Election 2016


On Thursday night at the Camden ward forum there was some discussion on structure planning and how this was to be the be all and end all for Glen Eira’s problems! A solution in one fell swoop! Delahunty expressed some regret that council had not undertaken this process during her four years as a councillor but assured residents that Elsternwick would be better off once these plans were introduced.

Even if we accept this position, it still leaves a multitude of questions that require honest answering. Structure plans are intended for use in activity centres. Elsternwick is a MAJOR activity centre – yet it has been excluded from the interim height controls recently proposed by council. The spurious and unbelievable excuse provided by councillors was that in the ‘popularity’ contest, Elsternwick featured lower on the list of priorities than did Bentleigh and Carnegie. This may well be true, but it is hardly a valid excuse for neglecting Elsternwick and the prospect of major high rise development that is on the cards with Coles, Ripponlea studios, etc.  This leads us to suspect that Council has geared Elsternwick to accommodate much denser development in this area.

Further, council’s ‘action plan’ following the ordered Planning Scheme Review, states that 2 structure plans (Bentleigh & Carnegie) will be completed within 4 years. If it takes 2 years per plan, and if Elsternwick is next in line, we won’t see anything happen for another 6 years! Unacceptable! Then there are all the so called ‘neighbourhood centres’ such as McKinnon, East Bentleigh (with Virginia Park looming), Ormond, Caulfield North (already seeing 7 storeys go up) etc. The time lag for completion of these structure plans could be as far away as 20 years. In the meantime street after street, neighbourhood after neighbourhood will be overdeveloped and ruined if the current rate of development continues.

As for the interim amendments recently submitted to the Minister for rubber stamping, residents have again been left out in the cold with no opportunity to comment or express their viewpoints. No-one was asked whether they thought discretionary rather than mandatory heights should be the option; no one was asked whether they thought 7 storeys in Carnegie was acceptable or appropriate or whether 5 storeys in Bentleigh was suitable. Not one single piece of strategic justification for any of these decisions has been provided. This makes us suspect once more than a neat little secret deal has already been teed up with the department and the minister in order to buy time for council and to delay and continue to delay any real strategic work!

Below we feature council’s ‘justification’ (obtained under FOI) for these two amendments as sent off to the minister. Hardly solid, researched, and validated ‘strategic justification’ for anything.

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Thus if new councillors are elected in a few week’s time we suggest that their immediate priority should be to:

  • Rejig the budget so that funds are available to immediately hire outside consultants to start on these structure plans and other amendments that would change the schedules to the various zones.
  • To immediately implement a full and complete review of the zones with community consultation

A very good turnout at last night’s Camden ward ‘Meet the Candidates’ forum. Congratulations to all candidates for showing up, namely – Delahunty, Pinskier, Hermann, Sounness, Silver, Fayman and Strajt. Questions focused on the following:

  • Community safety – with some members of the audience arguing that Glen Eira is very safe. Candidates responded that crime statistics don’t bear this out and that if even some residents feel unsafe that it is council’s duty to listen and consider their concerns. Ms Pinskier said that she was opposed to CCTV cameras and ‘angry’ about guns in parks which she is absolutely against.
  • One resident from Redan Road, Caulfield East asked why Delahunty and Sounness voted against 92% of residents’ wishes in regard to council’s traffic management ‘solution’ for the street and why emails weren’t answered. Delahunty responded by saying that the measures introduced were in response to ‘safety’ issues and that she makes no apologies for that.
  • Another resident asked how much money council had raised in the past few years from the open space levy and how much of this money had been spent in acquiring new open space in Camden. Sounness replied that there is a process in place where officers look at what is available for purchase and then determine how to proceed. Given the high cost of land at the moment councillors have to decide if any purchase is ‘value for money’. Delahunty then outlined what council had spent money on – ie Riddell Parade, Eskdale Road, and the purchase of an Aileen Avenue property (to be settled in November).
  • Next question was directed to new candidates about the changes to the public questions protocols and whether they thought this was ‘discriminatory’. All new candidates stated that they were opposed to this change and Pinskier favoured full streaming of council meetings. Silver added that he thought there should be a limit on the number of questions per individual because council could then run until 3am! The resident also asked about why the ‘red fence’ of the racecourse was still up and why council allowed this. On the fence question Sounness stated that he thought it was part of the racecourse only to be corrected that it was both council’s and the MRC’s responsibility. Delahunty conceded that council should get moving on this issue and that it was ridiculous that people couldn’t ask questions like this at council instead of a forum.
  • Another resident asked the new candidates for their definitions of ‘neighbourhood character’ and ‘overdevelopment’ and how they could ‘guarantee’ (as Silver stated on his facebook page) that there would be ‘sensible development’. Silver responded that his definition of this is ‘family friendly’ development with proper apartment size to fit 2 adults and 2 children and the need for gardens. Fayman was concerned about waiving of car parking places and thought that 3 or 4 storeys along main arterial roads was justifiable as were one bedroom apartments near university. Strajt spoke about population growth and how councils that joined forces would be best placed to resist overdevelopment. Hermann called overdevelopment the most important issue facing the community and undertook to get fully ‘up to speed’.
  • There was a question on preferences and whether this was done on political grounds. Delahunty said that she put those who had real estate advertising on their boards as last. Silver thought this was a ‘slur’ and that there was no ‘impropriety’ or ‘conflict of interest’ concerns. Hermann thought it was time for fresh faces and that’s why Delahunty and Sounness were put last on her voting card.
  • Another questioner was interested in governance and brought up the issue of notice of motion, recording of council meetings and general transparency and accountability and whether the local law would be changed as ‘first item on the agenda’. Silver said it was ‘up there’ but not his first item and didn’t know whether these suggested options ‘would work’.  Sounness, Hermann, Delahunty were all in favour.
  • A further question was on the large number of developments in Elsternwick, especially the shopping strip and whether candidates felt it was appropriate that this rate of development continues. Also queried was the future of the Elsternwick library. Strajt talked about the system failing and the need for wholesale changes so that councils have more control. Sounness said he would like to see 4, 5 or 6 storey development in some areas so that people can get to know each other and that where there is ‘density’ that it has to be well designed and ‘comfortable’. Hermann was concerned about traffic in Elsternwick and overshadowing and if elected would do all she could to change this. Delahunty said that structure planning could control the ‘rate of change’ as was pointed out by Wynne. Said she will ‘wear’ the criticism as council hasn’t done any structure planning and that when the Coles development happens this will ‘stretch’ the rate of development even further. Structure planning will help and that ‘should have been done a long time ago’.

We’ve uploaded several pages from a secret report by Charter Keck Cramer. The report was obviously commissioned well before July 2013 (the date the report was completed). The report is courtesy of the Department and its objective was to use GLEN EIRA AS A MODEL for the introduction of the new zones. Thus Council was well and truly up to its eyeballs in secret meetings with Guy, and the department in order to be the ‘first’ council in the state to introduce the new residential zones.

What is significant in the following pages (obtained under FOI) is:

  • The emphases on state revenue via property tax and stamp duty
  • Job creation for the construction industry, and
  • Housing supply

There is not one word in this analysis regarding impact on existing neighbourhoods or the deterioration of residential amenity. No mention of required infrastructure; no mention of open space and no concern about transparency and community consultation. Even more astounding is that Glen Eira claimed to have 85 years worth of development potential and 89 years worth once the commercial areas were included! Notes of meetings between the parties reveals that ALL COUNCILLORS were in favour of the introduction of the horrendous zones.

The crucial questions here are:

  • Were all councillors provided with a copy of this report? If so, what questions did they ask? If not all councillors were provided with the report, then why not?
  • Exactly what were councillors told about the secret meetings between Guy, Newton, Akehurst and Hyams?
  • What role did the Liberals on Council (ie Hyams, Lipshutz, Esakoff, Okotel, ‘Pilling’) have in endorsing this secrecy and collusion with Matthew Guy and his bureaucrats?

As we have repeatedly stated, there is no excuse for responses to public questions being lies. There is no excuse for the failure to inform the community as to what is about to happen. There is no excuse for appalling planning and definitely no excuse for failure to implement planning controls for the past decade. All current councillors are responsible for these failures and the damage they have caused to countless residents.

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Candidates report theft of election material and complain about rival posters

Sam Bidey, Moorabbin Glen Eira Leader
October 10, 2016 5:10pm

COUNCILLOR campaign material has been the target of petty thieves in Glen Eira.

And some council chamber squabbles have spilt onto the campaign trail in the municipality.

Candidates from the Tucker Ward and incumbent councillors Jim Magee and Oscar Lobo have reported their campaign posters and signs had been stolen.

With election day on October 22 fast approaching, Cr Magee said eleven of his posters had been taken from around the Bentleigh area, including two from his own home.

“It’s not what you need in the campaign — mine disappear but the one next door to mine doesn’t disappear,” Cr Magee said. “You put them up and they disappear — two of them have come out of my own front garden. “The stakes and everything is gone — you put them on a fence it’s gone — cable ties are laying on the ground and they’ve been cut.”

Cr Magee said he didn’t think another candidate had taken the signs but it could have been the work of people wanting his opponents to be elected.

Fellow Tucker Ward incumbent Cr Jamie Hyams said stealing campaign posters was “disgusting behaviour” but said there had been issues surrounding posters displayed in shopfronts.

Cr Hyams said he had received a complaint from a resident that Cr Lobo had complained to a cafe in Bentleigh about other candidate material being displayed with his.

Cr Lobo argued that businesses “preferred” to put his posters up because he frequented local stores. “Some candidates arrogantly ask coffee shops why they are only placing my picture on their windows,” Cr Lobo said. “The only people who would attempt (to steal posters) would be the losers and those who have not served the residents.”

Cr Lobo said aside from the theft of his material, he had also been pulled up for not having correct authorisation on his signs after a fellow candidate informed authorities.

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The  latest example of Glen Eira’s woeful planning scheme is evident from this latest application for a 19 storey aged care facility in Kooyong Road. The cry goes up that there is a ‘loophole’ in the policy which would allow such a development. Yes, there is. But it is not a ‘loophole’, it is a gaping chasm compared to the policies that other councils have successfully implemented. We provide just one example from Hume City Council – and there are plenty more. Please note the following:

  • Glen Eira’s ‘policy’ relies on the 2002 housing policy. Hume’s on their 2007 ‘healthy aging’ policy
  • Hume stipulates for nursing homes that there be – One on-site car space per two members of staff and One on-site visitor car space per five residents. Glen Eira is silent on car parking spaces for visitors.
  • Retirement villages in Hume are said to require – All dwellings should be provided with a minimum of 2 bedrooms to provide flexibility for residents and room for family visitors. In Glen Eira there is no mention of number of bedrooms.
  • Hume requires – A centrally located open space area that occupies at least 10% of the total site area should be provided. Glen Eira’s requirement for ‘open space’ is vague and nebulous and basically waffle – Ensure a small area of secluded private open space, in addition to communal open  space, is provided for low care aged persons housing. For medium and high care aged persons housing, communal open space should be provided.
  • In Hume, there is emphasis on avoiding main roads. Glen Eira endorses this and the consolidation of large lots – Large allotments on main roads in Minimal Change Areas. Consolidation of sites is not encouraged unless the site abuts a main road.

Thus we have another policy that any developer can literally drive a truck through. And this policy dates from 2007. Yes, there are problems with policies everywhere, but at least other councils have the will and desire to close as many loopholes as they can. Glen Eira does not since this will only place impediments in the path of developers!

We have uploaded both Hume’s and Glen Eira’s policies so that residents may compare!

PS: An update on this afternoon’s Tucker Ward ‘Meet the Candidates’. Those present were: Magee, Lobo, Taylor, Searle, Brewster, Mackie, De’Arth.

ABSENT: Hyams, Okotel, Bonney, Elliott, Karlik, Cade and Andonopoulos – the last with apology due to family wedding.

We have reported on planning decisions made by these councillors over the past 4 years. (See: https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/for-the-record-2/). This post we concentrate on the area that has bedevilled this council for over a decade – governance and how community aspirations have been continually ignored and/or thwarted.

THE INTRODUCTION OF THE RESIDENTIAL ZONES

Councils had until June 30th 2014 to introduce their individual versions of the new residential zones. Glen Eira was the first, with Guy’s announcement on August 5th 2013 followed by official gazetting on 23rd August 2013. Countless other councils held extensive community consultations. Glen Eira did not. Even those councils which applied for the ‘fast track’ ministerial intervention under Section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act, tabled their intentions and the relevant details of the proposed zonings at formal council meetings. This was then voted on by councillors in an open and transparent fashion at their respective council meetings. Thus their citizens could see what was to occur and had the opportunity to at least contact their representatives. Glen Eira did not, thus being the only council in the state which did not provide its residents with any information and any opportunity to voice an opinion.  There was no council resolution and no official ratification of anything. Another example of decision making behind closed doors!

Add to this various public questions dating from July 2013 asking when council would begin its community consultations and we find responses that were blatantly untrue and designed to mislead and deceive. There was never any intention to alert the public or consult with them. We know this because as far back as 2009 Akehurst had written an officer’s report that said there would be no community consultation if the zones, as they were proposed in 2008 were ever to come in. We also know that Guy, the department honchos, Hyams, Newton and Akehurst had been busy meeting since at least April 2013 and spending taxpayers’ money on getting legal advice as to how best to thwart any potential legal challenges and, we assume, whether or not a formal resolution had to be tabled at council meetings. The intent was always to avoid public consultation and accountability. We, the residents, were irrelevant to the devious and secret collusion going on between Matthew Guy, the department and council.

The following comes from the documents obtained under FOI and reveals the full treachery that all the present councillors allowed to occur and some positively encouraged –

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NOTICE OF MOTION & PUBLIC QUESTIONS

Notice of motion is an essential element of good governance  and community representation since it allows a councillor (once seconded by another councillor) to have an item placed on the agenda for full and open debate and decision. Glen Eira is the only council in the state that has repeatedly refused to grant this right to councillors – and therefore residents who request a councillor to initiate some action on an issue. It has come up at least twice in the past 4 years and been defeated by the conservative faction led by Hyams, Esakoff, Okotel and Lipshutz.

Adding insult to injury, the recent changes to the public question format means that unless the questioner is present in chamber the response will not be recorded in the official minutes. The result? No public record that will provide interested residents with any idea of what council’s position is and what the issues that concern some residents are. With no public record there is no accountability and certainly no transparency.

Those councillors who vetoed these democratic rights are: LIPSHUTZ, HYAMS, ESAKOFF, PILLING & HO

GUNS IN THE PARK

Readers will remember the furore created by this secret (and potentially illegal) in camera vote that permitted private security guards to carry guns in local parks. Those responsible for keeping this secret and deciding that this was in the best interests of the entire community were – PILLING, ESAKOFF, HYAMS, LIPSHUTZ, OKOTEL, MAGEE

FROGMORE

When Council had the opportunity to proceed to a Panel Hearing over the application to build a Jewish Care aged care home at Frogmore, the proposed heritage amendment was abandoned. This meant that the developer  moved in overnight and demolished the building and removed nearly 90 trees – 4 of which were categorised as ‘significant’. Over 1000 signatures on a petition had requested council to implement heritage protection and another 200+ submissions had gone in anticipating a formal panel hearing where residents would get the opportunity to have their say and to present their well researched evidence. Esakoff and Delahunty conveniently declared a ‘conflict of interest’ and Magee was absent. Pilling used his casting vote to ensure that Frogmore was no more. Those who voted against going to the panel were: PILLING, HYAMS, LIPSHUTZ. Thus 3 councillors (a minority) thwarted the stated wishes of over a 1000 residents!

CONSERVATORY

Two expensive community consultations, plus several council resolutions, made it clear that the conservatory at Caulfield Park be maintained and restored. Not satisfied with the results, there was another go to get rid of the building. This time it worked. Those councillors who ignored community views, their own previous resolutions and succeeded in removing the structure were: HYAMS, LIPSHUTZ, ESAKOFF, DELAHUNTY, PILLING

CONCLUSION

These examples are only some of the outrages that have occurred during this council’s term of office. If residents want more of the same, if they want to be continually ignored and told fairy tales, if they want more internal strife and division, then they should retain the incumbents. However, if residents feel that Glen Eira must change and improve their overall performance in so many areas, then these sitting councillors have to go.  Most of them have been there for 8 years. They have achieved very little except to alienate countless residents, each other, and cost ratepayers a fortune in legal fees  – which by the way is far from over given this statement from the 2015/16 Annual Report just published –

Contingent liabilities

(a) Arising from legal matters

Council is presently involved in several confidential legal matters, which are being conducted through Council’s solicitors.

As these matters are yet to be finalised and the financial outcomes are unable to be reliably estimated, no allowance for these contingencies has been made in the Financial Report. (page 214)

Open and transparent governance is dead in Glen Eira thanks to those councillors named above. Glen Eira desperately needs new councillors who put community, honesty and fiscal responsibility first!

Once councillor nominations closed across the state,  Save Our Suburbs sent out a survey to all candidates. 10 candidates from Glen Eira responded. The questions and the survey responses are available on the SOS website.

We wish to highlight the responses made by two incumbents  – Sounness and Hyams. Please make your judgements!

SOUNNESS

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HYAMS

hyams_page_1hyams_page_2hyams_page_3PS – AND HERE’S DON DUNSTAN’S VIEWS!

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A comment has been received from a resident which we feel should be highlighted here as a separate post. The suggested questions are excellent and the recommendations sound and pragmatic.

We have commented numerous times on how many dwellings have already gone into Glen Eira in the past 5 years and how we are well ahead of projected population growth if this trend continues much longer. (See: https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/more-on-hyams/

We have also highlighted how the recent planning scheme review and its ‘workplan’ will take up to 20 years to complete if this council has its way. That is literally much too late to save the neighbourhood centres such as McKinnon, Bentleigh East, Ormond, Caulfield South, etc. We are already seeing 7 storeys in Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North.

Thus, instead of producing a meagre 2 structure plans in 4 years (and somehow Elsternwick has already been written off without any community consultation), action is required now. That means reorganising the budget, setting aside funding for outside consultants and beginning the work immediately. We also have to question why, when the Minister ordered council to move its butt way back in December 2015, the first structure plan isn’t already on the drawing boards and in the public domain for consultation.

We repeat again. These councillors have failed its residents and do not deserve to be re-elected.

Here is Mr. Ptok’s comment in full –

I was not able to attend, but am grateful for the information provided here, and the comments.

As someone involved in objecting to a number of developments in Carnegie (including appearing at VCAT at the recent 90-94 Mimosa Road application, which got approved today), I have penned a few questions I emailed the candidates in Rosstown Ward. Still waiting to hear back from some of them, but the following includes some key steps which, I believe, will help strengthen council’s position in VCAT hearings. Especially in light of today’s decision, I have concluded that the only hope of preserving anything of our neighbourhoods, is implementing the full Planning Scheme Review Work Plan in the coming term of council. This may require paying external consultants, but if it’s not done, looking at the speed of development in Carnegie, there won’t be much left of the old Carnegie come 2020.

Please feel free to circulate / ask your candidates, if you think any of the following can help strike a better balance between competing needs:

Dear [candidate],

I am a resident and voter in Carnegie.

I believe that whilst development is necessary, it needs to strike a balance between the needs of existing community, the developers, and future residents. Having been involved in a number of VCAT hearings, I believe there are things council can do to better manage the developments.

Could I ask which, if any, of the following actions you are willing to initiate and support, if elected to council:

1. Regular (at least quarterly) reporting on net dwelling approvals and dwelling type. This should include retrospective reporting, at least to 2013 when the new residential zones were adopted, ideally to 2003 when the municipality adopted policies to differentiate the municipality into housing diversity and minimal change areas.
This will allow comparison of dwelling approvals to population targets, and confident answering of the question: “is Glen Eira doing its fair share of meeting new housing required in Melbourne?”

2. Council’s VCAT watch report should include, where decisions went against council, a section on “actions council can take to avoid a similar outcome in future”.
This will give Councillors a clear idea of what would “strengthen” the Glen Eira planning scheme to ensure council decisions stand.

3. A review of the Planning Scheme Review Work Plan, including a presentation of council’s representative at VCAT. As the workplan currently spans more than a decade and relies heavily on internal resources to be completed, the concern from a resident point of view is that by the time the workplan is completed, the municipality will no longer be recognisable. As resident and ratepayer, I would be very happy if council used funds to pay external consultants so the work required can be completed in the next term of council.
A review of the work plan will give the newly elected Councillors an early opportunity to shape the management of development in Glen Eira.

4. Seek an amendment to the planning scheme to better manage change in neighbourhoods and where different planning zones meet. The amendment I am suggesting is that the maximum building height of any new development be the lower of:
– the height of the lowest adjoining property (including across the road) plus two stories, or
– the maximum height permitted under the zones.
This approach strikes a balance between the needs of neighbours (who would prefer a 1 storey increase) and developers (who would prefer going straight to the maximum), and allows for more managed change of neighbourhood character over time.

I am asking the same questions of all candidates in Rosstown Ward and look forward to your reply. If you require any further information on any of the points raise, I am of course happy to answer any questions.

Kind regards,

Greg Ptok

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Tonight was the first GERA ‘Meet the Candidates’ forum for Rosstown Ward residents. It was a great turnout – standing room only! Seven candidates showed up – but only one current councillor, Cr. Ho. Noticeable by their absence was the non appearance by Pilling and Esakoff. We have learnt that GERA sent out invitations to all candidates, including incumbents who were seeking re-election. Pilling only replied late this afternoon when the invitation had gone out weeks and weeks earlier, claiming a ‘previous engagement’. Esakoff did not even bother to respond!

Present were: Ms Karslake; Mr Zois, Mr. Box; Mr Jayaweera; Mr Dunstan; Mr Athanasopoulos and Cr. Ho.

After a two minute introduction from each of the candidates, the session was thrown open to questions from the floor. The issues that were of major concern to residents were:

  • Planning and overdevelopment
  • Heritage
  • Tree Protection
  • Governance
  • Skyrail

It would be fair to say that all candidates expressed the view that council had simply not done enough on any of these issues and that major change was required – ie. changing the local law; introducing structure plans; setting up a significant tree register, improving transparency and accountability, etc.

All in all, the prevailing view was that the current council was definitely failing its residents on so many fronts and that new faces, new policies and immediate actions were required to address these concerns.

We endorse most of what was said and urge all residents and voters to consider who bothered to show up and who didn’t and whether they want another 4 years of the same incompetence and lack of vision that has characterised this council for far too long!

 

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