GE Council Meeting(s)


Dirty tactics would appear to be in plentiful supply when it comes to the two largest developments to ever occur in Glen Eira ie Caulfield Village and now East Village.

CAULFIELD VILLAGE

With wonderful timing, we have another development stage for Caulfield Village that will grow the site by another 437 apartments. Residents can submit their views (not officially ‘objections’ since there are no third party objection rights) by DECEMBER 24TH, 2019. No need to comment on how inappropriate this is!

Please consider the following facts:

  • The developer’s submitted documents are dated from August to September 2019
  • The actual application went into council on the 1st October, 2019 according to the developer’s letter of submission.
  • Given that there would have been plenty of discussions already between council and the developer prior to this date, we do not see why the plans could not have been made public at the November council meetings. We also note that council states that they only announced the application on the 3rd. Again over 8 weeks after it was received. So, is this dirty tactics by the developer and/or council, we ask? How convenient that Christmas Eve is the deadline! Machiavelli couldn’t have planned it any better!

Next we have the actual proposal itself:

  • 4 buildings up to 9 storeys high
  • 94 Studio apartments with an average size of 40 square metres
  • 191 single bedroom apartments with an average size of 50 square metres
  • 142 two bedroom apartments with an average of 70 square metres
  • 10 three bedroom apartments

Even more startling is that NONE of these properties are to be sold. They are all for rent! And that includes 21 dwellings that will be offered at 20% rent reduction for ‘social/affordable housing’. So magnanimous of the developer when they fought tooth and nail to avoid any social housing component, even though this was stated in the Incorporated Plan.  And so magnanimous of council to cave in and not fight this tooth and nail when they had the opportunity!

Bear in mind that we still have the 20 storeys and more to go and that will probably add another 1500 dwellings to this monstrosity, ably abetted by council. The 2014 Incorporated Plan that was passed by Hyams, Esakoff, Lipshutz and Pilling (only 4 out of the existing 9 councillors) specified a dwelling component of 1100 to 1200 apartments. We are already past this figure with this application and still have the Smith Street Precinct to go which will include at least 20 to 22 storeys!

Even more outrageous is that the Incorporated Plan states that if any of the site is to be listed as ‘student accommodation’ then third party objection rights would come into play. Nothing in this current application designates this as ‘student housing’. Yet it is a stone’s throw from Monash Uni and with dog boxes (studios and single bedroom) the majority, how can they be anything but student housing?

This is simply another application in the long history of the Caulfield Village fiasco and a council that has aided and abetted the developer at every step of the way.

EAST VILLAGE

The Planning Panel for Amendment C155 has now concluded. In an attempt to possibly placate residents councillors resolved for the following in their updated Comprehensive Development Plan and Schedule in October 2019.

  • Mandatory heights of 8 storeys
  • Mandatory 3000 maximum apartments
  • Mandatory setbacks
  • Mandatory overshadowing conditions, especially at the winter solstice

In private discussions between the developer team and council’s team we now have the possibility of:

  • NO MANDATORY HEIGHT LIMITS
  • NO MANDATORY SET BACKS
  • NO MANDATORY OVERSHADOWING CONDITIONS FOR THE WINTER SOLSTICE
  • 4 storey podium along Central Park instead of 3 storeys
  • Trigger points for road construction relaxed and/or removed entirely

The only mandatory condition that council maintained was 3000 apartments when the vast majority of residents stated this was an ‘over development’.

Whilst there is no guarantee that the panel will accept these compromises, our guess is that when the two major stakeholders reach agreement it is unlikely that the panel will adjudicate differently.

Plenty of questions come out of this episode, namely:

  • Were councillors informed of this change of heart by officers? Judging by Hyams’ comment on social media they certainly weren’t!
  • Since this was a formal council resolution and has not been rescinded then it still stands
  • Given that we are now dealing with an entirely different amendment to what was put out for comment, shouldn’t this be readvertised to the public?
  • What legal authority is granted under delegation for officers to change/alter a council resolution, especially without consultation and further decision making?

Both of these examples illustrate completely how ineffectual our councillors are when it comes to representing the community. It also illustrates who runs the show at this council and that all important decisions are made by officers, regardless of whether or not they have the power to do so. Councillors can change this via their voting on delegations. The fact that they continually cede more and more power to officers is against the public interest and certainly shows an inability to either understand what is happening or the will to change it. Either way, these councillors are failing the community!

 

In another mass agenda of 929 pages, we find the following Aiden Mullen recommendation on the Inkerman Road issue. Why it should be Mullen and not Traffic department is another question!

We’ve highlighted two sections because from any reasonable standpoint they represent the continued arse backwards approach taken so often by this council. In other words, first make the decision and then come up with the evidence and/or design that will supposedly ‘endorse’ the predetermined decision. Surely concerns about “parking, safety, accessibility and amenity” come before any decision. Not after. Plus, what guarantee is council willing to provide that any of these concerns CAN BE AMELIORATED by ‘design’? What if they can’t?

There’s a lot in this agenda that will require time to take in. This of course begs the question of how many councillors have or will bother to plough through 929 pages?

There’s also another important change proposed for the planning delegations. From now on, if accepted, officers can have full rein to submit amendments under Section 20(4) of the act, WITHOUT the need for a council resolution! what this means is that more and more power is going to officers, more secrecy, and councillors are reduced to mere useless appendages!

More to come once we’ve analysed this latest council effort.

In a surprising but most welcome decision Council has resolved NOT to sell its aged care facilities. Here is the relevant Media Release.

We can only speculate as to the reasons for this decision. Council would like to have us believe that the role of the Royal Commission is/was central. This was however pointed out in numerous submissions that were opposed to the sale. Residents were adamant that no sale should proceed until the findings of the Commission were made public. Yet these pleas fell on deaf ears and council(lors) voted to sell.

That leaves the question of PRICE. We are only speculating of course, but conclude that council simply did not get the offers it was seeking. Plus, potential buyers were not prepared to pay for the perhaps necessary upgrades to the facilities. It all boils down to money.

Neither does this media release provide any long term comfort for residents, carers, staff and their relatives in these aged care facilities. The Media Release states “there will not be a sale at this time“. Nothing precludes a sale down the track.

The resolution is obviously welcome but given the continual backtracking of this council on so many issues there remains the need for muted celebration.

Wynne’s letter to Council that features in the current agenda is interesting to say the least. It raises innumerable questions, the foremost being:

  • Why has council published only this letter? Could it possibly be that it fits in oh so nicely with the current mantra of ‘it’s not our fault. It’s all the Minister’s and/or Government’s fault? Perhaps residents would have far more faith if our council happened to be a little more transparent and published ALL DOCUMENTATION that surrounds the proposed amendment? For example: we now learn that there are two documents that council submitted to the Department that have never been made public. These were cited in the documentation for the East Village amendment. The documents are named as:

Urban Form Analysis – Carnegie (December 2018) prepared by Glen Eira City Council;
Urban Form Analysis – Bentleigh (December 2018) prepared by Glen Eira City Council

These documents would be essential to determine the rationale of why council first wanted only 6 and 7 storeys in Carnegie for the first iteration of the interim amendment, and then decided that 12 storeys was just as good to stop ‘inappropriate development’ in the second interim amendment.

  • Council claims that the proposed amendment was submitted in January 2019. Ten months have therefore elapsed and still no public exhibition. What has council been doing in those 10 months? What other meetings, discussions, emails, research have gone on throughout this period? Why haven’t residents been informed as to the true reasons for the delay? And why hasn’t council been screaming blue murder if all their recommendations are being rejected by the Minister or Department?
  • Wynne basically chastises Council for its failure to have any definitive Housing Strategy. We quote: …the amendment is not underpinned by an adopted municipal wide housing strategy. Wynne is correct. Council’s Amendment C25 which was gazetted in 2004 and established the Minimal Change/Housing Diversity split up of the municipality was based on data from the late nineties. It has not been touched since! This of course is another example of how out of step our council is when compared to all other metropolitan councils alone. Others such as Port Phillip have had such a policy since 2007; Maryibyrnong in 2011 and updated in 2015; Brimbank 2012 etc. We could go on and on with dates for the various councils. The point is that Glen Eira has again done nothing to provide a comprehensive and valid housing strategy across its entire municipality.
  • Hyams recently stated that Glen Eira has to meet housing growth expectations for the next 50 years! There is nothing in Wynne’s letter that even comes close to this number. If Plan Melbourne is the ‘guideline’ then that stretches out to 2051 and NOT 2069 as Hyams would have us believe.(see: https://gleneira.blog/2019/10/20/hyams-the-spin-maestro/)
  • Wynne’s letter is of course nothing more than mumbo jumbo as well. NO clear criteria is provided, no clear definitions, no inkling of set in concrete housing figures. If major urban renewal sites are not to be used in the arguments against developing the existing activity centres areas in Glen Eira, then all this reveals is that Glen Eira will well and truly be EXCEEDING by thousands the various prognostications for 2051. To ignore what’s on the cards such as East Village, Caulfield Village and Elsternwick, is ludicrous given, for example, that the documentation for East Village nominates a 15 to 20 year time span for completion. Well and truly within the time frame set by Plan Melbourne Refresh.
  • Wynne’s conflation of ‘density’ and ‘diversity’ is a joke. A joke that is swallowed whole by council.
  • One is left to wonder whether Wynne is really happy with council’s expansion of its activity centres. Such centres are supposed to incorporate the commercial/mixed use areas and the immediately surrounding residential areas. They are not supposed to double in size and incorporate countless NRZ streets. This is what council has done in its attempt to argue that reducing streets that are zoned RGZ (4 storeys) to now GRZ (3 storeys) and upgrading NRZ (2 storeys) to three storeys is the answer. In this respect council has not followed state government VPP that occurs in all planning schemes. The irony of course is that by doing this, council is admitting what an absolute failure the secret introduction of the residential zones in 2013 really were and that the doyen of planning (Akehurst) got it all wrong! Sadly, current and future residents will be paying for the incompetence and indifference of councillors in 2013.

The outcome of all this will undoubtedly be more high rise and more RGZ in Bentleigh and Carnegie and probably elsewhere. The most disappointing aspect is that this council has not offered a single, prolonged public outcry. It continues to ignore resident views. It continues to operate in secrecy. It continues to plan abysmally, without justification and without concern for its residents.

Here’s the Wynne letter in full. There’s much, much more that could be said about this letter. We will return to it in a later post.

Please listen very carefully to the following audio. It concerns the recent VCAT decision for a 14 storey application in Horne Street, Elsternwick where the members were far from complimentary about council’s planning approach. At a recent council meeting a resident stated that this decision represents an ‘indictment’ of council’s strategies and processes.

Hyams of course resorts to his usual tactics. Blame the ‘messenger’; accuse him of ‘cherry picking’ and providing ‘misleading information’. These very same allegations can be made against Hyams too!

Hyams neglects to mention the following:

  • The planning officer recommendation was for a permit of 12 storeys instead of the proposed 14 storeys that reached a height of 59 metres (equivalent to a 16 or 17 storey building). The structure plan and the DDO provides a maximum height of only 43 metres!) The officer recommended a height of 46.3 metres and a ‘overrun’ of up to 50 metres. Thus both the structure plan and the DDO are being ignored by council’s own planning department!
  • The structure plan and the DDO do not regard the surrounding residential areas as deserving of ‘transition’ protection. So council is now willing to have 12 storeys next to dwellings that are zoned as RGZ meaning 4 storeys.
  • Hyams faith in the ‘doyen’ of planning (Akehurst) is now on very shaky ground given that all of council’s current documentation explicitly admits to the failure of this ‘doyen’s’ vision in the current structure planning for Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick. Here is one example quoted verbatim: There is currently a conflict in planning controls with the Heritage Overlay located within the Residential Growth Zone — an area that encourages high density development. and The residential areas to the north of Glenhuntly Road are largely protected by a Heritage Overlay and those to the south by a Neighbourhood Character Overlay zoned for growth, allowing 4 storey apartment buildings. This presents a significant conflict in policy which seeks to achieve two opposite objectives. What geniuses couldn’t see back in 2013 that the ‘conflict’ was fundamental and made a mockery of the planning scheme. Yet it was allowed to go through and linger until the present day.
  • We also have the admission that creating 3 separate zonings in the same street is planning chaos: In certain areas such as the residential land south of Centre Road (ie. Mavho, Loranne, Mitchell and Robert streets) transitional issues are caused by irregular ‘radial’ zone boundaries and multiple zones within a single streetscape. This creates inconsistency with four storey apartment buildings and low-scale detached housing in the same street
  • Hyams’ claim that VCAT has changed its interpretations is nothing more than bunkum. Time after time VCAT addressed the failures contained within council’s planning scheme: its lack of height controls; its lack of any urban design or built form guidelines; its lack of preferred character statements for the housing diversity areas. We have previously cited countless VCAT decisions which point out these failings. Please see: https://gleneira.blog/2015/10/07/statistics-glen-eira-style/
  • Hyams is also guilty of ‘misleading’ statements when he sees the Horne Street decision as setting a precedent that DDOs are vulnerable or, that if neighbourhood character/context was taken into account then there would be no need for structure plans and DDO’s. Here are some quotes from recent VCAT decisions which show the exact opposite:
  • In any DDO  a relevant consideration is whether the bulk, location or appearance of any proposed building or works will be in keeping with the character and appearance of adjacent buildings, the streetscape or the area. (Vodafone Hutchinson Australia Pty Ltd v Greater Geelong CC [2019] VCAT 1729 (4 November 2019).
  • there is no basis to justify the recommended 9 metre setback in the DDO  design objectives.(Burrows v Port Phillip CC [2019] VCAT 1431 (18 September 2019)

Finally, we go to the Horne Street decision itself and cite the following comment:

We appreciate that different typologies of building heights and setbacks are found at various interfaces between commercial and residential properties in activity centres. Different approaches are often adopted depending on a variety of factors, including whether the residential properties are within the boundaries of the activity centre, the nature of the residential zone that applies, the existing character of the residential area and the extent of change to that character that is encouraged, and the position of the activity centre within its hierarchy. Despite this acknowledgement that a number of different approaches occur across metropolitan Melbourne, we have struggled to identify another location where a building of this scale, would be setback at such a distance from the rear boundary of residential properties.

The last sentence in the above says it all. Glen Eira is indeed unique for its woeful planning that sees nothing wrong in placing 12 storeys next to 4 or determining setbacks that are so minimal that they might as well not exist. Hyams can denigrate residents and accuse them of ‘cherry picking’ and providing ‘misleading’ information. What he cannot do is justify council’s planning decisions that are devoid of all strategic justification and plain old common sense!

PS: In order for readers to appreciate all the information we have reposted below what the resident said at the previous council meeting.

The evidence keeps piling up on how Council refuses to listen and act in response to resident views. The latest example concerns the Local Law which is up for decision next Wednesday night. Readers will remember that included in the all time record for submissions (28) residents asked for:

  • The removal of the clause which allowed the use of fire pits on private property. Submitter after submitter outlined the dangers of allowing such a practice. Much scientific evidence was cited.
  • The demand that public questions be moved to an earlier part of the meeting so that residents don’t have to sit through hour upon hour of ‘debate’ before their public question is read out.
  • The demand that agendas be published at least 5 working days prior to meetings in line with the ombudsman’s recommendations.

None of these issues are earth shattering and certainly could be easily accommodated. But they weren’t. Council has simply ignored everything that residents asked for.

Adding insult to injury, the accompanying officer’s report does not provide one single word to explain or justify why council is recommending no change to its initial proposals. At least in 2009, there was some piddling attempt to respond to submitters and provide some explanation behind the final decision. (Uploaded HERE). Not so now.

Needless to say, Glen Eira remains the only council in the state without a Notice of Motion. Nothing in the initial officer’s report, or the current agenda refers to this issue at all. Which leaves us to ponder: why does council even bother to undertake ‘consultation’ when resident views are so often ignored. The boxes are ticked and legal requirements are met. However, nothing changes. Consultation remains a farce in Glen Eira.

STRATEGIC PLANNING

On another issue which highlights Council’s failure to protect its neighbourhoods an application has now arrived for the Indoor Bowling Club in Hawthorn Road, Caulfield South. The property was sold in June 2019 so the developer certainly isn’t wasting any time.

Council has stated that an ‘urban design’ will only commence in 2021 for this area. No promise has been made as to structure planning or mandatory heights. We already have a 9 storey application awaiting decision near this site, plus another 7 storey application. The height of this current application is not disclosed! Thus, whilst council continues to sit on its backside our unprotected neighbourhood centres are being destroyed.

At the recent Save Glen Eira residents’ gathering, MP Clifford Hayes (a former Bayside councillor and now elected to the Victorian Council) stated that during his time at Bayside it was councillors who ran the show. They gave orders to officers and not the other way around. In Glen Eira the reverse has always been the case. Unelected bureaucrats run everything and our so called ‘representatives’ allow this situation to continue, often to the detriment of ratepayers.

Another question from a residents at the last council meeting illustrates this perfectly. Please also note the response from our current Mayor.

Next Page »