GE Council Meeting(s)


Another mammoth agenda of 721 pages. We comment on some of the major items in this post.

LOCAL LAW SUBMISSIONS

Council’s agenda for Tuesday night features the submissions forwarded in response to council’s proposed Local Laws. We are mightily impressed with the effort that has gone into these 28 submissions (a record for Glen Eira we believe). Most submissions are far from complimentary to what council proposes. Submitters have provided lengthy and often extremely well researched and documented examples of how much Glen Eira is out of kilter with other councils.  What is stated time and time again is:

  • Poorly worded clauses
  • An overreaching of intended laws that either cannot be enforced or are covered by existing laws and organisations
  • Laws which potentially endanger human health (ie permitting of burning on private property).

What irks us more is the way in which these submissions have been summarised in the officer’s report. We quote:

The highest number of submissions received by Council, in relation to the proposed Community Local Law, concerned clauses 38 (Lighting Fires) and 23 (Model Aeroplanes in Public Reserves). Other issues raised include the keeping and feeding of pigeons, animal litter, derelict vehicle on a trailer, organised social and sporting activities and parking. There were also submissions concerning the proposed Council Meeting Procedure Local Law.

Either council officers are unable to count accurately, or their reporting is deliberately screwed! The above paragraph makes it sound as if council’s Meeting Procedures were in a minority. In fact, they weren’t. Of the 28 published submissions, eight made direct reference to either publishing of the agenda earlier; all public questions requiring entry into the minutes and the lack of a notice of motion. Meeting procedures were the most commented upon and not as implied above. 

We urge all residents to carefully read these submissions. To facilitate this, we’ve uploaded them HERE

WASTE 

Another agenda item features the proposal to implement a rubbish collection trial in the McKinnon Ormond area. This would involve changing current collection rates to the following: (1) weekly collection of green bins and (2) fortnightly collection of red bins.

We certainly support the reduction of refuse going to land fill. Our queries relate to some of the assertions and assumptions made in the officer’s report. For example:

  • We are told that the McKinnon Ormond area is the most ‘supportive’ of the change. Yet, when one considers the number of actual responses claimed for this area, then the percentages are far from conclusive. The graph reveals less than 50 residents supporting the trial in Ormond and even fewer in McKinnon. If we are working on support for the proposal then areas such as Carnegie would be streaks ahead. We’ve provided a screen dump of the responses below.

  • Councils ‘solutions’ to the various problems identified by residents also boggles the mind. For those households which use nappies, council suggests The option of discounted 240 litre bins will be extended to households with children/babies in nappies. Council is also prepared to trial this: Discount on a weekly washing service for cloth nappies. A preferred supplier will be selected following a competitive selection process. Does this mean that residents will subsidise the selected service and at what cost? Further, has council done any research to discover how many households actually still use cloth nappies or how many would be willing to change as a result of this discount offer? Or is it all pie in the sky stuff?
  • More importantly, council’s solution to the multitude of apartments that have private collection services is literally laughable , ie. Provide discount on worm farms for apartments that do not use green bins. A preferred supplier will be selected following a competitive selection process. Yes, we can really see this as a ‘goer’ for apartment blocks that have no open space, or garden and consist of BnB apartment dwellers, renters, etc. Worm farms will work a treat no doubt!

For whatever reason, council is determined to trial this option in McKinnon Ormond. We are not against a trial but simply wish that for once council provided the evidence that would support their recommendations!

HERITAGE

Council has clearly been rocked by both the media and residents’ reactions to the demolition of 2 dwellings in Seymour Road that arguably deserved heritage protection but didn’t have any! Thus we find in the current agenda masses upon masses of information relating to Heritage Reviews and their proposed timelines. Thus far we have draft amendments for Bentleigh and Carnegie only. Other areas are still to be completed.

A few things to note:

In an admission of past folly, we now find this incredible paragraph regarding 80 Mitchell Street, Bentleigh. In response to submissions received following the pre-amendment consultation, it is  recommended that 80 Mitchell Street, Bentleigh not be included as part of the expanded HO69. The reason for this is that this property sits of the very edge of this large heritage precinct and it is the only new property within this expanded precinct that is located in the General Residential Zone which allows medium density development. Given the extent of redevelopment that has occurred around this site and trying to resolve the issue of having a property located with a zone that allows development and an overlay that restricts development, it is considered appropriate in this instance to not include this site in the proposed revised HO69. Logic in reverse here we suggest! If a property is worth protecting then removing it just compounds the incredible errors made in 2013 when the GRZ zoning was introduced. And god forbid that council should put any impediment in the way of a potential developer!

Another item on the agenda seeks to remedy council’s inaction by granting power to officers to seek interim heritage protection on sites that may be potentially demolished and would be worthy of protection. Whilst acting when the horse has bolted, residents need to be aware that granting this power means that there will be no consultation, no third party objection rights, and probably no notification that this is happening. In short, more power to our unelected officials. We would argue that the more appropriate methodology would be to accelerate immediately all necessary heritage work!

The following two screen dumps have been taken from the agenda items for next Tuesday night’s council meeting. They are part of the minutes for the Recreation Advisory Committee meeting.

Several things need pointing out:

  • Why has it taken 5 months for these minutes to make it into the public domain? This is becoming par for the course when we also have councillor requests for report(s) that have on occasion taken over a year to appear!
  • Who is really running the show here? Our councilors or unelected officialdom? The screen dumps provide an interesting insight!

Please listen very carefully to the following audio from last night’s council meeting. It features one resident’s questions that exemplify everything that is wrong with this council. Needless to say, the responses to her queries were anything but satisfactory!

This is not the first time that applications have gone to VCAT and been ‘settled’ at what is known as Compulsory Conferences. Countless times we have the situation where councillors have refused a permit outright, only to find that the planning delegate at VCAT has caved in and the developer got everything he wanted. Since these compulsory conferences are ‘confidential’ residents have no idea as to the reasons behind the cave in. Caving in at a compulsory conference also means that there is no full hearing and no decision published. Perfect for avoiding full transparency and accountability!

Here are some decisions that were agreed to by council’s delegate at VCAT compulsory conferences. More disturbing than anything is the fact that some of these decisions fly in the face of councillor resolutions to refuse the permit outright. We doubt that councilors are even aware of what officers argue in these compulsory conferences and certainly not the grounds upon which permits are granted. Since no decision is published since a full hearing was averted, the community has no idea why some of these applications  got their permits. This in itself says heaps about the lack of transparency and accountability.

Here are some examples of cave ins at compulsory conferences:

2/4 Blair Street, Bentleigh. Councillors refused permit for 4 storeys and 24 apartments. A consent order granted 4 storeys and 22 apartments!

12/14 Howe Street, Murrumbeena. Councillor refusal. Permit granted for 10 x2 storey dwellings.

670 Centre Road & 51 Brown’s Road. Councillor refused amendment for addition level (up to 6 storeys). Permit granted for 6 storeys.

233/47 Glen Huntly Road. Councillors refused permit for 13 storeys . At compulsory conference permit granted for 12 storeys and 105 dwellings.

777 Glen Huntly Road, Caulfield. Councillors refused permit for 4 storeys. Permit granted at compulsory conference.

8 Egan Street, Carnegie. Councillors refused permit for 8 storeys. Permit for 8 storeys at compulsory conference.

Besides these major cave ins, there are plenty of others which were refused at officer level (ie never even making it to council) and then suddenly they get their permits at compulsory conferences. Admittedly, some developers might compromise and adjust their plans. This does not however excuse the granting of permits for high rise that were refused overwhelmingly by councilors.

So the questions remain:

  • Do councilors even know what happens at compulsory conferences in regards to the planning officer’s position on the application?
  • Have councilors voted or even agreed to the planning delegate’s position?
  • Why do Glen Eira councilors continue to allow unfettered delegations that excludes councilors completely from their rightful roles as decision makers?

Finally, we provide the following screen dump (from Boroondara council meeting) which shows clearly that not all councils operate in the same manner as our lot. Until our councilors have the balls to stand up to this planning department and insist on full transparency and accountability, then nothing will change. Residents will continue to be the casualties of a planning department allowed to run riot!

None of the above listed applications came back to council for deliberation.

At this week’s council meeting, it was resolved to advertise the long awaited draft Local Law. Residents will be disappointed with the proposals given that:

  • The significant tree register does not feature. It will take another report, another round of consultation before anything is codified. We assume this will not be before March 2020. Shameful that after all this time, council is still unable to get its act together in a timely fashion. Further, there is still no guarantee that it will even get up with the likes of Magee, Esakoff, Sztrajt and Cade already stating their potential opposition to laws regulating private property. We will have to wait and see what kind of compromise the draft document features.
  • Even more disappointing is the failure of this council to even entertain the idea of a Notice of Motion. We have commented on this ad nauseum over the years. How is it in the best interests of residents and sound governance that Glen Eira is the only council in the state (the last time we checked this out) that refuses to grant councilors the opportunity to raise an issue and hence to adequately represent their constituents? If there is concern about making ad hoc decisions without the ‘expert’ advice of officers, this is easily overcome with the opportunity for officers to comment at the next council meeting. That’s how Kingston does it for example.
  • Also unacceptable is the continuation of the current Public Questions policy. Still a limit of 150 words. Still no public record of what was asked if the questioner isn’t present since the query is not read out and does not go into the minutes. Hence calling this section ‘PUBLIC QUESTIONS’ is ironic indeed. Answers to questions should be on the public record. That is how accountability and transparency are maintained. It is simply not good enough that a ‘response’ is given to the individual and the community has no idea of the question, the answer, and the issue.
  • Council’s constant refrain is that they desire to engage more people. Placing Public Questions near the end of each meeting defeats this entirely. It forces residents to sit through up to three hours (often of sheer tedium) before their questions are read out. All of our neighbouring councils see the folly of this approach. Municipalities such as Bayside, Stonnington, Port Phillip, Monash and Kingston for example place their Public Questions early on following the confirmation of the minutes. Why this can’t be done in Glen Eira is mind boggling, unless of course it is to ensure that few residents have the stamina to wait for hours before their question is read out and responded to.
  • Finally we also remind readers that an ombudsman’s report of recent times recommended that council agendas be made available at least 5 working days prior to a council meeting. In Glen Eira the mantra is that agendas are only available on the preceding Friday after noon and that public questions must be in on the following Monday before noon. It certainly does not give residents time to digest what is often hundreds upon hundreds of pages, nor the time to successfully lobby councilors before a decision is made.

It is instructive that when councilors resolved to advertise the Local Law the above issues (apart from the tree register briefly) weren’t even mentioned. If council is serious about enhancing community engagement, and being as transparent and accountable as possible, then these ‘laws’ are the things that will ensure it doesn’t happen.

We ask that residents listen very carefully to the following audio. It features one question on flooding, Water Sensitive Urban Design, and permeability standards from a resident at the last council meeting, in the ‘participation’ phase of the meeting.

Thinks to note:

  • Whilst countless other councils have WSUD policies in their planning schemes, our wonderful council maintains its stance on ‘government responsibility’ and hence will not do anything other than ‘advocate’. See one of our previous posts on what other councils are doing and have achieved https://gleneira.blog/2019/01/19/esd-wsud-water-environmental-planning/
  • The claim that residents can express their views to a planning panel is deliberately misleading given previous events. Once an amendment is advertised then that’s it. Unless resident concerns are specifically listed then all comments will be regarded as outside the realm of the planning panel. They can only focus on what is in front of them. As occurred with Amendment C87 on Neighbourhood character overlays, residents found that if they wanted their views incorporated, then this would require a new amendment!
  • Council has had years upon years to change the schedules for its residential zones introduced in August 2013. Nothing has been done. Permeability remains at 20% for both the GRZ and RGZ and commercial areas don’t even rate a mention. Whilst council keeps patting itself on the back for its 25% permeability requirement and 50% site coverage in the Neighbourhood Residential zone, we wish to point out what some other councils have achieved in regards to permeability and/or site coverage throughout their municipalities: Banyule has a maximum 40% site coverage in its GRZ2 zone: Bayside in its GRZ1 AND GRZ6 & 7 has a 50% site coverage; Darebin also has a 50% site coverage in its GRZ1; Greater Dandenong has a 40% permeability requirement in its NRZ1 whilst MOnash has 30% permeability in NRZ1, 40% in NRZ2 plus 40% site coverage. Whitehorse has the following schedules:  50% site coverage for grz1 and 30%% permeability for grz1; grz2 40% and 40%; grz3 is 50 and 30% for permeability; grz4 50% and 30%; nrz1to 4 40% & 40%; nrz5 is 50 and 30%
  • Finally, council even considers these minimalist site coverage and permeability requirements as too much according to its draft amendment C184. Whether this remains once the amendment is advertised will be very interesting. Council has decided to create another zone RGZ4 (Garden apartments in activity zones) which will have a 90% site coverage allowance and a humungous 5% permeability requirement. Surely the way to go when all that matters is how many new apartment blocks can be crammed into Glen Eira? Here’s a screen dump of the draft proposal

Residents should indeed be following up and asking why this council is so adverse to introducing any decent controls into its planning scheme, such as a Water Sensitive Urban Design policy, or better still, amending its schedules so that site coverage and permeability standards are vastly improved. Other councils have done this, but not Glen Eira! We also note that the resident’s question(s) were directed to councillors. Sadly, not one councillor had the gumption to respond apart from Hyams and his usual waffle.

An application to amend a planning permit is up for decision at next Tuesday’s council meeting. The site is at 285/7 Neerim Road, Carnegie. Why this application is significant is that it highlights how council has repeatedly eroded residential amenity (especially in Carnegie) and how its strategic planning has gone from bad to worse.

The first application for 5 storeys on this site was submitted in 2015 and rejected by councillors. The developer appealed to VCAT, but prior to the case being heard, Wynne gazette council’s interim amendment in early 2017. The site was in the only precinct which then was granted mandatory height limits of 4 storeys. The developer subsequently amended his application from 5 storeys to 4 storeys and at a compulsory conference, agreement was reached and a permit granted. The other two precincts had discretionary heights of 7 and 6 storeys in 2017. Then in its wisdom, council in February 2018 decided that the 7 and 6 storey discretionary become up to 12 storeys and the applicant’s site be assigned a 5 storey height limit. Thus we have the developer asking for this height limit again plus the addition of another 5 dwellings, a reduction in retail space and the removal of visitor car parking spots in line with Wynne’s Amendment Vc148.

Council has never justified why it deemed it appropriate within the space of a year to go from 7 storeys to 12 storeys, or from 4 mandatory to 5 storeys. Even worse, we now have this application and an officer’s report which includes the most laughable comments. For example:

..it is considered that this addition (ie height) will be an improved outcome on the overall design response as it crowns the building, which previously appeared unfinished.

Question: if the design was so poor previously, then why did council’s delegate at the compulsory conference agree to the permit?

What residents are now seeing are applications for amendment after amendment where height is increased as a result of council’s structure plans, or where no structure plans or Design & Development overlays exist, literally reaching for the skies.

A recent VCAT decision for 1207 Glen Huntly Road, Glen Huntly repeats the long standing refrain:

  • There are no built form controls affecting the review site such as a Design and Development Overlay or similar, which might provide more specific guidance or requirements as to the built form expectations for the review site.
  • This activity centre is identified in Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 as a Major Activity Centre, subject to local strategic planning.
  • The Council stated that strategic planning for the future of this centre is in early stages, with no proposed planning scheme amendments yet afoot.(http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT//2019/709.html)

With years to go before anything concrete materialises for our neighbourhood centres, or the disasters of the current structure plans for our major activity centres are open to full scrutiny, residents have much to fear as to council’s agenda, its planning competence and its genuine desire to listen and act upon residents views.

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