Councillor Performance


Council has published the agenda for next Tuesday night’s Special Council Meeting. The recommendation is to ‘sell’ by proceeding with the Expression of Interest process. What a surprise!

Issues invoked by the submissions are ostensibly ‘answered’. For example:

  • On the lack of community consultation, we are told: Officers have set out in this report the communication and consultation process conducted which included extensive advertising and opportunities to discuss the sale issues. The process undertaken also meets the statutory requirements for the sale of Land as outlined in the Local Government Act. Thus, no explanation, no apology, no justification as to why community consultation was not undertaken prior to any decision!
  • On whether the new owner will provide the same quality of care, we are told: Officers note in this report some of the constraints that are likely to impact on the future provision of quality care in Glen Eira’s aged care service. Officers are aware of many other aged care providers that provide quality at an equivalent or higher level than Council’s current service. Council’s commitment is that Council will only sell to a quality aged care provider that has a proven ability to provide quality aged care with high employee and resident satisfaction levels. In short, a regurgitation of previous generalities.
  • On the impact on current aged care residents, we are told: Officers are mindful of the potential impact on residents during this process. Council has committed to keep all 173 beds within the municipality and any new provider will be required to uphold the current residency agreement. Impact on residents can in part be mitigated by a strong transition process and the selection of a quality provider. In addition the option for staff to remain with the new provider may also assist in ensuring continuity of care. We note the lack of ‘guarantee’ on future staffing, nor how many current staff will be employed by the new owner. Also not a word about any new residency agreements.
  • On potential Royal Commission findings, we are told: Officers consider that while it is likely that the Royal Commission will publically identify poor performers, the quality of a rigorous assessment processes will ultimately provide Council with sufficient information to make a sound selection decision. Literally an incredible statement given that council has no idea what the findings will be and how these findings may impact on all providers!
  • On loss of community amenity and ownership, we are told: Officers are aware of the range of community views in regard to Public or Private ownership of many services. Officers note, however, that many submitters assume that Council will sell to a ‘for profit’ provider, however, many aged care providers are not for profit providers. The assessment panel will assess each provider against a comprehensive set of assessment criteria and choose the provider that most closely meets the criteria.The problem with this answer is that one single not for profit provider will not be able to afford to purchase all three facilities. That means that at least one, if not two, and probably all three, will go to those private FOR PROFIT businesses!
  • On including a ‘resident representative’ on the sale process, we are told: Officers have discussed with legal and probity advisors the potential of having a family or resident involved in the process or on the evaluation panel. Advice provided is that this will give rise to probity and conflict of interest concerns. This says it all, despite the possibility of including resident ‘expertise’ prior to the finalisation of the detailed assessment criteria. In other words, no resident in on selection and worse still, no ‘detailed assessment criteria’ still exists. If this isn’t putting the cart before the horse, we don’t know what is!

Following this attempted response/rebuttal to issues raised in the various submissions we get a long diatribe on current conditions in aged care. We are informed that:

  • Aged care will become increasingly more ‘complex’
  • There will be increased ‘scrutiny and regulation’ so only larger and ‘highly specialised’ carers can cope mainly because they have ‘economies of scale’.
  • Another ‘reason’ why council can’t continue is that they don’t have an aged care board or specialist aged care finance staff to assist in management and governance arrangements. Perhaps council could answer how an ‘aged care finance staff’ is different to the systems and financial oversight that currently runs open space levies for example? In addition council has risk management policies, fraud policies, etc.etc. How have they managed for 40 years? Besides, maybe if council wasn’t so top heavy with ‘directors’ and the public relations staff, then more staff could be hired in those areas that residents consider vital?

Basically we’re told that council doesn’t have this and doesn’t have that. Plus extraordinary claims are made for existing ‘specialist’ private providers such as: Many areas of research in palliative care including conducting translational research projects to embed evidence into practice, including the development of sophisticated pain guidelines, anxiety and depression pathways and advanced care planning. Of course not one such provider is mentioned and neither is the fact that dementia care research is, to the best of our knowledge, not the current or primary function of our three facilities.

Nor do the financial stats provided tell even half the story. It is significant that this section of the report is a bare 2 sentences and the figure of a $1.88 million loss in 2017/18 is only the tip of the iceberg, since this figure EXCLUDES on costs such as corporate overheads. Nor does it tally with the Annual Report where a loss of $3.1 million was cited. Our belief remains that the sell off is nothing more than a cash grab.

If as certain councillors have argued, no decision has as yet been made, then why have legal and commercial firms already been appointed?

Finally, the listed criteria is a hodge podge of jargon and generalities. Residents still do not have a clue as to what these conditions will be, nor in fact, the real reasons behind the decision to sell.

In the end we still have no answers to the following:

  • What guarantee can council give that all staff who want to remain will be able to do so?
  • What guarantee can council give that in 5 or 10 years time these properties will not be turned into apartments?
  • Will the criteria and the tender offers be made public?
  • How much of the sale monies will go into general revenue and how much will actually be spent on the ‘disadvantaged’ in our society?
  • And the most crucial question: Why can’t the community decide whether or not it wants to subsidise aged care? When other councils now include resident juries in determining budget priorities, Glen Eira remains determined to exclude and ignore the community as much as possible.

We urge everyone to read this document since it encapsulates everything that is awry in Glen Eira. 

This isn’t the first time that the issue of overshadowing of residential properties, especially during the winter months, has come up. Council’s Planning Scheme Review of 2016 acknowledged that this was a major concern for residents and is only exacerbated with council’s decision to seek approval for 12 storey apartment blocks in both Carnegie and Elsternwick.

One public question from last week’s council meeting, returned to this question of what council intends to do to ensure that adequate controls are implemented. Below is the query and the response.

In the above council claims to have “proposed winter shadow controls” for public open spaces. Not a word about residential sites! One must also wonder exactly how the following may be interpreted as ‘controls’.The only mention of overshadowing in the Design & Development Overlays that relate specifically to the 3 activity centres are:

Buildings should minimise overshadowing impacts on existing and future open spaces, commercial footpath-trading areas and existing residential sites. 

AND in the decision guidelines we get this ‘criterion’.

The impact of overshadowing to the public realm.

None of the above are ‘controls’ in any shape or form. Nor do they even mention the winter solstice. The emphases remains firmly on public open space.

Even in the adopted structure plans there are not ‘controls’ mere motherhood statements such as:

Ensure overshadowing from new buildings and works does not result in significant loss of sunlight to future and existing public open spaces.

Ensuring adequate sunlight provision and minimising overshadowing of future plaza space.

Consideration of Council’s Open Space Strategy in the design and function of the new park, including minimising any overshadowing.

The Elsternwick Structure Plan sets out clear key design principles, including:

Σ minimise overshadowing to existing residential sites

ensure no overshadowing of residential areas between 9am and 3pm at the September Equinox,

Minimise overshadowing to existing residential sites

The form and scale of new development must be guided by minimising overshadowing impacts on existing residential sites. Development must satisfy the overshadowing objectives and standards of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and may need to step down in scale towards residential sites in order to minimise overshadowing impacts

Principles have also been included in the new Carnegie Structure Plan that address concerns such as overlooking, overshadowing and traffic impacts on existing residential areas.

Protect the future open space at Egan and Woorayl Streets, in accordance with Council’s Open Space Strategy, with no overshadowing for a minimum of 5 hours at the September Equinox (9am to 2pm achieved) and 3 hours at Winter Solstice (11am to 2pm achieved).

Ensure no overshadowing of residential areas between 9am and 3pm at the September Equinox.

As can be seen from the above quotes, the only time that the winter solstice is specifically mentioned relates to Egan & Woorayl Streets in Carnegie, and even this does nothing to extend the hours. Further, given that this section of Carnegie is now geared towards highrise, then why oh why wasn’t the same consideration given to Elsternwick?

Telling residents to go off and advocate to the State Government does not abrogate these councillors’ responsibility to do everything they can to implement adequate controls. Given the history of this issue, council has not even been able to come up with official support for Melbourne City Council’s proposed amendment that would extend the winter solstice hours for planning applications. Overshadowing of public open space is important. But equally as important is to ensure that council is doing everything it possibly can to halt the plunging into darkness of those residents who find themselves within the shadow range of 12 storey apartment blocks. This, council has steadfastly refused to do and the reason is obvious. If planning applications have to adhere to winter solstice controls then that means that permits for 12 storeys would be jeopardised and would undermine council’s prodevelopment agenda. Worthy of note is that even the commisioned Peer Review of the Urban Design Guidelines had this to say:

Mid-winter overshadowing controls limit development envelopes to the north of spaces severely with the need for setbacks that are equal to approximately 2.5 times the overall height of the building.
As an example this would require a 12 storey built form to be setback over 90 metres from the northern edge of a public open space.

Overshadowing impacts to Woorayl Street Park would likely to substantially decrease the
overall height and development yield of sites between Woorayl Street and Arawatta Street
(to 5-6 storeys) if June 22 shadows are adopted in Guidelines, while September 22
shadows are more easily reconciled with the maximum height (with community benefits) as
shown in Figure 20. This model has assumed an adoption of September 22 shadow.

Caulfield Electorate Planning

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (09:51): This morning I tabled a petition with over 1700 signatures of support calling on the Andrews government to immediately review and reduce interim height limits for the Caulfield electorate, and I note the Minister for Planning is at the table today. Minister, the inconsistent and unfair height limits established by yourself as the Minister for Planning in amendment C157 to the Glen Eira planning scheme have encouraged a wave of inappropriate high-rise development proposals in Selwyn and Horne streets, Elsternwick, on what was the Daily Planet site and also the old ABC site. We are also seeing on South Road another development of up to 12 storeys with no height restrictions whatsoever.

These high-rise developments threaten to impinge upon the neighbourhood character, amenity and traffic flow, introducing overshadowing and privacy concerns for thousands of residents in my electorate. I have met with a number of residents, some of whom are in the gallery today, from Caulfield South and Elsternwick that are affected at these sites, where I have seen firsthand the effect of inappropriate overdevelopment in these areas on the community. I have written on behalf of residents to the mayor of Glen Eira City Council to seek assistance in reviewing and addressing the concerns of these residents. Minister, these residents would like to meet with you to talk about these issues and to see if we can get some consistency with the Oakleigh and Bentleigh electorates which have restricted height limits of six storeys while we have discretionary height limits of 12 storeys. If it is good enough for the goose, it is good enough for the gander. We should have consistency in our planning scheme.

Applause from gallery.

The SPEAKER: Order! Order in the gallery, please.

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Caulfield Electorate

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (11:47): (385) My constituency question is to the Minister for Planning. Minister, throughout the electorate of Caulfield we are seeing a number of overdevelopment proposals that are currently out of character with the local amenity and threaten residents’ way of life in the Caulfield community. In fact we tabled a petition today of that nature. Caulfield residents have seen these proposals from Horne Street, Elsternwick, the old ABC site, and of course now in Caulfield South. There is inconsistency when it comes to planning in the electorate of Caulfield. Of particular concern is the discrepancy in the interim height limits of Elsternwick, Bentleigh and Carnegie because of planning scheme amendment C157. Minister, we ask you why there is such an inconsistency in the planning scheme. In Glen Eira City Council on the Caulfield side there is a 12-storey discretion, and within Oakleigh and Bentleigh it is four to six storeys. Why is there that inconsistency, Minister?

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PETITION

Caulfield Electorate Planning

To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the Legislative Assembly

We, the undersigned citizens of Victoria, call on the Legislative Assembly of Victoria to note:

The interim height limits established by the Minister for Planning, The Hon Richard Wynne MP in Amendment C157, are inconsistent, and unfairly impact Elsternwick and the broader Caulfield community.

The interim height limits have encouraged a wave of inappropriate high-rise development proposals in areas such as Selwyn and Horne Streets, Elsternwick and Hawthorn Road, South Caulfield, These proposed high-rise developments will impinge upon the surrounding neighbourhood character and traffic flow, introducing overshadowing and privacy concerns, without necessary community infrastructure upgrades.

The discrepancies between current interim height limits lack essential strategic justification, therefore the petitioners request that the Legislative Assembly of Victoria call on the State Government to immediately reduce the interim height limits for the Caulfield Electorate.

By Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (1747 signatures)

 

Tonight’s council meeting resembled a three ring circus and revealed once again to what extent decisions are made behind closed doors in Glen Eira. The ‘circus’ involved Item 9.1, on the 14 storey application for Horne Street, Elsternwick..

There was a significant pause before Delahunty put up her hand to move a motion for refusal of the application. This was seconded by Magee. What became obvious was:

  • The motion was entirely unexpected by all. Hence no grounds for refusal (as required) were as yet drafted.
  • Countless apologies to officers for this ‘surprise’ and not a word of criticism for their recommendation that went beyond the current Design & Development Overlay. Instead, we got comments as to how well they are interpreting the planning scheme.
  • Silver admitted his opposition to the application
  • Same old arguments from Hyams and Sztrajt such as ‘we could get worse outcome at VCAT’.
  • A 5 minute break in proceedings so councilors can again ‘decide’ what to do behind closed doors.
  • Magee’s ‘liking’ for 12 storeys, but only if it’s in the ‘right place’. That is along Nepean Highway.

On return, Delahunty’s motion was voted out. Only Delahunty and Magee voted in favour of refusal. All the rest voted against. Please note that Athanasopoulos and Esakoff were absent.

Davey had foreshadowed a new motion for a permit of 8 storeys. It was then decided that the issue would come back for decision once Torres had been given some time to draft the relevant motion and its conditions.

Silver moved motion for 8 storeys. Sztrajt seconded. Voted in 5 votes to 2. Interestingly, Davey who foreshadowed the 8 storey motion, voted against! Magee also voted against. Cade was silent throughout this item.

Please listen to what was said (below) and consider the following:

  • Baseless claims by Magee and others that the structure plans were in line with community sentiment. All community feedback was strongly against the 8 to 12 storey heights.
  • No justification has ever been provided for such heights
  • Traffic and overshadowing documents that were to be done over a year ago are still to make it into the public domain. Has council actually done this work?
  • Why does this council continually blame the State Government and yet not one single formal public statement has been made that challenges anything. When other councils such as Boroondara, Mornington Peninsula, Stonnington can voice their disapproval of government decisions, why is our council silent and compliant? This is not advocacy. It is complicity!

Please listen carefully to the incredible waffle that epitomises these councillors decision making!

Finally, we also point out that in response to the 4 or 5 public questions council did not provide a single answer.

PS: FROM HANSARD 19/3

SOUTHERN METROPOLITAN REGION Mr HAYES(Southern Metropolitan) (18:01):My constituency question is to the Minister for Planning. I refer the minister to the case of my constituent Graham Huntly, who is helping the government meet its renewable energy target by putting solar panels on his home at Ross Street, Elsternwick. If Woolworths succeeds in building 10 and 14-storey towers in Elsternwick, Mr Huntly’s sunlight will be blocked and his solar panel investment—to say nothing of his quality of life—will be devalued.

What rules does the government have in place to stop developments overshadowing solar panels, and will the minister support Glen Eira council’s eight-storey height controls—and make them mandatory—and reject 10 and 14-storey towers in Elsternwick?

Council continues on its merry way of destroying Elsternwick by recommending a 12 storey permit for Horne Street (Daily Planet site). We remind readers that this area sits alongside single and double storey dwellings, even though the latter (Ross Street) is zoned RGZ (four storeys). Council therefore sees no problems with a 12 storey building backing onto dwellings of this size.

The application was for 14 storeys and true to form we get a recommendation to lop off a couple of storeys. There is much in this officer’s report that is highly questionable if not straight out farcical.

In this post we will simply concentrate on the draft permit and what the recommendations allow. We quote from the report. 

The building height to be reduced to not more than 46.30m above natural ground level comprising not more than 12 storeys, with no architectural features,services, stairs, lift overruns or masts higher than 50.30m above natural ground level.

COMMENT: Amendment C157 has as the ‘maximum building height43.0 metres (discretionary). Thus, even though council might be reducing the number of storeys, the overall height of the building itself will be even greater than the structure plan suggests. Plus with masts up to 50.30 metres the building will definitely reach for the skies. The adopted C157 Amendment only allows a 4 metre extra height for masts, telecommunications, lift overruns, etc. So now we have the absolutely ludicrous situation where council first wanted 8 storeys and with ‘community benefit’ maybe 12. Now they are okaying extra height for both building and its masts, both in opposition to its own planning scheme!

The owner will maintain the shared space side laneway for not less than 5 years after the date of its completion to the satisfaction of Glen Eira City Council. 

COMMENT: This is the only time that the phrase ‘not less than 5 years’ is included in the officer’s report. It is only to be found in the pages upon pages of the ‘conditions’ and not in the body of the report itself. Instead we find this contradictory statement in the rest of the report

A Section 173 Agreement should be entered into for the permit holder to provide and maintain the shared space side laneway for the life of the building and to secure the office floor space for the life of the building.  

Which is it? Or is the above comment intended to camouflage what the Section 173 agreement will state? Surely the ‘life of the building’ is more than the 5 years stipulated in the conditions for the permit? Secondly, why only 5 years? Does this mean that in the 6th year the costs of maintenance will now fall upon council and hence ratepayers?

The front (north-eastern) setback of the tower element (third floor and above) to Horne Street increased to a minimum of 4.0m. 

COMMENT: We have to ask, what’s the point of having a structure plan if it ends up being ignored. The recommended setbacks are the perfect example of this. Amendment C157 included a requirement (preferred) of a 5 metre setback. The original urban designs for our activity centres had featured a 6 metre setback but council changed this to 5 without any real explanation. Even so, how on earth is it now considered appropriate that this be even further reduced? Why bother with structure plans at all when council itself decides it can ignore what it so loudly championed? 

As to what constitutes ‘community benefit’ we get the rubbish of widening a laneway by a few metres as proof of this, plus the creation of ‘passing areas’ because otherwise cars won’t get through.Creation of offices is nothing more than pie in the sky at this stage as well.

 

We have also had a good laugh at this sentence  Over time, the character of Elsternwick will change as buildings, consistent with the planning controls are constructed. One must question how many of these past high rises and now this one can be seen to be ‘consistent with the planning controls’?

We can only speculate as to why council would recommend a permit of this height? Our suspicion is that it is merely another nail in the coffin for low rise along Nepean Highway. Council is determined that Elsternwick becomes the high rise capitol of Glen Eira. Granting a permit for one more eyesore makes it a lot easier to have 12 storeys along all of Nepean Highway, regardless of whether this is needed or not!

Well done council. At least you are consistent in your appalling planning decisions!

Council’s brilliant planning has provided another developer with a major bonus. This concerns 285 Neerim Road, Carnegie. A permit was granted by VCAT in 2015 for a 4 storey and 41 apartment block.

Residents will remember that in 2017 council produced its first version of its structure plan which was gazetted as an interim height amendment (C148) in 2017. The site was then designated as having a four storey mandatory height. With the latest version as of August 2018, the site suddenly became suitable for a 5 storey mandatory height limit. No explanation of course as to why within the space of a year council (and the minister) saw fit to increase the height in this area.

Now we have what has happened so often in our neighbourhood centres as this section of the application makes clear

The developer has decided that instead of 4 storeys, he wants 5 and instead of 41 units he is aiming for 46. Visitor car parking will go completely and there is even a further reduction in the requisite parking for retail/shops from 20 to 16. And of the 46 proposed apartments, 33 are two bedroom, 9 are one bedroom and the magnificent total of 4 as three bedroom. That makes it a total of over 91% as one and two bedroom dwellings. So much for ‘diversity’ as required in the planning scheme!

What irks us about this application is not the right of the developer to ask for more. He is perfectly entitled to. The concern resides with council’s failure to offer any justification for its decisions,  much less listen and act upon resident feedback. How any reasonable person can accept that in April 2017 council proposed and the Minister agreed that 7 storeys was needed to protect again ‘inappropriate development’ and then in just over a year to suddenly use the same argument and claim that 12 storeys is required to avert ‘inappropriate development’ is simply mind boggling. And yet our illustrious councilors did not bat an eye but voted this in! Thank you indeed councilors for your ineptitude and disregard for the community!

Residents addressed council tonight on the proposed sell off of our aged care facilities. All speakers performed wonderfully well =  articulate, informed, concerned, and passionate about preserving this service for the long term.

Some of the themes that were prominent included:

  • the lack of genuine consultation and council’s secrecy over this issue
  • the lack of justification
  • the permanent loss of a service and its impact on individuals

We present below one resident’s submission. Please listen to this carefully since it summarises beautifully how council has failed its community and the lack of transparency. We also note Hyams’ fumbling and disingenuous response to the issue of the lack of community consultation. When council makes this audio available it is worth listening to simply because of his pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible.

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