GE Council Meeting(s)


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.

The audio presented below is from last night’s council meeting. The ‘message’ is clear. For far too long this council has continued to ignore residents and implemented planning decisions that fly in the face of both common sense and resident views.

At the June 11th 2019 Council Meeting, councillors adopted the Social & Affordability Housing Strategy. The figures for ‘housing stress’ in Glen Eira are well above the average according to the State Government’s Infrastructure Victoria report Economic, Social and Environmental Profile: Inner South East. (April 2019). (https://www.infrastructurevictoria.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SGS-Economic-social-and-environmental-profile-Inner-South-East-Region-April-2019.pdf) On page xiii, we are told: City of Glen Eira had the greatest proportion of households in rental stress in 2011 and in 2016, with more than 25 per cent of households in rental stress.

The numbers in council’s recently adopted strategy differ from the above report, even though Council claims the same source! Page 12 of the newly adopted strategy states:

It is estimated that 7,800 renting households in Glen Eira are in housing stress. This includes 3,400 lone person households, 1300 couple families without children households and 1000 couple families with children households. Households in rental stress represent 13 per cent of all 60, 251 households (or one in seven) and 44 per cent of the 17,700 renter households (nearly one in two).

Regardless of which set of figures one chooses to believe, it is clear that rental stress and hence affordable/social housing should be an important issue for Glen Eira council and its councillors. But is it? What could council have done to ensure that social/affordable housing was made more (financially) accessible to those in need?

The Virginia Estate development plan includes the ‘condition’ that 5% of the initial 3000 dwelling proposal be earmarked as social/affordable housing. That makes it 150 dwellings for this category. What is not known is whether or not this figure remains a constant if, in the future, the developer submits an amendment and we are faced with say 4000 dwellings, as is likely based on the experience with the Melbourne Racing Club. Will 150 dwellings be the total, or will the 5% for TOTAL DWELLINGS be the ultimate standard?

Furthermore, Council could have, and should have done heaps better when we discover that buried in the fine print there is this sentence:

Specified Consideration means 90% of the market value of the improvements constructed in respect of the Affordable Housing dwellings as at the date of the exercise of the right of transfer pursuant to the terms of this Agreement

What this means is that ‘affordable/social housing’ only gets a 10% discount on the market value at the time of hand over. Surely a windfall for the developer when we compare what other major developments and agreements have taken place. As an example we cite the Hobson’s Bay C88 amendment. This was also done under the auspices of the VPA. It involved a huge site of 40 hectares, 3000 dwellings and also a 5% quota for social/affordable housing. The difference however lies in this section of the Schedule and the Section 173 Agreement between the developers and Hobson’s Bay Council:

The price at which the Affordable Housing Dwellings are to be made available for purchase to the Council or a Housing Agency must not exceed an amount that is 25% less than the current 12-month median unit price for a two-bedroom unit in Altona North as published by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria as at the date the agreement is made (Offer Price).

Adding further salt to the wounds is that Hobson’s Bay was able to include this sentence in its schedule which augurs well in case the developer decides to go for more than 3000 apartments.

A number of dwellings equal to 5% of the total dwellings that are constructed on the land rounded down to the nearest whole number  

Hence we again have Glen Eira City Council caving in and exacting far less than it should from the Gillon Group. Why can Hobson’s Bay extract a better deal for its affordable housing component? How hard did our illustrious officers and councillors try? Or were they prepared to talk the talk about the need for social housing but when it comes to it, the developer gets away very cheaply indeed. If Hobson’s Bay can achieve so much more, then questions need to be asked about the intent of Glen Eira and its prowess in ‘negotiations’. Also if the VPA is involved in both projects, then why are the results so vastly different? Does it all boil down to our council refusing to undertake hard bargaining, or is it more cow towing to the State Government and its development arm the VPA, in exchange for some future benefit? If so, then residents should be told what the backroom wheeling and dealing has been about!

We urge all residents to read the documents and to ensure that they enter their submissions to this proposed rezoning. Once rezoned then all cards are in the developers’ hands, especially since there are no third party objection rights to any planning applications that will ensue.

Please listen very carefully to this short extract from last night’s public participation segment from the council meeting.

Hyams’ admission says everything one needs to know about Glen Eira’s so called ‘consultation’ processes. Here is what his admission signifies:

  • First we make the decision and then send it out for our mock ‘consultation’. If it were otherwise, then Community Reference Groups would be in right at the beginning and not when the route has already been decided!
  • Regardless of what residents say they want we will ignore it if it is not in line with our preconceived decisions
  • We always operate on the basis of providing ‘options’ that no one wants so that residents are placed between a rock and a hard place
  • We can then tell the world that we have ‘consulted’.
  • We don’t care about the money that we waste on useless propaganda. We don’t pay for it anyway. Residents are nothing but cash cows.
  • It goes against our principles to be open, transparent and to give a damn as to what residents want

The ongoing Inkerman Road bicycle issue is just the latest in a long line of useless consultations that has been inflicted on residents. The modus operandi is always to put the cart before the horse. In other words, make decisions and then look for anything that might justify that decision. Only then when unpalatable options are presented do residents get any opportunity to ‘have your say’. What a joke. What arrogance, and what lack of integrity!

If this council was really interested in what residents’ views might be, then they would actually ask. We have been inundated with ‘consultation’ after ‘consultation’ this past year. Thousands upon thousands of pages have been produced. All saying practically nothing. Yet the most vital and informative questions have never been asked. For example:

  • What height do you think is appropriate for our activity centres?
  • Which roads do you think are appropriate for separated bike lanes?
  • What parking restrictions should apply near railway stations, or local streets?
  • Where should council concentrate on seeking to purchase open space?
  • What should be our budget priorities?

These are the base questions that should be asked first off. They never are of course. That’s why this council does not dare engage in genuine consultation because the likely answers do not fit in with their prodevelopment agenda!

At the time of writing (3.15pm) council’s agenda papers have NOT as yet been posted online! Pathetic we say!

The hard copy version is once again mind boggling in its length and verbage piled upon verbage. It is 736 pages long and weighs a ton!

Included are:

  • The long awaited Inkerman Road Safe Bicycle Corridor ‘data’
  • A draft policy on Parking Precinct Plans
  • A sustainability draft policy
  • Plus numerous other bits and pieces.

Expecting councillors who will be voting on these recommendations, to plough through these 700 plus pages and come up with reasoned and informed decisions is asking a lot. It is asking even more of residents.

Here is our take on some of the above items.

INKERMAN ROAD CYCLING

  • We are not even close to a decision. More consultation (for 6 weeks) to occur
  • Not a word about costs for actual construction, nor how much has been spent thus far
  • Time limits are unknown. Years if not decades down the track.
  • Dandenong Road is out according to Department of Transport
  • Some of the data is highly dubious, nor explained fully. For example: travel time on the various routes comes from Google. Yet Google informs us that: The average time you see when you plug a route into the Google Maps interface is one calculated using that specific data, but since travel speeds vary, it’s not always the most accurate estimate.
  • We urge residents to read this report, that is, if they have the time and stomach to plough through all the repetition and pretty pictures!

PARKING POLICY

  • What is absolutely clear is that council will be DECREASING its parking requirements for developments in its Major Activity Centres
  • All activity centres will be faced with most of their streets in the GRZ and RGZ having one side of their streets designated as 2 hour parking and the opposite side as unlimited parking. This flies in the face of some recent resident appeals that BOTH sides of a street impose restricted, timed parking.
  • Council is also quite willing it appears to hand another financial bonus to developers with their latest ‘innovation’ called unbridled parking. Their definition and explanation of this is: Unbridled parking is where parking spaces are rented or sold separately, rather than automatically included with the rent or purchase price of a residential or commercial property. Council will consider unbundled parking proposals in new developments on a case by case basis, where the applicant has provided expert traffic analysis and advice. This will take into consideration relevant data such as car ownership rates and access to alternative modes of transport.
  • The introducion of hefty charges for residential parking permits to the value of $100 in some cases

SUSTAINABILITY POLICY

  • After years upon years of doing nothing and stating that it is all a government responsibility, Council is finally admitting that it might be time to take the initiative, since nothing is happening at State level. However this is not without the following caveat: Drafting ESD provision will be part of the Planning Schem Rewrite project or earlier if the opportunity arises to join with other Councils. Fast tracking an ESD policy by developing a policy on our own would not be possible with current resource capacity. Hence we wait and wait and wait!

One final matter worth a mention is the reappointment of the CEO. This is listed as an in camera item. Given that council has already released its intention to reappoint the CEO, we can only speculate as to why this formal resolution should be conducted away from public scrutiny? Is it perhaps because the decision may not be unanimous?

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