Councillor Performance


Council’s rhetoric and unabashed hope, is that by facilitating more dwellings on a single site, this will have an impact on ‘affordability’. We are supposedly lacking smaller townhouses so changing the zoning schedules in 10,000 sites, especially in the NRZ, will permit more of these multiple dwellings to be built and the price to come down.

Despite all the spin, there is absolutely no guarantee that:

  • Instead of townhouses/units developers will abide by this aspiration instead of building apartment blocks where they can cram more apartments into the site. Council has already admitted that it has no control over WHAT IS BUILT.
  • We are also highly skeptical of the claim that ‘smaller’ apartments will have a major impact on pricing and therefore become more affordable.

East Bentleigh over the past few years has had an enormous amount of 3 or more dwellings on a single site. All one has to do is take a walk along many of the streets running off Centre Road to see what the results are. But even more telling is that we have done a search on the sold prices for some of these medium density dwellings and find that they remain far from ‘affordable’ even when compared to dual occupancy prices.

Here are some examples and they show recent results –

  • The first sale features one two storey townhouse in Agnes Street, East Bentleigh. There are 6 units on this combined site (nos – 8-10 Agnes Street). The property was sold on March 31st, 2022 for $1.200,000. Its size is 194 square metres!

See: https://www.realestate.com.au/sold/property-townhouse-vic-bentleigh+east-138824343

  • Another example is 3/3 Heather Street, Bentleigh East. There are 3 units on this site. Unit no.3 has a land area of 77 square metres and sold on the 4th December 2019 for $975,000 – well before property prices hit their peak. Even with the current drop in prices it is still estimated to go for about a conservative $900,000

See: https://www.propertyvalue.com.au/property/3/3-heather-street-bentleigh-east-vic-3165/46018891

Admittedly, this is a very tiny sample of what is happening in East Bentleigh. But it should also be borne in mind that this suburb is ‘cheaper’ than properties in Caulfield North, Elsternwick, McKinnon and Bentleigh. We therefore do not believe that simply facilitating denser development on individual sites throughout all of Glen Eira will impact greatly on price. Council has no control over this anyway. What the most likely scenario will become is that we will still not have smaller townhouses, but more and more apartment blocks. Why? Because it is cheaper to built a two storey apartment block with 5 or 6 units, rather than 3 town houses. This has already occurred in Hudson Street, Caulfield North as just one example.

If the housing strategy is adopted as stands, then this is the future writ large in our view. A denser but not cheaper Glen Eira and a hell of a lot more apartments!

This is a relatively short post despite the fact that two of the most important items are up for decision this coming Wednesday – ie. the Housing Strategy and the Elsternwick Structure Plan. Both are nothing short of offensive to residents in their failure to adopt and change things according to previous community feedback. The pro-development at any cost agenda reigns supreme in both documents and neither appears to give a damn about residential amenity, the environment, overshadowing, open space, car parking, etc. etc. Nor is there any strategic justification for what is presented – it remains a series of promises, leaps of faith, and spin plus more spin.

Very, very little has changed – apart from removing heritage areas from the 4 storey zoning (which never should have happened in the first place and in many cases is already too late to repair the damage done) and the decision not to upgrade a handful of 2 storey streets into the proposed 3 storeys. Why this change is made contradicts what was stated in the first version! The end result is still thousands of properties that will be impacted by this strategy and more and more density everywhere in Glen Eira.

What we find the most offensive and disrespectful comes in the table presented below that is supposed to highlight the changes and provide some commentary.

According to the above residents are ‘confused’ and guilty of ‘misunderstanding’. Even if this is true, then surely the blame lies with council in not enunciating clearly enough what they proposed in the first place. Of course the other possibility could be that  not only were residents not ‘confused’ or misunderstood, they criticised the proposals. Without having access to the full feedback, we can only surmise what was said and written. As for council’s responses, they merely regurgitate what has been said numerous times previously. No further information is provided to ensure that residents are relieved of their ‘confusion’.

We will only feature one image from the Elsternwick Structure Plan given that a picture does indeed speak a 1000 words. It portrays the future vision for part of Glen Huntly Road.

Your attendance next Wednesday is necessary is you are concerned about the future of your home and the future of Glen Eira as a whole.

The draft Neighbourhood Character Assessment Volume1 tells us that the criteria for deciding which sites are ‘suitable’ for 3 or more dwellings and hence their zoning or schedules will be changed, is based on these sites being:

  • Within 200 metres of a tram stop
  • Within 400 metres of a train station
  • Within 800 metres of an activity centre
  • In an area with a decent number of sites over 600 square metres
  • Not strata titled
  • Not affected by precinct heritage or Neighbourhood Character Overlays (page 14 of this document)

Of course, no mention is made of Special Building Overlays (SBO) (flood management) which according to the Planning Practice Notes, should exclude areas from inclusion in activity centres and their surrounds.

Here is part of the existing/current SBO which covers the area around Patterson Road in Bentleigh.

We have decided to concentrate on this area since it basically fails to meet more than half of the above stated criteria for rezoning or altering the existing schedules. There is no tram stop. Many of the streets primed for greater site coverage, etc. are certainly further than 400 metres from a train station. But most importantly, the majority of sites earmarked for change are not even close to being ‘over 600 square metres’. So what on earth is this planning department doing? What is their real criteria for selecting properties for change? How justified are these proposed changes? Or is it simply a bunch of bureaucrats sitting at a computer and drawing stupid lines on a map? There is absolutely no justification for what is being proposed!

Please look at the following carefully. According to council’s map of proposed changes, several areas along Patterson Road will change from 2 storeys to 3 storeys (marked in red). Those areas highlighted in green will become NRZ2 and hence have increased site coverage, reduced permeability requirements, and reduced rear setbacks. Here is part of this map.

When we investigate even further, we find that the vast majority of these sites are not a minimum of 600 square metres and many are sitting in the SBO overlays.

This is pathetic planning with no strategic justification whatsoever – and this is occurring in countless places throughout the municipality. Adherence to the stated criteria is frequently non-existent and so is this council’s transparency.

Your attendance is required next Wednesday (2nd November) in order to tell this council exactly what you think of their planning!

PS: HERE’S ANOTHER EXAMPLE FROM THIS AREA – UONGA ROAD

Emails have gone out to various resident groups urging folks to attend the upcoming council meeting on the 2nd November at 7.30pm at the Town Hall. This is the meeting where the contentious Housing Strategy will be voted upon, and perhaps even the Elsternwick Structure Plan.

If this Housing Strategy is voted through then the ramifications for residential amenity, density, traffic congestion, open space, and tree protection, will be major.

Here is one of these emails which we have received. Please read and tell your friends to attend.

Dear residents,

Below is a summary of the Glen Eira draft Housing Strategy and meeting.  This will affect all residents if it is passed in its current form. We would like as many people to attend this meeting if you are concerned with the possibility of 4 storeys of apartments etc being built next to your home!  

Given that the current Council declared a Climate Emergency it doesn’t seem to make sense to decrease the amount of green space required per block of land and increasing the built form on it.  The more apartments / homes on a block the more paving and less greenery there is. Hypocrisy at its finest

If you could come to this meeting to just demonstrate that this is not an acceptable proposal, especially given we have the lowest amount of green open space of any municipality and Elsternwick has the lowest of anywhere.

Most residents are unaware of the proposed changes. 

The future of Glen Eira is at stake if council adopts the draft Housing Strategy on November 2nd. You will be affected because council is proposing to:

  • Rezone scores of residential streets from two to three and four storeys
  • To remove the mandatory garden requirement in over 7,600 properties and onsite car parking
  • To increase site coverage, reduce permeability, and remove rear setbacks in over 3,000 properties

Yet we are told that Glen Eira has capacity for another 50,000 dwellings. All we need out to 2036 is capacity for 13,000 new dwellings. 

This council is hell bent on more and more development at any cost, regardless of the impact on residential amenity, traffic congestion, climate change, density. Your voice needs to be heard.

We urge residents to attend this council meeting at 7.30pm on November 2nd.

If you have any friends who could come as well this would demonstrate to Council that they need to listen to the voice and concerns of residents.  Something they seem to forget. 

Council has stated that the draft Housing Strategy will be up for decision on November 2nd (a Wednesday instead of Tuesday since this is Cup Day). Residents need to bear in mind that on the first  appearance of this draft strategy 4 councillors were opposed to its adoption. Sadly, 5 voted in favour so the document went out for a bogus ‘consultation’.

The most startling component of this first draft is the admission that Glen Eira has capacity for 50,000 new dwellings on current planning scheme zonings out to 2036 and beyond. All we actually need according to State Government projections are 13,000. Yet council is determined to pack more and more development into Glen Eira regardless of whether or not it is needed, whether the infrastructure will cope, and whether our tree canopy will diminish even more rapidly with the removal of the mandatory garden requirement in ALL sites zoned GRZ and the 3000+ NRZ sites that will have increased site capacity, reduced permeability, and removal of rear setbacks.

No other council operates in the manner that Glen Eira does. What follows are quotes from recent Housing Strategies from these neighbouring councils. When these comments are contrasted with what Glen Eira proposes, then serious questions require answering. We will get to these later. Here is what others state:

BAYSIDE

The Housing Strategy Review 2019 found that Bayside’s growth locations have sufficient housing capacity to meet anticipated population increases over the next 15 years to 2036 as required by State planning policy. (PAGE 4)

The Housing Strategy identifies locations where housing growth can occur. These locations have sufficient housing capacity to meet the anticipated increases in population to 2036. (PAGE 6)

Should further housing capacity be required in the future, a future review of the Housing Strategy can consider other locations that may be suitable for increased housing density in addition to those already identified in the Housing Strategy. This approach allows Council to direct and manage growth in the short to medium term. (PAGE 7)

HOBSON’S BAY

The housing capacity assessment conservatively estimates that Hobsons Bay has development sites/opportunities to provide a net gain of approximately 16,281 dwellings. Based on estimated housing demand of 443 new dwellings per annum (over the next 20 years), this represents around 37 years of supply (PAGE  4)

Based on the housing capacity assessment identified in this report, there is enough capacity/housing opportunities in Hobsons Bay to comfortably meet expected housing demand over the next 20 years )PAGE  140)

It is expected that the strategic redevelopment sites alone could accommodate more than half (52 per cent) the total forecasted dwelling demand by 2036 (PAGE 140)

YARRA RANGES

At the current development rate, approximately 560 dwellings per year, this tells us about 31 years of land supply is available in the existing residentially zoned land. The figure also shows land capacity will easily meet the State Government’s target of 10,700 new dwellings in Yarra Ranges over the next 15 years or approximately 700 dwellings per year. Even if development rates increased, there is still capacity within the existing residentially zoned land to accommodate development. (discussion paper 2022 – page 39)

YARRA

The housing capacity analysis indicates there is enough capacity within Yarra’s activity centres to accommodate sufficient housing growth. The analysis confirms that, while Yarra’s established residential neighbourhoods will continue to accommodate some housing growth, Yarra does not need to rely on these areas to supply projected housing growth (page 65)

THE QUESTIONS

  • Incompetence and/or complicity? All planning should stem from a Housing Strategy. Council knew it had to develop a Housing Strategy as far back as 2019. Instead this council has instead introduced structure plans BEFORE a housing strategy. That amounts to incompetence. As for the ‘complicity’ aspect, it appears that whatever the department (DWELP) says is accepted. No public outcry to speak of; no media releases criticising government; no support for residents. It also doesn’t help when we have the likes of Athanasopolous, Magee and Zhang blindly following government policy instead of representing their constituents – which is the first priority of a councillor.
  • Consultation Feedback in Full. The refusal to publish ALL feedback achieves nothing except greater skepticism and mistrust of council. It also flies in the face of council’s ‘transparency’ policy.
  • Why is Glen Eira so radically different to our neighbouring councils?  Historically, this council has been the odd-man out on so many strategic planning  occasions – the last to have a Housing Strategy; the last to complete structure plans; the last to have a significant tree register; the last to have a fair-dinkum notice of motion. The list goes on and on. Until councillors fulfill their obligations as representatives of the community, the culture will not change. The onus is on councillors to reject this Housing Strategy and order that it goes back to the drawing board!

Council’s 2021/22 Annual Report claims to have held 27 community consultations. Of these only ONE in 2021 and ONE in 2022 published IN FULL all of the community feedback. Budget and financial plans are excluded from this calculation since they are required by law to be available.

What is clear is that over the past few years, on all the important issues such as structure planning, urban design frameworks, quality design guidelines, etc. this council has deliberately with-held the complete feedback that residents submitted. Instead the community has been provided with ‘summaries’ that we allege are far from representative of what residents stated. If it were otherwise, then why is access to these submissions denied?

We have had a litany of excuses – that the issue is ‘operational’ and therefore beyond councillors’ domain; that privacy and confidentiality are important; that the Engagement Strategy mandates that privacy be protected, etc. All of these are spurious and last ditch attempts to hide the truth. Even more galling is the fact that planning issues that will establish what happens in Glen Eira for the next 20 years are seen as needing only the ‘consult’ level of participation rather than ‘involve’ or ‘collaborate’ which other councils have implemented.

The past two years have seen some incredibly important decisions being made and residents being denied the full results of the accompanying consultations. We have mickey-mouse reporting instead. All of the following decision included mere ‘summaries’:

Glen Huntly Structure Plan

Carnegie Structure Plan

Housing Strategy (Stage 1 and Stage 2 Consultation)

Caulfield Station Structure Plan

Amendment C184 for Bentleigh and Carnegie structure plans

When 110 people show up in the middle of winter and in the midst of covid, and voice their views as they did at the Town Hall Forum, and this doesn’t even warrant a single word of feedback in the consultation summary, then we are in deep trouble. Readers might be interested to know that our recording of this evening has been downloaded 1,596 times already. Other recordings of important planning issues have also been downloaded hundreds and hundreds of times. Planning is definitely on people’s minds and there are certainly more than 150 people (according to Magee) who have concerns with what is happening. Check out these figures –

Finally, it beggars belief, as to why feedback on less important issues have in the past been published but not on the above list of issues. We maintain that this administration is determined to bulldoze through its plans regardless of what residents say they want. If it were otherwise, and consultation was indeed a genuine attempt to gather feedback and where possible act on this feedback then all results would be published. Instead we have an administration determined to censor contrary views, and determined to limit the role of residents and councillors. That is unconscionable.

By way of comparison, we gone through all the agendas from 2016-22 (the start of the McKenzie reign) and listed all those consultation feedbacks which were published in full. We’ve omitted budget, local law, etc reports. Please compare the importance of the following to the significance of these later planning issues.

One caveat to the above. When council first began their work on the various structure plans in 2017, and held their misleading online surveys such as ‘what do you like about your shopping strip’, the full results were published – including facebook comments. But this was well before residents were made aware of the repercussions of these ‘consultations’ and what it would mean for the final draft structure plans. Interestingly, privacy, confidentiality was not an issue back then and neither was this regarded as strictly ‘operational’. You can access these reports via this link –

https://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/our-city/planning-for-the-future/the-future-of-bentleigh/bentleigh-community-consultation

PROPOSED NEW PARK, FOSBERY AVENUE AND ST AUBINS AVENUE, CAULFIELD

NORTH – 19th September 2016. Feedback – Emails, Phone and Letters; 2 Have Your Say – Forum Comments;3 Traffic Volume Analysis

JOYCE PARK – OPEN SPACE CONVERSION  – 13th June 2017 – Attachment 3: Feedback Received – Email Attachment 4: Feedback Received – Have Your Say Forum

ACTIVITY CENTRE, HOUSING AND LOCAL ECONOMY STRATEGY 25th July 2017 – all online survey responses and formal submissions

HARLESTON PARK OPEN SPACE AND PLAY SPACE UPGRADE CONSULTATION – 5th September 2017 – 2. Feedback – Email, mail and phone

3. Feedback – ‘Have Your Say’ Forum comments

EE GUNN RESERVE LANDSCAPE MASTERPLAN –5th September 2017 – . Feedback – Email and Phone; 3. Feedback – ‘Have Your Say’ Online Comments

TRANSFORMING MURRUMBEENA CONSULTATION REPORT – 17th October 2017 – Comments in full from “Have your say” discussion board

3 – Feedback received by email, phone and other channels

4 – Summary written feedback from information session

5 – Local Area Traffic Management Plan

HARLESTON PARK SMALL BASKETBALL COURT– 28th November 2017 – 2. Feedback – Email comments; 3. Feedback – ‘Have Your Say’ Forum comments;4. Feedback – Letter received with signatures

CAULFIELD WEDGE DOG PARK– 6th February 2018 – 3. Feedback – Email and phone comments;4. Feedback – ‘Have Your Say’ forum comments

COMMUNITY FEEDBACK ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A CLASSIFIED TREE REGISTER – 26th September 2018 – survey responses & submissions

PROPOSED NEW PARK – AILEEN AVENUE, CAULFIELD SOUTH – 5th February 2019 – 2. Have Your Say Feedback; Email Feedback; Phone Call Feedback

CAULFIELD PARK MASTERPLAN – 5th February 2019 –Have Your Say Forum Discussion  Email Feedback; 4. Community Meeting Feedback

GLEN EIRA ROOMING HOUSE STRATEGY – 21st May 2019 – 2019 – Consultation feedback

ROSANNA STREET RESERVE UPGRADE – STAGE TWO – 2nd July 2019 – Have Your Say Feedback ; Email Feedback;Phone Calls Feedback

DRAFT MURRUMBEENA PARK MASTERPLAN REFRESH – 3rd September 2019 – Survey feedback;5. Email feedback

BENTLEIGH EAT STREET – PROPOSED ONE-WAY TRAFFIC CHANGES

(NORTHBOUND) TO VICKERY STREET – 24th September 2019 – email, survey responses

HOPETOUN GARDENS LANDSCAPE MASTERPLAN – 16th October 2019 – Have Your Say feedback;Email feedback;Phone call feedback

FUTURE OF SPORT AND ACTIVE RECREATION – CONSULTATION OUTCOMES – 16th October, 2019 – Have your say comments

WALKING AND ACCESSIBILITY ACTION PLAN, CYCLING ACTION PLAN AND

PUBLIC TRANSPORT ADVOCACY PLAN – 17th December 2019 – emails, comments (but not on previous item for Inkerman Road cycle path)

CARNEGIE SWIM CENTRE REDEVELOPMENT OPTIONS – COMMUNITY

CONSULTATION OUTCOMES – Community Consultation responses’Community Voice’ survey results

 25th February 2020

PARKING POLICY – 17th March 2020 – Draft Parking Policy Engagement Report

OPEN SPACE STRATEGY REFRESH – 9th June 2020 – Feedback – Email and Letter; Have Your Say Forum

MULTIDECK CARPARKS COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND CONSULTATION – 14th December 2021 – HYS Individual Comments; CV Individual Comments; WSP Report – Online Community Workshop; Chat – Online Community Workshop;;Social Media; Written Correspondence

MULTIDECK COMMUTER CARPARKS PROJECT – OUTCOMES OF COMMUNITY CONSULTATION – 30th August 2022 – MDCP – Social Media Feedback;. MDCP – Written Correspondence Feedback;MDCP – HYS Survey Responses

Democracy in Glen Eira is moribund. Decisions are made by this administration prior to any so called ‘community consultation’. Even councillors are denied access to all relevant data either in time for the thousands of pages to be digested properly, or with-held completely. Ultimately, all this means is that decision making and community consultation in Glen Eira is a joke!

Whether it is McKenzie or Torres, the decision to NOT PUBLISH all community responses in full on the Housing Strategy is the most recent case in point. This has now expanded to include contentious projects detailed in the current agenda. We will itemise our concerns with these two projects.

Alma Village Pop-up Park

We have to query the value of any consultation (ignoring of course the effect of the various sub-standard questions asked) when residents who decide to respond are not provided with enough information to come to some reasonable conclusions as to the proposed project. For example, in the above ‘consultation’, there are plenty of drawbacks, plus residents have never been informed as to:

  • The final estimated cost of the project
  • The number of residential/road car park spots to be lost
  • Traffic analysis dates from 2018 and is therefore way out of date
  • Not even a consultation ‘summary’ report included – it is incorporated into the officer’s report

Interestingly, this officer’s report does include the following:

Page 556 of the agenda states:All feedback received is attached.

Page 561 states: All feedback received is included as an attachment with names and identifiers removed.
One letter from a local business and property owner is included with all details.

None of these attachments are included in the agenda! Our commiserations to the officer since it is obvious that the decision to with-hold the full feedback was done following the writing of this report! Decisions on the run no doubt as a result of community criticism.

The report itself recommends that council proceed with the pop-up park, despite the fact that we are told that the feedback results were ‘split evenly’ between those who supported the idea and those opposed. When nearly half of respondents are opposed, then surely some re-thinking is necessary? But no! The project is still pushed onwards!

Circular Economy Feedback

For this ‘consultation’ we do get a ‘summary consultation’ report. Sadly, there has also been some late editing/censorship for this item. In the contents page we are told that the actual survey questions for both the ‘community members’ and for ‘businesses’ are included as Appendix A and Appendix B. THEY ARE NOT!

As per normal, what we do get is a ‘summary of themes’ rather than a full insight into what people said or wrote, plus some demographic info.

COMMENT(S)

Recent decisions to with-hold information and commentary from residents is deliberate and has nothing to do with ‘transparency’ and privacy’. If identifying information could be removed in countless previous consultations and all feedback published, then it should also apply to the most important consultations such as the Housing Strategy and the structure plans. Council has therefore entered the new realm of censorship in the hope that residents will accept the spin, and bullshit that typifies council’s reporting in these matters.

We have had of late survey after survey, where the questions fail to address the central issues and proposals of the item. Most are Dorothy Dixers, designed to elicit the response required. They do NOT seek to garner what the community really thinks or wants. They are prepared in order to substantiate the decision that this administration has already made. We do not even know if councillors have any say in the creation of these questions. The Community Engagement Committee certainly does not – when in fact they should be a vital component of the process.

But even more alarming is council’s failure to adhere to the IAPP2 scenarios of engagement and to inform residents of the ‘influence’ their input can and will have. All consultations in Glen Eira do not even come close to the ‘involve’ or ‘collaborate’ criteria. Most are simply ‘inform’ and with ‘consult’. It remains a top-down approach. Here are the selected options, now pick one! The money splurged on these bogus consultations is simply mind-boggling. But naturally, we will never be told how much!

By way of contrast, we ask readers to have a long, hard look at what Bayside is currently doing on one of its consultations, and which they have done for all of their important consultations. That is letting residents know well in advance the extent of ‘influence’ they can have. Various methodologies are then implemented to ensure these criterion are met. Not so in Glen Eira. All residents are told is that the feedback will be ‘considered’.

Here is the Bayside approach:

See: https://yoursay.bayside.vic.gov.au/MelroseStreet/community-engagement-overview

Finally a recommendation to readers:

  • If you are providing any feedback to council directly, then we believe it is imperative that you also cc your comments to all councillors. This can be easily accomplished via this email: councillors@gleneira.vic.gov.au. Our suggestion is based on our real doubt that councillors are informed fully as to what residents say/want. Communicating directly with them will ensure that the ‘gate-keeping’ of this administration is reduced.
  • Public questions should also be sent to councillors. We again doubt that councillors have much time to digest the public questions and certainly not too much time to provide responses in the record of assembly meetings held just prior to entering the chamber.  

Here are the closing remarks by Athanasopolous on the Caulfield Station Structure Plan which was voted through on the casting vote of Magee.

One must seriously doubt whether Athanasopolous has ever read the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, or for that matter, given close consideration to officer reports. In his closing remarks presented above, there was the statement that council does not ‘seriously consider’ whether something is ‘excellent’, ‘good’ or bad. That he says ‘is not a consideration for us’.  Nothing could be further from the truth! If the planning scheme had indeed been read then he would have found the following clauses –

To promote design excellence which supports the ongoing significance of heritage places.

The replacement building displays design excellence

Demonstrates architectural design excellence. – Carnegie/Elsternwick/Bentleigh DDOs

Planning should promote excellence in the built environment ….

Avoid visually intrusive design which confronts the established architecture of the centre and
dominates the surroundings

Ensure the highest possible standards of built form and architecture, through contextually
appropriate design that adheres to the policy statements contained in this policy and principles
of economic, cultural and environmental sustainability and universal design

Whether the design is innovative and of a high architectural standard

To top this all off, these statements from the officer’s report of 1st September 2020 (pages 43 and 50) on the 7 Selwyn Street, Elsternwick application, unequivocally embrace the concept of ‘design excellence’. We quote:

Subject to the recommendations of Council’s Urban Designer regarding some of the materiality, it is considered that the proposal displays architectural design excellence and will be a significant architectural contribution to Elsternwick.

The design of the building achieves design excellence and will be a landmark building within the municipality

Whilst it is true that no clear ‘definition’ applies in Glen Eira, at least some other councils have taken major steps to ensure that ‘design excellence’ features prominently in their assessment of high rise dwellings. Here is what Moreland has done.

Other incredible statements relate to the simple black and white dichotomy that everyone should either accept or reject the notion of 1300 apartments. The problem with this is what is not stated. The Caulfield Station area will NOT simply include 1300 apartments. Combined with Caulfield Village the total could be in the realm of 4,400 as stated in the Charter, Kramer Keck analysis.

Even if we accept this 1300 number (remembering that heights will be discretionary and hence could be higher than proposed, thereby facilitating more apartments) his statements are far too simplistic. Allowing 1300 apartments might be fine IF –

  • There was adequate open space provided
  • Overshadowing was negligible and included the winter solstice
  • Buildings were of the highest 7+ efficiency/sustainability
  • Heritage was protected for individual sites and for surrounding precincts
  • Car parking was adequate
  • Landscaping did not include ‘potted’ trees
  • Wind tunnels were avoided
  • Housing diversity – ie 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments. The Charter Kramer report states that the overwhelming majority will be 1 and 2 bedroom places.

There are plenty more points that could be added to the above. Not even mentioning some of these vital components is Athanasopolous’ way of ignoring all facets of decent planning and presenting an argument that is deliberately one sided.

Athanasopolous goes on to claim that no decision on third party objection rights has been made. That all council is saying at this point is that they will ‘consider’ the potential for this. Really? If third party objection rights are viewed as important, then surely it would already have been in the draft? Leaving everything in abeyance until the fine print of the amendment is revealed does not do residents any favours. All it does is skew the odds in council’s and the MRCs favour since going to a planning panel has repeatedly shown how these panels basically support council and developers.

Finally, if the objective is to ‘achieve the best possible outcome for our community’, then there is absolutely no reason why this can’t be achieved NOW in the draft plans and well before things are set in concrete via the amendment. We repeat what we have stated in the past –

Yes this is a ‘framework’ plan, but once it is agreed that 20 and 12 storeys (discretionary) set the parameters, then any ‘controls’ that are introduced later, will not be geared to 7 storeys, or even 9 storeys. They will ‘cement’ what is proposed in the draft. The game is already up at this stage .

We maintain that the role of a councillor is to ensure that his vote is based on sound ‘evidence’. That means looking objectively at all facets of proposals – the positive and the negative – and then coming to a decision. Athanasopolous fails to do this repeatedly. His approach is to reduce everything to the simplest black and white dichotomies, to ignore even mentioning most planning components if they are ‘inconvenient’ and to railroad through decision after decision that facilitates what most residents would see as definitely ‘inappropriate development’.   

It has become a council tradition that public questions are not ‘answered’. Instead we get ‘responses’ that basically ignore the question and substitute a myriad of weasel words, spin, and deliberate obfuscation. In short, we conclude that the outcome is deliberately evasive and potentially dishonest.

We say dishonest because at last council meeting several councillors who voted against the Caulfield Station Structure Plan basically contradicted the responses given in a public question – thereby revealing what was the true state of affairs.

Here is the question and the response. We have bolded the important sections.

Item 8.2 of the agenda is recommending councillor endorsement of the draft Caulfield Station Structure Plan. Given that this precinct will potentially house up to 8000+ individuals and contain the tallest building forms, the decision carries great import for the municipality. Asking councillors to therefore endorse a plan that will set the aspirational vision for the future, should be based on clear, hard ‘evidence’. At any stage throughout this long process, were councillors provided with hard copy research and documentation as to the following – overshadowing data; set back requirements; traffic analysis; the complete survey responses? If so, what is/are the precise date(s) that councillors were given access to each of these nominated items? If not, and if councillors have as yet not been provided with all of the above, then I respectfully submit that they are in no position to complete what should be ‘informed decision making’!

Response: The draft Caulfield Structure Plan, which was presented at the 22 February 2022 Ordinary Council Meeting, was accompanied by a Housing and Economic Analysis prepared by consultants Charter Keck Cramer.

In response to your specific questions:

  •  Councillors were provided with overshadowing data prior to the 20 September 2022 Council Meeting.
  •  Building heights and setback requirements and guidelines have formed a significant component of the structure plan. This work and other content of the structure plan were the subject of several Councillor briefings ahead of the draft structure plan being endorsed for consultation.
  • • The draft and final Caulfield Structure Plan have been informed by traffic assessments prepared by consultants at the request of both the Victorian Planning Authority and Council. Further review has been conducted by Council’s strategic transport and traffic engineering officers. The data shows that the activity centre road network has capacity for the extent of growth envisaged. Traffic analysis and traffic management is an ongoing process and will continue to be reviewed as the structure plan is implemented.
  • • Councillors have been provided with the summary of consultation responses. Copies of all survey responses and all written submissions received during consultation were issued on September 13.

COMMENT

The most important aspect of this response comes in the first paragraph. We are told that councillors were provided access to the shadow diagrams PRIOR to the council meeting. NO DATE IS PROVIDED!!!! Zyngier addressed this when he stated that councillors were given access ‘last weekend’. We interpret this to mean September 17th – 3 days before the council meeting and over the weekend. We also believe that several Jewish councillors (and perhaps others) do not engage in council business over the Sabbath, or a weekend.

The question asked for SPECIFIC DATES to be provided. The only date mentioned in the response is September 13 for consultation feedback. It however refers to only ‘survey responses’ and ‘written submissions’ as being provided ‘in full’. It does not include emails sent to councillors, questions asked at the forums (and the responses provided at the time). One could also query whether September 13th is even enough time for councillors to fully digest the feedback.

Secondly, ‘building heights and setback requirements’ were ‘subjects’ presented at councillor briefings BUT ONLY for the ‘structure plan being endorsed for consultation’. That occurred late last year before February council meeting with the recommendation to go out for consultation. This is completely distinct from the current situation which sought endorsement. We also do not know whether these councillor briefings included hard copy documentation or simply ‘summaries’ provided by officers! We remind readers that the original draft plan had 25 storeys and 12 storeys for the Kambrook Road area. So what is the ‘evidence’ for the changes and the evidence that supported the first iteration?

If council had been working on the structure plan for months and months as claimed, then there is absolutely no excuse for the failure to provide councillors with ALL documentation well before the 20th September. The question and its conclusion that ‘informed decision making’ becomes impossible is reasonable and accurate. As we’ve stated several times, in Glen Eira residents and councillors are viewed as annoying impediments to the administration’s rule and power. But when it descends into evasiveness and deliberately misleading responses, then we are in deep trouble.

By way of contrast, the following screen dump, shows how far this council has come in implementing what is basically a ‘censorship’ program. Five years ago council could release far more data. Not so today.

Adding further insult to injury, Cr Zmood asked whether the shadow diagrams could be published on council’s website. Slavin responded that they would be made public. When pressed for when this would occur, the answer was ‘this week’. Two points on this:

  • At the time of writing (Monday morning) we have not been able to locate the file on council’s website. Surely all it takes is the press of the computer button to upload the document? Or is this administration hoping that residents and councillors forget all about this ‘promise’?
  • A recent public question queried why certain documents were not made public in regard to the Carnegie Structure Plan. The response was that they would be made public ONLY after they had received authorisation from the Minister to advertise the amendment. This of course raises the question as to why one set of background documents are to be with-held in the case of Carnegie, and why a similar document can be made public for the Caulfield Station plan. Both are structure plans; both require ministerial approval; both will eventuate in amendments. Council cannot pick and choose. And it should not take pressure from residents and councillors to ensure that everything this council does is completely transparent and accountable.

Finally, we urge all readers to carefully listen to what councillors had to say about the Caulfield structure plan. It reveals major dissatisfaction and concern as to what is being allowed. And more importantly, it raises fundamental questions as to how this administration operates and its timely and relevant release of information to its decision makers – ie councillors!

The Zyngier comments –

The Esakoff comments –

The Pennicuik comments –

The Zmood comments –

As for the Athanasopolous and Magee comments, we will comment on them in the next few days.

Last night’s council meeting made it abundantly clear how divided this council really is. The Caulfield Station Structure Plan was decided on the casting vote of Magee. Cade was on leave so the vote to adopt the structure plan was 4 to 4. Magee as chairperson/Mayor then used his second vote to pass the structure plan.

The voting was:

FOR – Magee, Athanasopolous, Parasol, Zhang

AGAINST – Esakoff, Zyngier, Szmood, Pennicuik.

What residents must realise is that the continued propaganda of ‘only the first step’ in the process and that the (much) later introduced ‘planning controls’ will ensure great outcomes, is pure bunkum! Once the parameters are set, as this structure plan does, then the eventual planning controls MUST relate to these parameters. For example: the plan sets the height of a discretionary 20 storeys for one site and a heap of 12 storeys discretionary elsewhere. The future planning controls will NOT then attempt to reduce such heights. They will simply tinker with the edges and probably provide only ‘guidelines’ for important things such as setbacks, etc. Nor does the plan provide any firm commitment as to objector rights, overshadowing just in case the discretionary heights are suddenly not 20 storeys but 25 storeys, etc.

This process has happened again and again in Glen Eira. It is a sham, that ties the hands of residents and councillors. Further, the end result will only be formal submissions to a draft amendment that means going to a panel. In our time of observing this council only once has a panel sided with residents in recommending against council.

Over the past few years we have seen this administration do everything literally arse-backwards. This cannot be anything but deliberate we believe in the attempt to set the groundwork that furthers and facilitates the council agenda of more and more growth – regardless of whether or not such growth is needed. We now have:

  • Amendment C220 with its framework plan designating ‘incremental change areas’ BEFORE a housing strategy is completed.
  • We have structure plans BEFORE the housing strategy
  • We have the removal of residential areas from the latest DDO’s so that these have now reverted back to their original zoning of 4 storeys instead of the prescribed 3 storey mandatory that the previous Amendment C157 created.
  • We have community consultation that is anything but and the refusal to publish all feedback
  • We have the sidelining of councillors and the community consultation committee in overseeing the creation of survey questions
  • We now have councillors asked to make major decisions prior to the full evidence being provided to them – or certainly provided in time so that careful assessment, discussion, and decision making can occur.
  • We have consistent rubbish (and that is the only way to describe) the nonsense that flows from the mouths of Athanasopolous and Magee. The tragedy is that last night 2 councillors did not utter a word to explain why they voted as they did – Zhang and Parasol! Surely the community deserves to know the rationale behind their votes?

Our advice to councillors is simple. If you have major concerns with various planning proposals, then voting in favour of the proposal does not do the community a favour. All concerns need to be addressed and remedied prior to being voted in. If the plans are so full of holes, then they should be sent back to the drawing board and redone!

We will comment fully on some of the arguments presented in our next post(s).

 We would also like to commend Esakoff, Zyngier, Zmood and Pennicuik for their efforts last night. It is obvious that they have spent much time thinking about the issue. Whether the same can be said for the other councillors is questionable. They appear to be merely following whatever the State Government and other vested interests want! The victim is undoubtedly the community, and all notions of democratic and sound governance. The benefactors remain developers!

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