GE Consultation/Communication


Gazetted today:

Question after question has sought answers to what is really going on with our neighbourhood areas (activity centres) that do not have any controls on height in the commercial and mixed use zoned shopping strips.  Council’s response has been consistent: not enough ‘resources’ (presumably this means staff), plus not enough money. That they are flat out on the structure plans for Bentleigh, Carnegie, Elsternwick, East village, Caulfield  and recently added, Glen Huntly. Well, Bentleigh and Carnegie are now on the desk of the Minister awaiting permission to advertise. East Village is done and dusted as far as rezoning is concerned, and Caulfield is largely work being done by the Victorian Planning Authority. Yet, residents are still being told that controls for South Caulfield in particular are at least another 2 years away.

Nor have residents been able to get any clear response from council as to their ultimate objective. Language has varied considerably over the past 18 months. We have been told that ‘structure plans’ are in the vision. Next this becomes mere Urban Design Guidelines or a Design & Development Overlay. There is absolutely no guarantee forthcoming that our neighbourhood centres will have structure plans.

As for the delay in introducing even the most minimal controls, we do not for one second buy council’s excuses. Our theory is:

  • Council has always envisaged Glen Huntly Road from Kooyong to Hawthorn as being one single precinct – ie the expansion of the South Caulfield activity centre. Only stern opposition in 2002 prevented this from occurring.
  • Delaying controls facilitates the pro development agenda. We now have at least 5 applications in for Caulfield South (including one in Caulfield) that sit between 7 and 9 storeys and literally hundreds of apartments. Once these get their permits, probably within the next 8 months, it will be almost impossible for council to argue that the building heights under even a structure plan should be 5 storeys! We speculate that this is totally deliberate on the part of council.

The other question of course is WHY? What is the real reason that council is so gung ho on more and more development – especially when Glen Eira is well and truly above its housing needs to cater for population growth? Why have they caved in so easily on removing the mandatory height limits in Bentleigh & Carnegie and substituting ‘discretionary’ height limits? Yes, it is very easy and convenient to have Wynne as the scapegoat and put the onus on government rather than themselves. When other councils can fight tooth and nail for their residents in terms of pushing for greater land use control, knocking back panel reports, or sending out thousands of mail to their residents, our council distinguishes itself by either total silence, or complete acquiescence. The tragedy is that our councillors have all been complicit in this agenda.

Logic would suggest that there must be some ‘pay back’ or ‘benefit’ in adhering without question with government that is given greater priority than residential amenity, sustainability, and general welfare of constituents. We can only hypothesize, but suggest:

  • More dwellings, with miniscule restrictions on development, amounts to more incoming revenue.
  • More revenue is required for the grandiose schemes of at least $52 million to ‘redevelop’ Carnegie swimming pool; $5 million for a library that was ‘redeveloped’ less than 3 years ago; and the list of projects goes on and on. Please also keep in mind that residents have not been privy to any business plan (that is, if they even exist!!!!)
  • A quid pro quid with government so that grants increase? (ie the nonsense of the Inkerman Road safe bicycle track)
  • Also on the cards is the flogging off of council land to developers in order to proceed with high rise/multi level car parks. Envisaged by Monash to cost around $18 or so million for one. And all the while pathetic little done about procuring more and more desperately needed open space.

We certainly are not privy to the discussions that have occurred behind closed doors with state authorities, and even between councillors. What we do know is that strategic planning in Glen Eira continues to be a disaster. Residents can no longer accept excuse after excuse about the lack of money and resources that council claims is behind its ‘do nothing’ agenda. This excuse must be seen for the furphy  it is, especially when planning applications are down, and council’s staff numbers continue to climb, plus rates and charges also continue to climb. Residents need a council that will put ratepayers before large developers!

Last night’s council meeting showed the first public sign that maybe things aren’t as hunky dory within this councillor group as they would like us to believe. The feathers were definitely flying with Delahunty, Davey and then Athanasopolous getting up on their high horses to implicitly criticise and condemn Esakoff.

All of this related to the ‘debate’ on the Parking Strategy. Esakoff, as is her right, spoke against the strategy. Mind you, she spoke for just on 10 minutes without getting a time extension. So much for the meeting procedures, eh? The bone of contention related to her use of the term ‘social engineering’ (twice in this 10 minute speech).

Here is the full audio of what she said:

Delahunty then rose to object to the terminology. This was followed up by Athanasopolous’s Right of Reply (see below).

Social engineering originates from social science and the term was first used in the 1890’s. In this context of social and/or political science, dictionaries provide the following definitions:

Wikepedia: means of influencing particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale

Oxford: the use of centralized planning in an attempt to manage social change and regulate the future development and behaviour of a society.

Webster: management of human beings in accordance with their place and function in society

Collins: is the use of planned measures, for example, measures that affect people’s social or economic position, in order to create a desirable society.

One could quite reasonably ask: Does Glen Eira Council practice social engineering? When we look at recent policies and strategies developed by this council, then the answer is clear. Yes, council does engage in ‘social engineering’!

Here are some recent examples:

  • Waste reduction and food scrap containers.
  • Parking strategies
  • Bicycle strategy

The stated objective(s) of all of the above endeavours are to bring about behavioural change. To basically introduce programs, policies, and laws that will ‘encourage’ people to moderate their behaviours. That’s the purpose of the current Parking strategy – to get more people to use public transport and the Inkerman Road fiasco is supposedly to get more people riding bikes. Providing food scrap containers and changing what can go into green bins is another example of trying to influence behaviour.

We are not discussing the value or efficacy of these programs. What we would like to know is how on earth Delahunty, Davey and especially Athanasopolous can get up on their high horse and protest vehemently about the ‘language’ that Esakoff used. This strikes us as hypocrisy of the highest order. More to the point, it raises the question of WHY this outrage and why now?

For Athanasopolous to bring up Pol Pot, Stalin, and presumably Hitler in what amounts to a personal attack on Esakoff is quite unbelievable. We are not in the business of defending Esakoff. However in this instance, the response to her use of the term Social Engineering is way beyond the pale, especially when council is the supreme agent of its own social engineering which is often accomplished in the face of stern opposition from residents. May we even suggest that by ignoring community opposition, such actions would resonate beautifully with Stalin and his aberrant version of ‘social engineering’.

Council has released the results of its community consultation on the proposed Parking Policy and set out several recommendations for councillors to adopt.  However, the tradition of drowning residents in so called ‘data’, coupled with conclusions devoid of real supporting evidence continues with analyses and recommendations that would fail any grade 7 mathematics exam/test. Dubious assumptions that then become the foundation for subsequent recommendations abound. We can only suggest that had the initial questions been more water tight, and unambiguous that the ‘results’ would be far more credible.

The resulting policy/analysis purports to present data from two distinct surveys. A general one that was freely available online to the entire community, and a second ‘survey’ that was directed to the 450+ registered users of Community Voice. (CV) Of these latter 450+ community representatives,(CV) council only received 190 responses. For the community wide survey there were 592 responses. Thus, the ratio was 3 times as many ‘answers’ from the wider community as there was for the Community Voice survey. Yet incredibly, far greater credence is given to the CV responses time and time again in the accompanying officer’s report and in the recommendations put forward to council. Here are some examples:

When considering if the proposed introduction of a fee is fair/reasonable for resident car owners in Glen Eira a majority of respondents to the community survey either disagreed or strongly disagreed (76 per cent). This was reinforced by 18 letters/emails an 9 phone calls to Council which explicitly referenced issues around permit fees. Concerns and questions were expressed around the fairness of the proposal and a perceived entitlement to free permits under Council rates. When considering if this approach is fair/reasonable for the wider Glen Eira community the majority of respondents who disagreed or strongly disagreed reduced to 53 per cent. 

Community Voice members were also asked the same question. When asked if this approach is fair/reasonable for resident car owners in Glen Eira a majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed (54 per cent). When considering if this approach is fair/reasonable for the wider Glen Eira community this majority of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed increased to (62 per cent). 

And the final officer recommendation is: Officers recommend retaining the residential permit fee structure as consulted within the draft Parking Policy (Attachment 2- Residential Parking Permit System, section 3.3.6).

Also extremely important in analysing any of this data is the makeup of the various groups and how their circumstances might have influenced their responses. For example: we are told that the vast majority of respondents from the community wide survey were in possession of residential parking permits (440 out of 576 responses). For the Community Voice participants only 48 out of 190 had these permits. Thus 76% versus 25%!!!!! Secondly, we need to consider the physical attributes of the various suburbs that these participants live in and their probable parking arrangements.

The following screen dump does have these percentages (not numbers we note).

One could quite reasonably question the value of the above data given the following:

  • East Bentleigh has the largest proportion of single detached dwellings in the municipality. Presumably a large percentage of these homes would also have onsite parking and therefore parking is not necessarily the problem it is in other areas. This is reflected in many of the Community Voice (cv) responses.
  • The Community Voice responses were significantly lower in those suburbs where parking is an acknowledged problem ie. Elsternwick/Gardenvale; Caulfield North/East. Where higher (ie McKinnon and Murrumbeena) the issue is not so urgent.
  • What valid conclusions can then be drawn from such numbers? We posit very little!

What irks us the most however is the following.

Please note:

  • Are we comparing apples with oranges?
  • What is this supposed to prove when the community wide survey includes both ON and OFF street results and the Community Voice simply lists ON STREET?
  • Comparing the two graphs reveals NOTHING as to the real numbers parking on the street. Interestingly 37% of the Community Voice people also park cars overnight on the street.
  • Why wasn’t the identical question asked of the Community Voice participants? ie do you park on or off site?

The most contentious argument in the entire policy rests on the following statement and its accompanying table:

When considering car ownership and access to permits the draft Parking Policy, the community survey shows that out of 493 permit eligible households,182 accessed more residential permits than they have vehicles. This indicates that as many as 37 per cent of current permit holders who completed the survey are accessing more permits than they need.

Even if we accept these figures, the questions keep coming. Permits are currently linked to specific cars. Residents have to fill out a form and provide a license plate number. Thus, how is it possible that someone with 2 cars should have 4 permits? Doesn’t council check what they are applying for? Are residents lying and making up license plate numbers? Have respondents confused ‘residential’ permits with ‘visitor permits’ in their responses? To then conclude that the parking policy is aimed at these drivers in particular and the aim is to change ‘behaviour’ is laughable. Behaviour will only change once there are adequate options. No figures are provided as to how many of these 37% of permit holders even have access to on site parking. Nor do we know where they are located. Assumptions on top of assumptions should never be the basis for policy!

Other assumptions are also worth commenting upon. Here is an extract from the report that focuses on the proposed charge for the second and third parking permit:

To understand the impact of permit fees an assessment (Attachment 4) has been undertaken on the car ownership and access to permits data provided within the draft Parking Policy community survey. To assist with this assessment the following assumptions have been made:

  • A minimum of one car will be parked off-street. Therefore, charges for permits will not begin until a household owns 3 cars.
  • A fee for a third permit has only been applied to those households within the bus only(Bentleigh East) precinct.
  • Approximately 18.4 per cent of residents in Glen Eira are aged over 60 years.Therefore, a concession rate has been applied across 18.4 per cent of households.

As a result of these statements, we can reasonably ask:

  • On what basis can the assumption be made that one car will be parked ‘off-street’ – especially since there is no correlation with where these residents live, nor how many of these permit holders do in fact have off street parking available?
  • Why conflate the NUMBER of residents over 60 in the municipality with the number of households? Surely there must be 60+ residents who live together and not in single member households?
  • Is this simply a ploy to assure ratepayers that council is not gouging more and more from our pockets when we are told that revenue will only amount to $149,099 per annum? And even this amount is likely to be less because council goes on to state: However, due to the introduction of a fee, it is expected that a portion of the community will change their parking behaviour (including utilising off-street parking such as driveways and garages, or parking in unrestricted areas). This has been estimated at 30 per cent. When applying this behaviour change reduction, the total amount raised from permit charges is estimated at $104,369 per year. No explanation has been given as to why there is this assumption of 30%. Nor are we told anything about the likely lack of parking in the proposed ‘unrestricted areas’ if these streets become the only option for parking.

There are literally countless assumptions made throughout the report. To comment on all of them would require many more pages. The bottom line is that residents deserve better. Survey questions need to be precise, unambiguous, and clearly related to unearthing data that is valid, relevant, and consistent.

Until this council learns to produce genuine consultation, and to produce reports and analyses that actually tells the real story, residents of Glen Eira can have no confidence whatsoever in any consultation that this council undertakes. More to the point, they can have no confidence that their voices are being listened to.

Council is proposing a new Open Space Refresh strategy. The questions residents need to consider are:

  • Does this latest version successfully address the lack of open space in Glen Eira?
  • Is the proposed increase of the developer levy sufficient?
  • How well is council utilising the revenue collected?

In order to determine resident views on these issues, we have designed a short survey which will take about one minute of your time. It also seeks to ask the questions that council doesn’t want asked. Please forward this link on to all of your contacts.

The lack of public open space in Glen Eira has been noted again and again by residents and council. It is therefore important to review council’s performance over the past 6 years since the introduction of its 2014 Open Space Strategy to see exactly what has been achieved. Not much we would say and is evidenced by the following public question (and response).

The spin merchants are really out in force with this response. Here is why:

  • After nearly 6 years only 34% of the 2014 ‘very high’ priority recommendations have been completed. Most of these recommendations were for the creation of additional open space. Not achieved!
  • Aileen Avenue cost over $2m and has been rented for the past 3 years. It is a stone’s throw from Princes Park. In the latest open space ‘refresh’ the idea of arterial roads being barriers has been jettisoned. So Aileen Avenue was bought with the argument that Hawthorn Road was a ‘barrier’ despite the fact that there were lights providing safe crossing to Princes Park. We are now at the stage that part of this road will be converted into ‘open space’ together with the property. Another year or so of waiting is in line and despite strong community opposition.
  • Perhaps council should define exactly what ‘connectivity around Virginia Park’ really means when they are in favour of at least 3000 new apartments in Virginia Estate?
  • We have to laugh at their so called ‘achievements’ when we read ‘input into Caulfield Racecourse Reserve land planning’! etc.etc.etc.

The best example of smoke and mirrors comes with council’s claim that in 6 years they have added 4000 square metres of public open space. We remind readers that council counts public open space as the TOTAL AREA of a site. That means that pavilions, car parks, shelters are included in the calculation. So now we have the reverse argument: because two scout halls have been demolished this is supposed to mean that we now have additional open space. Council can’t have it both ways. Either these structures are not counted as part of open space and hence the municipality’s open space is much less, or these structures are counted and hence the removal of 2 scout halls adds a big fat zero to the amount of public open space available.

Worth pointing out is that Booran Reserve has 11% of its 17,800 square metres sealed off from public use behind huge iron wrought gates! Also council has had ‘management’ responsibility for this site since 2010 and the land did not cost them a penny. The play ground was opened in April 2017. Again, 7 years and close to $13m to create this park. Would also be interesting to know how much concrete covers this site?

Gardenvale park has an interesting history. It had a public acquisition layer placed on 53 Magnolia road shortly after the park opening . This was then removed by council in 2008. Then in 2015 the public acquisition overlay was put back on. But only after the house had stood derelict and abandoned for years and was being used by squatters and druggies. The land size was a paltry 253square metres according to this link! (https://www.onthehouse.com.au/property/vic/gardenvale-3185/53-magnolia-rd-gardenvale-vic-3185-9626138). Council claims it was 497! Thus, years and years of doing nothing resulted in increased pricing for the land and the addition of perhaps 18000 square metres to our total public open space.

Further, the Mimosa/Mile End road measures approximately 1100 square metres. The public acquisition overlay was applied in 2016. Thus another 4 years have gone by without any progress. How many more years residents will have to wait until open space is provided is anyone’s guess!

The bottom line is that this council is more concerned with ‘show’ than with the acquisition of new green open space. Here’s an example of the 2016/17 budget. Nothing has changed where the vast majority of the open space levy goes on ‘development’ rather than the purchase of new open space.

Time and time again residents have been promised at least a 50% split between the acquisition of NEW open space and development of existing open space. That’s what the 1987 open space strategy promised. Even better was that council passed several resolutions that all of the levy was to be used for new open space in 2014. That of course went out the window with the gazetting of Amendment C120.

Council’s record in acquiring new open space in a municipality that has the least amount of public open space per capita is really appalling. This new strategy does nothing to fix the problems. The message from residents is absolutely clear. Stop squandering a fortune on needless ‘redevelopments’ and start creating new and viable open space.

The new year has not got off to a great start in our municipality with the release of the latest agenda. Planning in Glen Eira remains incompetent, ad hoc, and entirely pro development. The current agenda proves this in spades. Council can of course now cite Wynne and the Labor government as a very convenient scapegoat for the proposed changes to the current amendments/structure plans for Bentleigh & Carnegie. This however, does not absolve them of years upon years of inaction and disastrous strategic planning.

A brief summary of the agenda is in order.

  • All heights for strategic sites/urban renewal sites have now become ‘discretionary’ rather than mandatory as they currently are. That of course means that developers can go for broke in terms of heights.
  • Our estimation is that about 180 sites in Bentleigh and Carnegie have been ‘upgraded’ so that they will now go from 2 storey height limits to either 3 or 4 storey height. Others that are currently 3 storey will now be permitted 4 storey. No justification for any of these changes has been provided. Nor is there any explanation provided as to why Godfrey Street in Bentleigh from number 9 to 27 will now be assigned a 4 storey height limit. Why not number 29 Godfrey Street, especially since the argument proposed by council is that they are attempting to ‘fix’ the problems of 2013 when single streets had multiple zonings. This kind of decision is simply repeating the mistakes of the past. Literally unbelievable! The same questions apply to changes to other streets throughout these suburbs.
  • We also have an admission that council’s ‘uplift’ policy, that was based entirely on what Melbourne City Council had created was a definite ‘no/no’ in order to determine what constitutes ‘community benefit’. They have now been told that what is required is a Development Contributions Levy. Of course, council’s response to this (after promising it in the 2016 planning scheme review) is:

Incorporating a Development Contributions Plan into the Planning Scheme for Carnegie will not be able to be undertaken as part of Amendment C184 due to the length and complexity of this process and may be worth examining at a later date.

So is this another council promise out the window?

  • Gone as well is the useless Quality Design Guidelines that was so vague and nebulous that you could drive a truck through it.
  • Most important is the simple fact that this council does not have an up to date Housing Strategy. The last one was done in 2001. Instead we now have the smoke and mirrors exercise of a ‘city plan’ that is supposed to do the work of examining closely every single street in the municipality. It doesn’t come within cooee of a decent housing strategy. Also worth pointing out to readers is that countless other councils have had housing strategies for well over a decade and have reviewed them continually. Not Glen Eira. The question that then needs asking is how can you perform decent strategic planning when no such overall strategy or policy exists. As per normal, this council does things arse backwards. First, and only because you’ve been ordered to, you get structure plans done, and then worry about a housing strategy!!!
  • Wynne and the department also recommends the use of Neighbourhood Character Overlays. For the past few years, council has been bent on removing NCOs from the planning scheme! So is it back to the drawing board again on this one?
  • As for the schedules to the zones themselves, council is quite happy with what already exists, instead of improving things like permeability, site coverage, etc. We’ve pointed out previously how other councils make a mockery of Glen Eira in that they have even 40% permeability in the GRZ zones whilst Glen Eira is stuck on its meagre 20%!!! Another big opportunity lost to do something positive! RGZ 4 is the most remarkable. Here site coverage can be 90% and permeability a fabulous 5%! Well done council!

There is much much more in this agenda that requires commenting upon. We will provide updates in the coming days. However, we believe that it is important that all those residents who will be affected by changes in zoning to fully comprehend what the changes will mean.

Below is council’s list of the proposed changes:

 

 

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