matches the community expectations’ that council ‘went out and sought’ when they developed the structure plans’.

The one consistent element of all council’s shoddy community consultation was that the overwhelming majority of responses did NOT WANT the ‘urban renewal’ heights that Council determined. None of the structure plans are in accordance with community expectations as to allowable maximum heights. Sztrajt concludes that the application ‘just doesn’t fit’. Perhaps residents should start asking whether council’s proposed 8 storey height limit would also ‘fit’ this site given its location abutting heritage areas, schools, etc. It would also be wonderful to see some real justification for even 8 storeys given these constraints!

ESAKOFF: was the only councillor that at least sounded some disquiet with council’s planning – ie ‘the whole aspect of community benefit itself troubles me’ and ‘allowing’ extra height for community benefit is ‘fraught with problems’. Another problem lies with ‘architectural excellence’ and how this will be adjudicated. Went onto dissect the compliance ratio of Clause 58 where she stated that 11 comply and 10 don’t comply and another 6 could comply with conditions.

ATHANASOPOLOUS: claimed that the application doesn’t ‘address’ how the ‘interface’ doesn’t address what is in the planning scheme. Said he also heard comments that council is destroying Glen Eira but that council was working very hard to ‘achieve some very important zoning changes’ which the site had before. Wanted residents to think about the ‘work’ that council is doing to ‘achieve the best possible outcomes that we can’.

So introducing a structure plan that has zoning changes of 8 storeys (or 10 storeys) abutting heritage is council’s idea of the ‘best possible outcome’!!!!!!!!

MAGEE: claimed he always looked at ‘transition’ and how a development ‘transitions’ from the ‘activity centre’ to the residential areas and that has to be ‘from highest to lowest’. Said that the application ‘goes the opposite’ – from lower to higher.

Of course this flies directly in the face of council’s structure plan and DDO – where they decided that up to 8 storeys would sit quite comfortably alongside one and 2 storeys!!!!! and in other areas of Elsternwick, that 12 storeys is a good fit against 4 storeys!!!!!

The most astounding thing to issue from Magee’s mouth was the plea to objectors to go to VCAT and fight the application on ’emotional grounds’ – how it affects them. After 11 years on council this is the most ridiculous statement and displays either one of two things – that Magee knows nothing about the workings of VCAT or that he simply enjoys more grandiose grandstanding. Even with the 2015 Objector’s Bill passed by Labor, the onus still remains on planning law and what is in the planning scheme. Magee should know this very well given his appearance at VCAT when the Claire Street debacle occurred and the member stated in this decision – The Tribunal’s role is to interpret and implement the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, in a manner that is separated from the emotional or political positions brought by all parties. A fundamental component of any assessment against the Glen Eira Planning Scheme is consideration of the policy intent, particularly the local policies drafted by the Glen Eira City Council.

HYAMS: stated that council had asked for 8 storeys mandatory but Wynne made it 10 storeys discretionary. However, ‘perhaps’ when the amendment for the structure plans comes in then the ‘protections’ might ‘vary one way or the other’. The government he said did provide interim protection once VCAT showed ‘it was no longer listening to our policies and you got 12 storeys going in other places’.

Hyams statements are lamentable. VCAT has NOT changed its position on council policies. Council simply had NO POLICY on height control in Mixed Use and Commercial and only in 2013 were height limits made mandatory for large swathes of residential land in Glen Eira – again without any community consultation. So concerned were council about ‘heritage’ in Elsternwick that they zoned huge areas as suitable for 4 storeys (RGZ). The sheer hypocrisy is unbelievable. Even when draft structure plans were produced for Bentleigh and Carnegie, Elsternwick was left out completely – giving free rein for more and more inappropriate development. As a designated Major Activity Centre why wasn’t Elsternwick included in the first set of drafts? As for the potential for council to now backtrack and reduce the height limits contained in the interim controls is a joke – even if council were willing which we doubt. No Minister will approve going backwards from 12 storeys to 6 or even 8 storeys.

CONCLUSION

We concur that this application is totally inappropriate and there are very many planning reasons for why it should be rejected. This however does not excuse councilors getting up on their hind legs and making statement after statement that lacks veracity, is misleading, or displays their total ignorance. We are left to wonder whether another decision might have been arrived at if there were not 187 formal objections, a petition of over 1700 and a packed gallery of angry and upset residents.

The bottom line is that council

  • HAS NOT LISTENED TO residents in its strategic planning
  • No justification has ever been provided as to why Glen Eira needs 12 storey buildings and thousands upon thousands more dwellings when the municipality is well and truly meeting its population growth demands

What residents want is a set of councillors who have the gumption to stand up and speak honestly instead of continually attempting to cover up this council’s woeful and continued shocking record in planning. Instead of congratulating themselves as to how well they get on with State Government (an item in last night’s agenda) residents would like council to stop being so compliant and to do their jobs – ie representing the wishes of residents above the wishes of developers!

 

The officer’s recommendation for the Woolies site in Elsternwick is available in the current agenda. The recommendation is for a refusal. The application is for:

  • Two towers – one of 10 storeys and one of 14 storeys
  • 181 apartments
  • Large supermarket and 3 ‘kiosks’

There were 187 objections and an opposing petition with 1787 signatures. One letter was in favour!

The recommendation for refusal is not a surprise given the vast community opposition. What is a surprise is some of the nonsense and misleading statements contained in the officer’s report.

Mention is made several times of council’s ‘preferred character’ for this activity centre, and especially this site – for example:

The height, form, scale and design detail of the building is not sufficiently resolved and therefore the proposal does not appropriately respond to the existing low rise heritage character of the area or the preferred character envisaged as part of Schedule 10 of the Design and Development Overlay.

Readers should note that THERE IS NO SPECIFIC PREFERRED CHARACTER STATEMENT in DDO10. Instead, we get vague generalities and motherhood statements that make up the ‘decision guidelines’ for increased height  –

Whether any building in Precinct 5 or 6 that exceeds the maximum preferred building height

Demonstrates that the development includes the provision of significant community benefit; and

Does not create unreasonable impacts on the amenity of sensitive interfaces as a result of additional height; and

Demonstrates architectural design excellence.

The officer’s report also cites just one VCAT decision to reject a Monash application for a 7 storey building in a 4 storey preferred height limit. Hardly the same as a 14 storey building in a 10 storey limit! The argument presented in the officer’s report is that

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has also issued decisions, stating that departures from the preferred height limit should not be treated as expected, but rather only in exceptional circumstances such as those outlined above (Boneng (Portman) Pty Ltd v Monash CC [2017] VCAT 797).

Furthermore, the Monash DDO contains far more ‘guidance’ than anything in the Glen Eira DDO10. In place of the above ‘permission’ for applications to exceed the preferred height limit, Monash includes this paragraph –

A building should not exceed the Preferred Building Height (in metres and storeys) specified in the built form precinct provisions of this Schedule unless particular site conditions warrant an alternative design response and that design response demonstrates a respect for, and significantly contributes to, the preferred character of the Oakleigh Major Activity Centre. (refer Figure 2 in this schedule

AND the ‘objectives’ for this precinct state:

To retain and enhance the pattern of urban development in the core centre that is characterised by small lot frontages, two storey federation and inter-war buildings, steeply pitched roofs and architecturally detailed upper storeys

Glen Eira’s ‘objectives’ for this precinct is simply – To encourage developments in urban renewal areas and on strategic sites that provide a significant benefit for the Elsternwick community.

There are also countless VCAT decisions that would fly in the face of this ‘exceptional circumanstances’ view including a centre road Bentleigh application – http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT//2017/1656.html

As well as these –

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/2104.html

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1833.html

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1477.html

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1088.html

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/254.html

More worrying is the implicit acceptance in the officer’s report that a 12 storey building would be okay! –

The applicant’s own Urban Design Strategy prepared by MGS Architects does not support a building height of 14 storeys. Rather, it identifies that a 12 storey height limit should be adopted. This is more towards what is suggested as being the appropriate height for this strategic site and recognises the community benefit contribution included as part of the proposal.

What is not acknowledged here is that council’s resolution of February 2018 designated this area as suitable for a 6-8 storey building. Wynne gazetted 10 storeys. There is no excuse therefore for the comment that at even 12 storeys this is ‘more towards what is suggested as appropriate’.

When this goes to VCAT will council cave in on 12 storeys or will they fight this tooth and nail?

There are plenty of other issues such as traffic, heritage, overshadowing, setbacks that we will refrain from commenting upon. All in all this application was doomed to failure and will certainly test council’s commitment to the community once this ends up at VCAT.

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