Councillor Performance


Congratulations to Save Glen Eira for their terrific effort in collecting 1667 signatures in a very short time. We have also been told that there are even more with late signatures also coming in.

See: https://www.facebook.com/savegleneira/

Hopefully this kind of response will once and for all put a stop to the myths that residents are ‘satisfied’ with planning, open space, environmental sustainability, and consultation by this council. Residents have spoken and we can only assume that they desire major change and a council that does listen and act in accordance with residents’ wishes.

Over the past few years there have been numerous issues which have raised the ire of many residents, evincing passions that have hitherto been unknown in this community. We are referring to the various draft structure plans, the proposed Inkerman bike path, as well as the Carnegie Pool redevelopment for the current projected cost of $51 million. Why this has and is happening relates directly to council’s overall approach to ‘consultation’ and the methodology for disseminating vital information.

A few overarching comments and questions to begin with:

  • How reasonable is it to release hundreds upon hundreds of pages of documents and expect residents to fully understand, or have the time, to read, digest, analyse, and then comment on any proposal?
  • How reasonable is it to present ‘designs’ that provide no essential data such as cost, or vital information on current traffic data, the percentage of green open space, versus concrete; the potential for overshadowing of open space; the number of proposed tree plantings versus removal of existing trees, etc.?
  • Is the ‘top down’ approach really providing residents with clear options based on the above?
  • Is the timing of forums the best approach for those who work, or for families with children – ie during the day, or smack in the middle of dinner time or bed time for young kids?
  • Are the questions asked in surveys truly designed to elicit informed choices?
  • Are the resulting officer or consultant reports a true reflection of the feedback provided?
  • How can the goals of transparency and accountability be integrated fully into all consultation methods?

We believe that residents and councillors deserve a lot better if the goal is truly ‘evidence based’ decision making as has been stated again and again. What is asked, and how it is asked and analysed validly, remains the cornerstone of sound consultation. How this is then reported becomes crucial.

Below we highlight our reservations plus providing recommendations to improve the process and to address the above bullet points.

STRUCTURE PLANNING

Council’s first step in the process of developing structure plans came in 2017 with its surveys on ‘activity centres’.  Fair enough! But did the actual questions provide residents with a realistic insight into what they were actually commenting upon? When the phrase ‘shopping strip’ is used again and again, how many respondents had any inkling that this could, and did, lead to the rezoning of surrounding residential streets? How many respondents had any inkling that the size of their activity centre was to be expanded when the terminology used was consistently ‘study area’? And how on earth could the resulting reports be so out of kilter with the data actually provided? (See: https://gleneira.blog/2017/03/21/structure-planning-consultation-2/

Here is an image of what was asked. Please note the continued and slanted emphases on ‘shopping strip’. Not one single question was designed to elicit responses to the matters that had clearly concerned residents for eons – namely building heights, open space, and parking.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTIVITY CENTRE STRUCTURE PLANNING CONSULTATIONS

  • Provide residents with a short, informative Discussion Paper that emphasises in a succinct manner all the pros and cons of what is proposed.
  • Ensure that council resolutions are carried through. For example, it was resolved on the 23rd May 2017 that council: endorses the creation of the Activity Centre Community Advisory Committee and request the expression of interest for community members. This never eventuated!!!!!!
  • When the Glen Eira News provides articles on the issue, then it must include all the relevant details being considered.. This was not done in either the April, June, July, November, 2017 editions. Unless residents were prepared to plough through reams of documents, they would not have had any inkling that 12 storeys was being considered for Elsternwick and Carnegie. Even with the final announcement of April 2018 (see below) those residents who had not followed the issue closely would not know what had been passed. Instead we have the usual jargon of ‘right buildings’ in the ‘right locations’, or the import of the word ‘guidelines’ (ie prescriptive or discretionary) without any real information being communicated. All is made to sound wonderful in what can only be interpreted as nothing more than another public relations exercise rather than information provision!

  • Ensure that questions included in surveys are not nebulous and vague – that they direct residents to the crux of issues. For example, would it have been too hard to include questions along these lines –
  • What do you consider to be an appropriate height for Centre Road buildings?
  • Are you in favour of any council sell off of public land to consolidate car parking in one spot?
  • Where would you like to see extra open space created and why?
  • What parking restrictions should council consider for this activity centre?

Council did not come close to asking questions of this ilk!

Finally, why shouldn’t the Community Engagement Committee vet proposed questionnaires and surveys? Why must everything be a top-down approach? And why shouldn’t residents be directly involved in the analyses of any responses? Unless of course, council’s main objective has been to push through its agendas regardless of what residents say they want. And there is plenty of evidence to support this notion, sadly!!!

Apologies for this long post!

Council seems incapable of providing residents with clear, unequivocal answers to straight forward questions. Here is one taken from the last council meeting and concerns council’s plans for three of our neighbourhood centres/activity centres. 

Could Council categorically confirm or deny that none of our current neighbourhood centres will have structure plans? Could council also clarify whether the East Bentleigh, Caulfield South and Caulfield North proposed Urban Design Frameworks will also have Design and Development Overlays applied to them? If there are to be DDO’s, then will these contain discretionary or mandatory height limits? 

Response:

Thank you for your question. Typically, Structure Plans are undertaken only for Major Activity Centres, which in Glen Eira has included Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick. For smaller centres such as our Neighbourhood Activity Centres, Urban Design Frameworks provide the same function of planning guidance, but in a simpler, and relatively faster to develop process. Council is currently developing Urban Design Frameworks: Caulfield South, Caulfield North (at Caulfield Park), and Bentleigh East. 

A Design and Development Overlay (DDO) would be the most appropriate tool to guide building heights in these centres, given their size, complexity, and status under State and Local Policy. The Urban Design Frameworks will provide direction as to the most appropriate form of height and siting controls, be they mandatory or discretionary. No final decision has been made at this point. Consultation on the draft controls is scheduled for 2021.

In order to understand the significance of this response and its implications, readers need to be aware of what an Urban Design Framework (UDF) actually is and how it functions. The State Government’s Planning Practice Note No.17 states:

an Urban Design Framework should provide flexibility by identifying key principles rather than finite solutions. It is not a fixed view of the future nor is it a land-use report. It includes a design vision for how a place might develop and should include sufficient detail at key locations so that the vision can be tested for economic and functional viability. An Urban Design Framework should include sufficient information to allow continuous review of detailed actions within the strategic frame, and to enable councils to assess development proposals.

AND

The process for any particular framework study must be fine-tuned to accommodate local issues and objectives. Community involvement should be sought early in the process and at all relevant stages.

Most existing Urban Design Frameworks that other councils have are:

  • Instrinsically linked to Design and Development Overlays and/or specific structure plans
  • Most Urban Design Frameworks are nothing more than a Reference Document in the Planning Scheme. Hence, their ability to provide certitude and genuine ‘controls’ is limited.

Thus, unless the UDF also includes a Design & Development Overlay, or is coupled with the various schedules to the zones, and finally, but most importantly, is directly linked to the objectives of the Municipal Strategic Statement, it is practically useless. In Glen Eira, our MSS, is acknowledged as completely out of date. It needs to be relegated to the dustbin of history – as has been promised for years and years. We are still waiting!

Here is an explanation of what a UDF signifies by a VCAT member –

Strategic planning documents like a  UDF  often form part of the background material that has informed the creation of a DDO schedule and may therefore be a reference document in the planning scheme policies, so as to provide an explanation as to what has informed the creation of a DDO schedule that contains specific built form requirements

Source: Jabala Pty Ltd v Maribyrnong CC [2017] VCAT 1083 (20 July 2017)

Also worth pointing out is that other councils have decided that their neighbourhood centres are deserving of full blown structure plans. Bayside covered all its neighbourhood centres with one amendment and whilst they were not granted mandatory height limits, they are now providing further strategic justification in order to achieve this goal. Boroondara was also successful in gaining Wynne’s signature for mandatory height limits of three (3) storeys for 18 of its 21 centres.

Several other councils have also enunciated their policies on structure planning for their neighbourhood centres – as depicted below.

For a long time mandatory height controls have not been supported in the Victorian planning system. However, recent changes have provided some support for mandatory heights in Neighbourhood Centres, in particular the new State planning strategy –Plan Melbourne and the new residential zones. Therefore, there is an opportunity for Council to pursue mandatory height controls in Moreland’s Neighbourhood Centres, subject to ensuring that housing supply and diversity is provided for across Morelandto cater for forecast housing needs. On this basis the Strategy recommends mandatory heights of four storeys acrossthe majority of the ‘focus areas for change’ in Neighbourhood Centres (which includes the Commercial 1 Zone, Residential Growth Zone and Mixed Use Zone)and a mandatory three storey height in areas where the Residential Growth Zone or Mixed Use Zone is located directly oppositethe Neighbourhood Residential Zone. The approach is supported by testing of building types across the most common lot sizes and an analysis of housing capacity in Moreland

https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/globalassets/areas/amendments/amendmentslib-7208/c159/moreland-c159-neighbourhood-centres-strategy-reference-document-march-2017-adopted.pdf

A structure plan is a means to provide precinct-specific direction on the extent, form and location of land use and development. The preparation of structure plans for Maroondah’s Neighbourhood activity centres is designed to protect and enhance the role of the centres, help direct capital spending on public realm and infrastructure improvements, and protect residential areas from the encroachment of inappropriate commercial uses.

https://www.maroondah.vic.gov.au/Development/Planning/Planning-Framework/Structure-Plans/Heathmont-Activity-Centre-Structure-Plan

For council to therefore imply that a UDF (without associated DDO’S, MSS upgrades, structure plans or revised zone schedules) is sufficient to protect our Neighbourhood Centres is sheer bunkum.

Even more concerning is that reading between the lines, council intends to once again employ Section 20(4) of the Planning & Environment Act. That means no planning panel, no formal submissions  and the opportunity for residents to provide detailed input. The minister alone will be the final arbiter.

In the above quotes from the Planning Practice Notes, there is a strong emphases on the importance of community consultation. Council will no doubt claim that there has been plenty of ‘consultation’. Yet when we go back to the 2017 ‘consultations’ we find that the number of residents who bothered to contribute to the ‘survey’ on these three neighbourhood centres was minimal – ie

A total of 71 people contributed to the Bentleigh East survey

A total of 52 people contributed to the Caulfield Park survey

A total of 59 people contributed to the Caulfield South survey.

Hardly ‘comprehensive consultation’ and we remind readers that the survey was anything but a genuine attempt to discover what residents thought about development etc. when the terminology used was repeatedly ‘shopping strip’ and no question was directly querying matters of appropriate height, open space, etc.

There has not been any further ‘consultation’ on these three suburbs. Council will now produce its UDF, and residents will have the opportunity to provide feedback. Council will then presumably ignore this feedback and send this off to the minister as happened with the Elsternwick, Bentleigh & Carnegie interim structure plan process. That is how ‘democracy’ works in Glen Eira! Again, readers should remember the outcry over 12 storeys in Elsternwick & Carnegie. It mattered little to the subsequent decision making by this council. Our fear is that this ‘tradition’ will continue with our neighbourhood centres!

 

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of deliberative democracy or citizen juries/panels, we invite you to watch the following video created by Darebin Council quite some time ago. When most governments, organisations, and yes, local councils, are now embracing this concept which has gained popularity since the 1980’s, it is still astounding that we have troglodytes who promulgate the myth that citizen juries are ‘undemocratic’.  The Darebin experience proves the exact opposite.

If this council is truly about an open, transparent, and accountable council, determined to work with the community, then establishing such a panel is the only way to go.

The Save Glen Eira community group, has published a petition which will be presented to the new council. The stated objectives of this petition is to ensure that councillors have a clear idea of what residents expect from their new council and what ratepayers would like to see achieved.

The petition can be accessed via – https://savegleneira.com.au/petition-to-new-council-2020/

We assume that residents should download and print off a copy of the petition and then once signatures are collected, to hand them in at the various collection points mentioned.

Here is a screen dump of the petition and the accompanying information sheet.

Several days ago, The Age newspaper, ran an article on the political chicanery that is occurring in the lead up to council elections in Greater Dandenong. The link is: https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/the-facebook-election-the-vicious-online-battle-for-dandenong-council-20201016-p565su.html

Part of the article included this paragraph: Many are backed informally by Labor or Liberal Party members. In one ward, Keysborough South – where farmland could one day be rezoned for huge financial gain – there are 11 candidates and six are likely “dummies”, competing purely to funnel votes to others via preferences.

This paragraph does have relevance to all council elections and especially Glen Eira. There is no doubt that many of our 36 candidates are in reality there to ‘funnel votes to others via preferences’.  It can’t be a mere coincidence that Liberal party members are on the whole preferencing other declared Liberals; nor that Labor candidates are doing the same for their associates.  Whilst some have declared that they are there for ‘the community’ and not their parties, we can only wonder whether any Labor member would openly oppose and strongly lobby against what the current State Government is doing. The same goes for Liberal members should there be a change in Government.

Nor are we prepared to accept declarations of ‘independence’ from several candidates when their voting records at council clearly reveal a Liberal or Labor voting bloc alliance. The constant patterns of the past should not be ignored when time and time again we found this kind of voting: Lipshutz/Esakoff/Hyams/HO/Okotel opposed to Delahunty/Magee/Lobo. If this isn’t voting along party lines we don’t know what is!

All of this thus leaves us in a quandary-

  • Should residents vote according to their own political views? or
  • Should the emphases be on local council issues and who is best to solve these issues?

The next 4 years will be crucial in delivering what the community wants in Glen Eira. Ratepayers’ aspirations are clear. We want:

  • Genuine consultation
  • Structure planning accelerated for all activity centres
  • Less spending and more prudence
  • Budgets that are in line with community input
  • Public questions that are answered and not merely responded to
  • Planning processes reformed so that they are far more transparent and accountable
  • Transport/parking plans that align with majority resident views
  • Plenty of new open space and a levy that is commensurate with our needs
  • Real action on climate change and tree registers

Can the current party candidates fulfill these aspirations, or will they be captive to their political overlords?

Here is some flyers/info for two candidates from Rosstown: Marcus Oswald and Gregor Ptok.

MARCUS OSWALD

This is part of his brochure. The full document can be accessed HERE

GREGOR PTOK

Readers could be quite charitable and claim that what comes out of Magee’s mouth is the result of ignorance. He might even believe what he says! At the other end of the spectrum we face the conundrum of how could a councillor who has been in this position for 12 years straight get it so wrong, so often, on basic facts that he played a role in adopting/creating? Or are his statements nothing more than spin, obfuscation, and deliberate misrepresentation(s) of the truth?

We’ve gone through Magee’s comments at the recent Tucker Ward ‘Meet the Candidates Forum’ and present them below with our commentary on what he has said. Here is his allotted first statement. All candidates were given an initial 3 minutes to address residents.

 

POINT ONE: Magee claims that the ‘Victorian Planning Scheme’ and council’s planning scheme are ‘two entirely different documents’. No they are not! There is only one, and one only, planning scheme. This consists of the Victorian Planning Provisions, but there is also scope for councils to introduce their own policies, schedules, zonings, etc. In fact, over 25% of all planning schemes leave plenty of scope for individual councils to incorporate their vision.

POINT TWO: We are told that the ‘Glen Eira Planning Scheme’ is ‘our scheme’, ‘the one that the community put together’. This logic then goes on to claim that when people oppose an application, then ‘they don’t approve what the rest of us have said we want’. If only this were true and that the Planning Scheme does in fact reflect what residents want! Consider this:

  • The vast majority of resident responses to the structure plans were vehemently opposed to what council decided upon. The majority did not want 12 storeys in Carnegie and Elsternwick. Nor did they want more sites rezoned for higher density development.
  • Planning Schemes are supposed to be reviewed on a regular basis. This council applied for extension after extension to avoid reviewing the scheme. It was only when Wynne refused council another 2 year extension that the 2016 review was undertaken. Thus from 2010 to 2016 there was no community input. Furthermore, the 2010 ‘review’ basically featured formal submissions, and 3 poorly attended ‘information sessions’.
  • What has often been trotted out by council is that the community asked for height limits in 2010 and these were granted in 2013. Yet the 2010 planning scheme review does not contain any mention of height limits!
  • Significantly, Magee only refers to height in his reading of what might constitute ‘inappropriate development’. No mention is made of the countless other factors that council has failed to implement such as: decent permeability standards, tree protection, site coverage; overshadowing. We are still waiting for any Water Sensitive Urban Design policy or an Environmental Sustainability Design to make it into the planning scheme – 5 years after residents clamoured for this!

POINT THREE: Once again Magee trots out the usual scapegoat – VCAT. The claim that in 2016/7 there were 500 apartments ‘that wouldn’t have been built’ totally ignores the fact that VCAT’s  role is to apply council’s current planning scheme. If the scheme is so deficient, and so full of loopholes that favour developers, then why has Magee sat on his hands for 12 years and accepted this deficiency? Nor are VCAT’s decisions to overturn council refusals anything new. The 2010 Community Plan also lamented the fact that 500 dwellings (since 1999) had been granted a permit despite council’s refusal. This ‘problem’ was therefore not new and certainly known by all concerned. All that has changed is the rate of development and this council’s failure to adequately plug all the planning scheme loopholes – or at best, attempt to plug them.

POINT FOUR: Whom to believe? Magee clearly states that a ‘structure plan’ is coming for East Bentleigh. Yet taking the responses given to numerous public questions and from comments made by officers, all that has been ‘promised’ is Urban Design Guidelines. The term ‘structure plan’ has carefully been avoided in commitments made for East Bentleigh, Caulfield South and Caulfield North! We remind readers that these are usually nothing more than ‘guidelines’ and generally feature as ‘reference documents’ in Planning Schemes. Their ability to ‘control’ planning is therefore very limited.

POINT FIVE: According to Magee only 150 people in the municipality keep telling them what is wrong and 150,000 people think that things are ‘right’. If Magee honestly believes this, then we are truly in trouble!

Finally, let’s tackle the real question of how much power councils do have. It is true that any planning scheme amendment is eventually signed off by the Minister. This council has repeatedly stated that Wynne is to blame for changes to the proposed structure plan amendment for Bentleigh & Carnegie in particular. Our questions are:

  • How hard did council fight? What evidence did they present? Or did they simply cave in without a whimper? Is this why grants are freely flowing to Glen Eira?
  • Why can other councils achieve much better outcomes than Glen Eira? For example: mandatory height limits in neighbourhood centres (Stonnington); Nepean Highway height controls of 5 storey discretionary whilst Glen Eira wants at least 12 storeys on the other side of the highway (Bayside)?; mandatory 3 storey height limits in 28 out of 31 activity centres in Boroondara? The list goes on and on. So why oh why can other councils achieve what Glen Eira has spectacularly failed to achieve for its residents?

Magee has been part of the problem for 12 years. He can’t be part of the ‘solution’!

Esakoff was first elected in 2003 and apart from a few months ‘vacation’ after council was sacked, she has run again and again – and been elected. She is now seeking another 4 years – as is her right of course. Whether or not it is a good thing to have such long serving councillors is a personal viewpoint. Any answer should be based on the facts of their tenure – such as ‘what have they achieved’; ‘how have they improved the municipality’, ‘what is their stance on so many issues that now confront residents’ and do their actions support the claims?

What needs pointing out as well is that to the best of our knowledge Esakoff has never fronted up to answer residents’ questions in any Candidate Forum for the past 3 elections. Nor has she partaken in any ward meetings that were run occasionally years ago.

So, despite all the flyer statements as to opposing overdevelopment, creating more open space, etc. we have to rely on what has actually occurred in relation to these issues. That means looking at voting records.

The following lists some of Esakoff’s voting on planning applications only since 2012. These were all granted permits and were either moved or seconded by Esakoff.

Readers will notice that some addresses are repeated. This is because there was either a planning application to amend, or the proposal was passed on to another developer, so this meant a new application.

The standout feature for many of these is the penchant for lopping off a storey or two, or the number of apartments, only to have VCAT grant the developer everything he wanted. Of course, instead of fixing up the planning scheme, councillors (including Esakoff) continued with blaming VCAT for all the losses. As we’ve repeatedly stated, the VCAT member is bound to assess applications against the current council planning scheme. If the scheme is so archaic, and contains no viable constraints, then for the most part, this is not VCAT’s fault, but the councillors who have allowed this situation to continue.

Apart from all the following applications that received permits based on Esakoff’s endorsements, readers should also remember that she was in support of the introduction of the odious residential zones (in secret), the current interim structure plans, and countless other policies. Plus for years and years she was opposed to a tree register that included controls on private land.

After 17 years of ineffectualness, it is definitely time for a change.

1056-1060 DANDENONG ROAD – voted for 8 storeys. VCAT granted 12 storeys and 173 dwellings

149-153 NEERIM ROAD & 4 HINTON ROAD, GLEN HUNTLY VIC 3163 – 17 double storeys

2 MORTON AVENUE, CARNEGIE – 5 storeys, 33 dwellings. VCAT granted 6 storeys

730A CENTRE ROAD BENTLEIGH EAST – 4 storeys, 21 dwellings

328-330 NEERIM ROAD CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 16 dwellings

259-261 NEERIM ROAD, CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 28 units

33-35 Jersey Parade, Carnegie – 4 storeys, 28 units

534-538 North Road ORMOND – 4 storeys, 20 units

7 Ormond Road Ormond – 3 storeys, 15 units

115-125 Poath Road Murrumbeena – 4 storeys, 33 units. VCAT granted additional storey and 7 units

67-73 Poath Road MURRUMBEENA – 5 & 6 storeys, 30 dwellings

2-4 Penang Street MCKINNON – 3 storey, 23 units

15-17 Belsize Avenue & 316-320 Neerim Road CARNEGIE – 4 storey, 47 units. VCAT granted 52 units

670-672 Centre Road BENTLEIGH EAST – 5 storeys, 50 units

14-16 Elliott Avenue CARNEGIE – 3 storey, 18 units. VCAT granted permit for 4 storeys

482-484 North Road ORMOND – 4 storeys, 21 units

143-147 Neerim Road GLEN HUNTLY – 3 storeys, 32 units

247-251 Neerim Road CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 48 units

253-255 Neerim Road CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 38 units

1100 Dandenong Road CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 22 units

30-32 Ames Avenue CARNEGIE – 12 double storeys

600-604 North Road, ORMOND – 5 storeys, 45 units

37-39 NICHOLSON STREET BENTLEIGH – 3 & 4 storeys, 10 units

8-12 ELLIOTT AVENUE CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 40 units

322-326 NEERIM ROAD & 17 ELLIOTT AVENUE, CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 38 units

45 Orrong Road, Elsternwick – 4 storeys, 13 units

1110-1112 Dandenong Road, Carnegie – 3 & 4 storeys, 38 units

153 Poath Road, Murrumbeena – 4 storeys, 10 units

813-815 GLEN HUNTLY ROAD, CAULFIELD – 5 storeys, 9 units

360 NEERIM ROAD, CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 16 units

1254-1258 GLEN HUNTLY ROAD, CARNEGIE – 5 storeys, 68 units

777 Glen Huntly Road, Caulfield – 4 storeys, 5 units

3 Rigby Avenue, Carnegie – 5 units

2 Newman Avenue, Carnegie – 5 units

1110-1112 Dandenong Road, Carnegie – 2 to 4 storeys, 19 units

7-11 BELSIZE AVENUE, CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 36 units

13-15 HAMILTON STREET BENTLEIGH – 4 storeys, 27 units

14-22 Woorayl Street, Carnegie – amend permit to be 13 storeys

81 DALNY ROAD, MURRUMBEENA – 3 units

20 BENT STREET, BENTLEIGH – 4 storeys, 7 units

285-287 NEERIM ROAD CARNEGIE – additional floor level and another 5 units to 46

1 AGNES STREET BENTLEIGH EAST – 4 triple and  one double storey unit

80 HOTHAM STREET ST KILDA EAST – 3 storey, 10 units

For those residents who were not in attendance at Tuesday night’s Camden Candidates Forum, and would like to know what was said, we have uploaded several audios from the candidates initial 3 minute address. The video version will, we are told, be available soon on both the Save Glen Eira and Glen Eira Residents Association websites.

We will upload all statements over the next week. First cab off the rank is Harry Graeve

Next is Jane Karslake

Last, but not least is Simone Zmood

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