GE Council Meeting(s)


As part of the ‘community participation’ section of last night’s council meeting there was a question from an Elsternwick resident regarding a recent Age article ( https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/sunlight-fight-city-council-asks-minister-to-stop-park-overshadowing-20180601-p4zixh.html). The article featured Melbourne City council’s concerns about development overshadowing parkland and their letter to the Minister for Planning urging legislation amendments so that the winter solstice period could be extended to 6 hours of sunlight instead of the current 3 hours. The resident basically asked 3 questions – cited verbatim:

  1. Will council also join Melbourne City Council in demanding updated legislation that preserves our parklands and residential amenity in terms of overshadowing and make public any council actions?
  2. Has council had any communication with Bayside Council regarding the winter shadowing given the reach of the proposed 12 storey height limits? What is Bayside’s view of the proposed heights?
  3. If Melbourne City council is concerned about heights above 10 storeys surrounding their open space areas, then would you agree that 12 storeys would be equally detrimental to Elsternwick and its neighbouring councils?

Here is the Ron Torres response.

Please note:

  1. Torres fails to answer any of the questions!
  2. Melbourne City Council HAS produced a formal amendment (C278). They are currently awaiting the Minister’s approval for exhibition. All Torres had to do to confirm this was refer to Melbourne’s website – as we have! See: http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/building-and-development/urban-planning/melbourne-planning-scheme/planning-scheme-amendments/pages/amendment-c278-sunlight-to-parks.aspx 
  1. “There is an extensive section on shadowing of existing open space” Torres claims. NO THERE ISN’T!!!! The document is 389 pages. The term ‘overshadowing’ does NOT appear once in this tome. What does occur a fabulous THREE (3) times is the following –

Development should not create adverse conditions in open space such as undue shadowing, increased wind effects, intrusion of unwanted light and noise, use of car parking or traffic access for private uses, interference with vegetation and dispersal of weeds, and loss of visibility. (page 91)  

Factors that could degrade open space amenity, function and use include excessive built form, creating a sense of enclosure, noise, light spill, traffic movements, car parking demand, wind effects or shadowing……Applicants may be required to supply studies demonstrating whether there will be positive or adverse effects on open space.(page 92) 

The open space must receive a minimum of 3 hours of direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm during mid-winter and at least 5 hours of direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm on September 22. Where this minimum is not currently met, the development must not create additional shadowing of the open space. (page 92) 

What Torres fails to inform the gallery and anyone listening is that the Open Space Strategy is nothing more than a reference document in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. It therefore has no binding power as has been stated time and time again by VCAT. Even Clause 21.13, which is supposed to be council’s local ‘policy’ on open space, does not even mention overshadowing. What we are told is – Ensur(e) siting and design of new development maximises community safety and provides opportunities for surveillance of public open space.

What does all this mean? Council can ‘review’ its open space strategy until the cows come home. It will be meaningless unless firm and clearly stated policies are incorporated into the planning scheme itself. Melbourne City Council’s proposed amendment is how it should be done! (see below).

When residents ask questions, they deserve to have them answered. If officers don’t know the answers, then admit the fact. And since this resident has sent off the questions prior to the meeting why hasn’t any councillor responded accordingly with their view? Why is it utter silence from our elected representatives? In the end, is it really so hard for councillors to say –‘ yes’ we will support Melbourne City Council and write a letter?

What readers must also keep in mind is the failure to act and what this means not only for Elsternwick and Carnegie, but for East Village. Please remember that according to the first draft structure plan, we had 8 storeys surrounding a supposedly central plaza? How great a shadow will such buildings cast and what is council doing about it?

 

Month after month the constant refrain from council in regard to its open space levy is –

All multi-unit developers pay a uniform 5.7 per cent of the value of the land (or give Council 5.7 per cent of the area of the land).

Apparently this is NOT the case as revealed in the minutes of the Audit Committee. We quote:

Clearly, not ‘ALL MULTI-UNIT DEVELOPERS’ pay their fair share, or in fact may pay anything at all! Questions thus abound:

  • Why aren’t all levies collected?
  • On what grounds were levies waived?
  • Who made these decisions and were they empowered to do so?
  • How many thousands (if not tens of thousands) has council lost since the introduction of the 5.7% levy?
  • How many developers did not pay and who were they?
  • Does the open space fund really have $11m in the kitty as claimed or is this more ‘creative accounting’?

The following public question was asked at the last council meeting –

The Strategic Resource Plan indicates a planned allocation of $2.95m for Shepparson Avenue Market Development for design, concept plans and initial consultation and there is also planned budget allocations for the market/library area in the 2018-19 Draft Annual Budget. This there a budget and timing estimate for the actual market?

Council’s response was:

Council has prepared a Strategic Resource Plan (SRP) for the ten years 2018-19 to 2027-28 as part of its ongoing financial planning to assist in adopting a budget within a longer term strategic framework.

At this stage, funding for construction of the Market Development has been provisionally allocated from 2028-29 to 2030-31. This timing will be dependent on community feedback, funding models and Council priorities.

The SRP and capital works program is reviewed annually as part of the Council’s budget process and funding for capital works projects is reprioritised where required

It would appear that council is determined to proceed with spending $3 million on ‘design’ and ‘consultation’ – despite the fact that its commissioned Blair Warman Economics report (October 2017) had this to say about the Shepparson Market proposal –

Hardly a ringing endorsement for anything! If the only true option is a ‘speciality’ food market that relies on the more ‘high income households’ of Malvern, then god help us. The examples that this report provides include the Oasis Bakery in North Road and a site in Brisbane. Significantly, no mention is made of the Prahran market in the heart of Malvern where we would expect these ‘high income households’ to do their shopping! That leaves us to question the efficacy of both the report and to question why council is so determined to pursue this option worth $3m just for plans!

Councillors have voted unanimously to abandon the Amendment seeking to achieve a social/affordable housing component  for the Caulfield Village development. What is staggering about the ‘debate’ is:

  • Every single councillor carefully avoided use of the word ‘abandon’
  • Residents would be hard pressed to decipher council’s position on the officer recommendations, especially when Delahunty made such repeated comments as ‘we will not give up’ plus labelling the MRC as ‘disgusting’.
  • Not one single councillor addressed the issues raised by the Planning Panel letter and why council is unable to respond to these legal issues. Was further legal advice even sought?
  • Not one single councillor even mentioned the issue of the MRC’s attempt to tinker with the boundaries to the Mixed Use precinct and how this was also an integral part of the proposed amendment. What happens now on this issue is anyone’s guess.
  • Instead we got heaps and heaps of chest thumping about how important social housing is and barely a word on the amendment itself and why it should be abandoned except for ‘we don’t have the controls’. This was never itemised, spelt out, or even discussed.
  • Significantly, Esakoff (one of the gang of 4 who accepted the Incorporated Plan) did not speak.

For those interested in listening to the discussion, we’ve uploaded it below.

No one expects council to complete its proposed infrastructure works in the space of a year or two. That does not mean that essential projects be held off for nearly a decade whilst developers get the go ahead to literally reach for the skies.

Council’s draft Strategic Resource Plan/Budget has some startling figures. We quote directly from these documents and ask that residents carefully consider the consequences of what this means.

ELSTERNWICK

  • Elsternwick Community Hub & Park – $32.45m (majority of spend in 2024-25 -to 2026-27).
  • Stanley Street East Multi-deck Car Park – $18m (majority of spend in 2023-24 – to 2024-25).
  • Selwyn Street Cultural Precinct – $1.2m (to be completed in 2023-24).

BENTLEIGH

  • Eat Street (Rotunda) – $2.55m (to be completed in 2020-21).
  • Bentleigh Library Upgrade – $2.9m (to be completed in 2023-24).
  • Horsley Street Multi-deck Car Park – $14.05m (majority of spend in 2027-28).

CARNEGIE

  • Koornang Road Streetscape Upgrade & Pedestrianisation – $6.45m (majority of spend in 2023-24 to 2025-26).
  • Shepparson Avenue Market Development – $2.95m for design, concept plans and initial consultation.
  • Kokarib Road Park – $50k for design works.

What these figures reveal is that residents will have to wait at least 10 years for most of these things to be completed. Given council’s track record on time lines and budget blowouts we expect the time lag and cost to be even more than indicated here.

No information is provided on:

  • Business case(s)
  • How costings were derived
  • Reasons for delay(s)
  • Percentage of third party involvement and their ‘contribution’

Even more discouraging is the fact that no dates are provided anywhere in the SRP or the Community Plan for the completion and introduction of such vital amendments as:

  • Car parking overlays
  • Infrastructure levies on development
  • Increase of open space levies

Much of what is proposed has not been ‘endorsed’ by residents. Do residents really want to spend $14m for a high rise concrete car park in Bentleigh or $18m for one in Elsternwick? What ‘evidence ‘ is there that this will solve parking problems in these areas? Is this really ‘value for money’ or simply ‘value’ for developers when council land will be sold off? And do residents really want to be in hock again to the tune of an additional $30m  that council wants to borrow?

PS: As an example of what can be achieved right now (if there’s the will) the following Kingston amendment was gazetted a few days ago.

How councillors vote on Item 9.5 next Tuesday night will reveal much about their courage, their integrity, and their overall commitment to social/affordable housing. It will reveal once and for all whether all the recent huffing and puffing about supporting the less advantaged in our society has been nothing more than hot air and political grandstanding.

Item 9.5 concerns the proposed amendment designed to ensure that the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) sticks to the terms of the Incorporated Plan and provides a modicum of social/affordable housing in its mammoth 2000 plus Caulfield village development. The officer’s recommendation is –

Having given consideration to the issues explored in this report, resolves to not proceed with Amendment C151 and support a position to the Panel appointed to consider Amendment C151 that it intends to abandon the amendment. 

We remind readers of the following:

  • The appointment of the gang of 4 (Lipshutz, Pilling, Hyams & Esakoff) instead of the entire councillor group to decide on the incorporated plan in 2011 which agreed to heights of at least 20 storeys.
  • Decision after decision that increased dwelling numbers from a stated 1100 to now over 2000 and by the conclusion will probably total closer to 3000 apartments – the vast majority being single bedroom dog boxes.
  • The continual cave in after cave in on each submitted development plan
  • The ridiculous acceptance of a paltry 4 and 5% open space levy
  • The failure to even have a social housing policy years after VCAT made note of this fact
  • Fences along Queen’s Road still standing though falling apart and
  • A ridiculous acceptance of a pathetic little ‘playground’ and barbecue area that is supposed to represent ‘open space’ for the community whilst the gates remain locked half the time.

Every single aspect of council’s dealings with the MRC has resulted in total disaster for the community. Now we have this latest outrage which will hand the developer millions more in profits no doubt. And one of the major ‘excuses’ for giving up and abandoning the amendment –

If the Amendment proceeds a considerable amount of funding and resources will be required in the preparation of a panel hearing. 

How this sentence can even be included is literally mind boggling – especially when the draft Strategic Resource Plan includes this gem of future expenditure Shepparson Avenue Market Development – $2.95m for design, concept plans and initial consultation (page 6). If we are reading this correctly, council is prepared to spend just under $3 million before the first sod of earth is even turned, yet they baulk at the prospect of even $100,000 to ensure that the MRC holds up its end of what the Incorporated Plan and the C60 schedule states.

What irks us even more is that the entire focus of the officer’s report is on the social housing aspect. Yet the proposed amendment contained much more. It was intended to ensure that the MRC could not alter the boundaries of the 3 precincts which would have enabled them to expand some areas and hence cram in more dwellings. No argument is presented as to why this should not be pursued!

The other issue this item raises is the competence of council’s planning department once more. If there are ambiguities in the draft amendment and therefore open to legal challenge, then what does this say about the expertise of those who drafted the amendment in the first place?

Regardless of the legal wrangles, council now has the opportunity to carry through on all its stated commitments to social housing. It should not come as a surprise that the MRC is fighting every step of the way. But so should council if they have any integrity left! Hire some decent legal eagles, do the necessary homework, and ensure that the MRC does not once again walk all over the community and its representatives! The expenditure of $100,000 is surely a drop in the ocean compared to the vast waste that is endemic in Glen Eira!

At Tuesday night’s council meeting the two most contentious applications (Belsize Avenue & Hamilton Street) got their permits – both voted in unanimously. Hyams and Esakoff moved and seconded motions for increased setbacks and full visitor parking spots. The requirement for Construction Management Plans was also ‘tightened’ in the face of much community backlash recently. The thrust of councillor arguments was that applications should be ‘compliant’ with ResCode – especially visitor car parking.

Ostensibly these resolutions sound reasonable and justified. However, when we look at the bigger picture, we can only wonder what on earth is going on. All of council’s published documents on traffic and parking reveal that what is likely to happen is a REDUCTION IN CAR PARKING REQUIREMENTS in our activity centres. We repeat the relevant page from the recently published Integrated Transport Strategy. Please note these ‘recommendations’:

  • explore a reduction in the statutory parking requirements for office use.
  • Where it is demonstrated a public parking availability is underutilised during the evenings, explore a reduction in the statutory parking requirements for these commercial uses.
  • allowing these commercial parking spaces to be shared by multiple users.

The writing’s on the wall! Council’s ‘parking’ strategy will include a REDUCTION in the current requirements. We will get parking overlays that will see waiver after waiver of both visitor and resident car parking or making the requirements for single, double, or triple bedroom places so minimal, that they amount to multiple waivers.

The relevance of councillors’ arguments on the Belsize Avenue and Hamilton Street applications become significant in the light of the above draft proposals. Both streets form part of the Carnegie and Bentleigh Activity Centre. Both are zoned Residential Growth Zone. Council’s consistent argument has been that shops can’t accommodate the necessary parking requirements, but neighbouring streets can. That means streets such as Hamilton and Belsize Avenue. So, if the eventual parking overlays adopt this approach and reduce the current regulations for offices, shops, and apartments, then these side streets will be chocka block full of parked cars.

Going a step further, we then have to ask, are the conditions placed on the Hamilton Street and Belsize Avenue permits nothing more than sheer hypocrisy and/or total ignorance by our councillors? For example, how can they in the same breath vote for a (draft) transport policy that REDUCES PARKING REQUIREMENTS, and also vote that applications in the activity centre ADHERE TO THE CURRENT SCHEDULE OF PARKING ‘STANDARDS’? Was all the chest thumping on Tuesday night nothing more than grandstanding? Will our local streets now become parking lots?

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