GE Council Meeting(s)


A myriad of questions needs to be asked and answered in regard to Amendment C184. For starters, here are some:

  • When did council first learn that the submitted first draft was running into major difficulties with the Department?
  • How many meetings were held with Department officials seeking some ‘solutions’? What were the dates for these meetings? Were any councillors party to these ‘discussions’? Were councillors informed as to the outcomes of these meetings?
  • How many times in these discussions did the issue of a Housing Strategy come up and in what context and when?
  • At last week’s council meeting and in response to the Athanasopolous question of why council is only now considering a Housing Strategy, Torres responded by saying in part – ‘council chose to continue with the amendment and seek some definitive answer from the minister’. Who made this decision – officers or councillors? Where is this documented? And what were the grounds for forging ahead, when it was clear there were major difficulties?
  • Given that within the space of 3 or so months, there is now the recommendation to abandon the amendment, what has changed? How well did council consider the possibility of ‘success’ at a planning panel last year, especially since no new documentation was included in the proposed amendment?  If ‘failure’ is now a real possibility, why wasn’t this picked up prior to advertising of the amendment?
  • Who should be held accountable for the waste of ratepayers’ money?

Even more intriguing is the rationale presented in the last officer’s report. We are told that much has changed in government requirements, especially with the publication of Practice Notes 90 and 91. These were released in December 2019! Repeated numerous times in these documents is the role of a Housing Strategy. The chart below is clear on the significance of the role that a Housing Strategy needs to play together with a Neighbourhood Character Strategy for any framework plan, or even zoning. Glen Eira has neither a viable housing strategy and definitely no Neighbourhood Character Strategy worthy of that name! Yet it has taken 14 months for council to even get around to putting out a tender for a consultant to work on the Housing Strategy.

If we go back in time to the Aiden Mullen report contained in the agenda for 26th November 2019 (page 31) we find this statement:

Officers had understood that due to the various State time frame demands, the structure plan amendments could run separately to the planning scheme rewrite. However, as the Minister has now clearly expressed a view that the housing strategy needs to be incorporated into the scheme alongside the structure planning amendments, Officers will now review how best to achieve this, which will include bringing an updated Strategy to Council in the short term, to seek adoption. 

So even before the release of the relevant Practice Notes, this council was fully aware of the need for a Housing Strategy. 15 months later we are still waiting – so much for ‘short term’!!!!!

We are still waiting to get permission for the Planning Scheme Rewrite. We predict that given what was submitted, council will not get permission to advertise and we will face the same situation with the rewrite as we are now facing with Amendment C184.

All residents need to think carefully as to where the blame should be sheeted home. Does the fault lie with the Minister, the Department, or with our planning department and its failure to produce work that is up to the required standard? When other councils have invested their resources to produce some decent housing strategies that go as far back as 2005 and are continually updated, all Glen Eira has to show is a pathetic ‘city plan’ that is devoid of data, of detail, and instead features nothing more than glossy pictures and graphs that a ten year old could question the validity of. Torres, in our view has much to answer for!

In what can only be described as a $1 million plus cock-up by this planning department, the CEO, and all those councillors who voted in favour of exhibiting Amendment C184, we now have the recommendation to abandon the amendment! This represents not only a wastage of rate payer money, but a clear indication of the complete incompetence of this planning department. What has occurred over the past 5 years is a damning  indictment of this council.

The current officer report now recommends:

  1. receives and notes all written submissions received following the exhibition ofAmendment C184;
  1. extends its appreciation to all those who made written submissions;
  2. notes the officer responses and attachments in response to submissions;
  3. abandons Amendment C184 under Section 23(1)(c) of the Planning and EnvironmentAct 1987 to enable Council to pursue revised permanent planning controls in theBentleigh and Carnegie Activity Centres;
  1. endorses the commencement of a new process beginning with a Housing Strategy, a revised Carnegie Structure Plan, an updated Bentleigh Structure Plan and two newplanning scheme amendments based on the revised structure plans; and
  1. notes that there would be a separate and subsequent amendment to implement theHousing Strategy into the Planning Scheme

We are not opposed to the abandonment of this Amendment. It should never have been exhibited in the first place. As with most things done by this council, the cart is always put before the horse. How on earth structure plans can be adopted prior to any decent Housing Strategy is beyond belief. And when one considers that Wynne’s letter to council in November 2019 stated:

Whilst it is evident that the council has undertaken significant strategic work on housing capacity within the municipality, the amendment is not underpinned by an adopted municipal wide housing strategy that provides clear policy direction about where residential development should occur

Why then has it taken a year for council to even advertise a consultant to undertake the work on a Housing Strategy. This appeared in the Age on Jan 30th 2021.

The officer report is full of admissions as to the failings of the draft Amendment. Of course, the basic argument is that because there is so little strategic justification, the amendment would have little hope of being endorsed at a planning panel and going to a planning panel could cost upwards of $200,000. It’s a pity that what money has been spent thus far to no avail, does not receive much comment, except to say that it is still ‘useful’.  However, we then get told time and time again that what council needs to do now is:

  • Proper traffic analyses
  • Peer reviews of urban design
  • Change zonings that are in error
  • Test shadow controls – especially for winter solstice
  • Zoning inaccuracies that are not in alignment with structure plan
  • Open space needs and locations to be addressed upon creation of an ‘implementation plan’
  • Multi deck car park to be ‘revised’
  • Need to rewrite to consider cumulative impact of parking from developments
  • Heights and setbacks to be reviewed by ‘independent urban design advice’. Please note that this has already been done in October 2017 when a 6 metre setback was reviewed as okay, only to have council change this to 5 metre setbacks! No justification of course provided except that some developers ‘complained’!!!!!!!

We could go on and on, detailing what needs to be done and what wasn’t done.

Finally, a comment on how the information has been presented to residents. The tables and other comments lack quantification . For example what do such terms referring to submitters, actually mean – ie  ‘a few’, ‘some’, ‘several’? Are we talking about 5 submissions, 20 submissions, or even 50 submissions. Who are these submitters – developers or residents? Why isn’t this made clear? And why can’t council publish in full, all submissions that came in? And council is still publishing documents that cannot be highlighted. Simple PDF versions rather than scanned jpegs are necessary. Why has this been going on for nearly 2 years? Again, this goes to the heart of transparency and accountability in this council!

Our real concern however is with what this means for Bentleigh. Many of the officer responses indicate that Bentleigh in the new version will be accorded much higher heights than currently. 5 storeys is about to go out the window – and again without any strategic justification for these comments. The argument about accommodating ‘higher density development’ once again is made PRIOR to any housing strategy, or real analysis of what is happening throughout the municipality.

What we have here is a monumental stuff up that has cost at least a million in ratepayer funds at a time when councils as a result of COVID have had budgets and plans wrecked. We can only hope that what is about to be spent now is finally up to standard and councillors deliver proper oversight!

Tonight’s council meeting will feature an item that seeks an amendment for a permit that was granted in 2019 for a 5 storey development at 590-596 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick. The property was sold on in August 2020 and the new owner is now seeking an additional 2 storeys, plus 5 apartments. The officer’s recommendation is to grant a permit for a 7 storey building, and 25 apartments, plus a reduction in car parking requirements. The proposed height will now go from 17.2 metres to 23.6 metres.

Readers need to note the following:

  • The site is in a Local Centre and not a major activity centre or even a neighbourhood centre
  • Council’s City Plan posits 3 storey height limit in local centres
  • The abutting and surrounding buildings are all 2 storeys in height

Here’s what it will look like. Note the neighbours!

The question then becomes – how on earth could this application have received a permit for 5 storeys in the first place and now an officer recommendation for a seven storey permit?

The accompanying officer’s report literally beggars belief in some of the statements made. Here are some examples:

Council’s Urban Designer states: A five storey building would be more consistent with current Council policy. Yet the final officer report basically ignores this and instead we get: The scale of the building at seven storeys is considered to be appropriate given the site’s proximity to multi-storey buildings that are in neighbouring sections of the Glen Huntly Road streetscape to the west within the Elsternwick Urban Village and to the east within the Caulfield South Neighbourhood Centre. Accordingly, it is considered that the density embodied in the additional five dwellings (creating a total of 25) will complement the built form character and the role of this centre.

So here we have the ludicrous situation where an area is designated as a local centre, but is being compared to what is happening in our Major Activity Centres and our larger Neighbourhood Centres. Adding insult to injury we also have this comment: Whilst it is acknowledged that a lower height limit would be appropriate in some Local Centres that are located within a pure residential hinterland, this site has unique locational qualities and is suitable for a taller building that departs from this aspect of the Housing Diversity Area Policy. Council’s planning scheme and its policies make no differentiation between Local Centres as this statement implies. Thus again, we have an officer departing from what adopted council policy says!

And we continue to go from the sublime to the ridiculous with this sentence: The proposal to increase the height of the building from the approved five storeys to seven storeys will match the height of a seven storey building at 485 Glen Huntly Road, located 500 metres to the west of the site.  Are planning decisions therefore to be based on what is up to 500 metres away, rather than what council’s own policies state? If the answer is ‘yes’, then we do not need any structure plans, or zonings whatsoever, since these can be so easily rejected. All we have to do is say ‘Yes, there’s a 12 storey 500 metres down the road, so it is appropriate here too’!!!!!!

Finally, as to the competence of this planning department, we’ve uploaded a page from council’s City Plan, which is supposed to indicate ALL local centres in the municipality. This local centre is NOT included in the diagram, yet the City Plan is supposed to be the be all and end all for the MSS rewrite, and other strategic plans. It does appear on another page. The point however, is why aren’t such errors picked up? (The small circles are ‘local centres’)

In recent times Glen Eira councillors rubber stamped the requisite ‘governance’ and ‘meeting procedure’ rules. The only change of note was that we now have a de facto ‘Notice of Motion’ which is anything but a real Notice of Motion since it only applies to the removal of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

Glen Eira has been stubbornly opposed to implementing anything which would provide councillors with the opportunity to have something go on the agenda for open, transparent discussion in a timely manner. The argument is that a Request for a Report is a satisfactory substitute and that without officer/expert input poor decisions can be made. This of course is pure rubbish given that officer feedback and responses to the proposed Notice of Motion are then included for the discussion – this happens in Bayside, Kingston and numerous other councils.

The other problem with this argument is that a Request for a Report can take anything up to 8 months in Glen Eira to be tabled at a council meeting. Hardly ‘timely’!!!

Notice’s of Motion we maintain are integral to good governance and to allow councillors to effectively do the job they were elected to do. As an example we have uploaded the current proposals from Bayside City Council. Readers should note the following:

  • An acknowledgement of the contentious nature of the pavilion/open space issue and community feedback
  • The implications for budgets and the desire to save money that can then be re-distributed elsewhere (all of course with the added pressure of COVID)
  • Concern about passive open space and footprints of proposed buildings

All of the above are relevant in Glen Eira when we have:

  • The Inkerman Road bike path issue
  • The massive proposed expenditure on multi level car parking in Bentleigh & Carnegie
  • The Carnegie Pool redevelopment that will cost a fortune

Naturally, this administration would never welcome a situation where councillors could and potentially would question budget decisions and policies in an open and transparent fashion where councillors would be given the opportunity to voice their concerns and potential opposition. That is anathema to a council determined to present the facade of a ‘unified front’ even when there is community opposition!

Please read carefully what Bayside councillors are allowed to propose and consider what such a ‘rule’ could achieve in Glen Eira!

Apologies for this long post!

Council seems incapable of providing residents with clear, unequivocal answers to straight forward questions. Here is one taken from the last council meeting and concerns council’s plans for three of our neighbourhood centres/activity centres. 

Could Council categorically confirm or deny that none of our current neighbourhood centres will have structure plans? Could council also clarify whether the East Bentleigh, Caulfield South and Caulfield North proposed Urban Design Frameworks will also have Design and Development Overlays applied to them? If there are to be DDO’s, then will these contain discretionary or mandatory height limits? 

Response:

Thank you for your question. Typically, Structure Plans are undertaken only for Major Activity Centres, which in Glen Eira has included Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick. For smaller centres such as our Neighbourhood Activity Centres, Urban Design Frameworks provide the same function of planning guidance, but in a simpler, and relatively faster to develop process. Council is currently developing Urban Design Frameworks: Caulfield South, Caulfield North (at Caulfield Park), and Bentleigh East. 

A Design and Development Overlay (DDO) would be the most appropriate tool to guide building heights in these centres, given their size, complexity, and status under State and Local Policy. The Urban Design Frameworks will provide direction as to the most appropriate form of height and siting controls, be they mandatory or discretionary. No final decision has been made at this point. Consultation on the draft controls is scheduled for 2021.

In order to understand the significance of this response and its implications, readers need to be aware of what an Urban Design Framework (UDF) actually is and how it functions. The State Government’s Planning Practice Note No.17 states:

an Urban Design Framework should provide flexibility by identifying key principles rather than finite solutions. It is not a fixed view of the future nor is it a land-use report. It includes a design vision for how a place might develop and should include sufficient detail at key locations so that the vision can be tested for economic and functional viability. An Urban Design Framework should include sufficient information to allow continuous review of detailed actions within the strategic frame, and to enable councils to assess development proposals.

AND

The process for any particular framework study must be fine-tuned to accommodate local issues and objectives. Community involvement should be sought early in the process and at all relevant stages.

Most existing Urban Design Frameworks that other councils have are:

  • Instrinsically linked to Design and Development Overlays and/or specific structure plans
  • Most Urban Design Frameworks are nothing more than a Reference Document in the Planning Scheme. Hence, their ability to provide certitude and genuine ‘controls’ is limited.

Thus, unless the UDF also includes a Design & Development Overlay, or is coupled with the various schedules to the zones, and finally, but most importantly, is directly linked to the objectives of the Municipal Strategic Statement, it is practically useless. In Glen Eira, our MSS, is acknowledged as completely out of date. It needs to be relegated to the dustbin of history – as has been promised for years and years. We are still waiting!

Here is an explanation of what a UDF signifies by a VCAT member –

Strategic planning documents like a  UDF  often form part of the background material that has informed the creation of a DDO schedule and may therefore be a reference document in the planning scheme policies, so as to provide an explanation as to what has informed the creation of a DDO schedule that contains specific built form requirements

Source: Jabala Pty Ltd v Maribyrnong CC [2017] VCAT 1083 (20 July 2017)

Also worth pointing out is that other councils have decided that their neighbourhood centres are deserving of full blown structure plans. Bayside covered all its neighbourhood centres with one amendment and whilst they were not granted mandatory height limits, they are now providing further strategic justification in order to achieve this goal. Boroondara was also successful in gaining Wynne’s signature for mandatory height limits of three (3) storeys for 18 of its 21 centres.

Several other councils have also enunciated their policies on structure planning for their neighbourhood centres – as depicted below.

For a long time mandatory height controls have not been supported in the Victorian planning system. However, recent changes have provided some support for mandatory heights in Neighbourhood Centres, in particular the new State planning strategy –Plan Melbourne and the new residential zones. Therefore, there is an opportunity for Council to pursue mandatory height controls in Moreland’s Neighbourhood Centres, subject to ensuring that housing supply and diversity is provided for across Morelandto cater for forecast housing needs. On this basis the Strategy recommends mandatory heights of four storeys acrossthe majority of the ‘focus areas for change’ in Neighbourhood Centres (which includes the Commercial 1 Zone, Residential Growth Zone and Mixed Use Zone)and a mandatory three storey height in areas where the Residential Growth Zone or Mixed Use Zone is located directly oppositethe Neighbourhood Residential Zone. The approach is supported by testing of building types across the most common lot sizes and an analysis of housing capacity in Moreland

https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/globalassets/areas/amendments/amendmentslib-7208/c159/moreland-c159-neighbourhood-centres-strategy-reference-document-march-2017-adopted.pdf

A structure plan is a means to provide precinct-specific direction on the extent, form and location of land use and development. The preparation of structure plans for Maroondah’s Neighbourhood activity centres is designed to protect and enhance the role of the centres, help direct capital spending on public realm and infrastructure improvements, and protect residential areas from the encroachment of inappropriate commercial uses.

https://www.maroondah.vic.gov.au/Development/Planning/Planning-Framework/Structure-Plans/Heathmont-Activity-Centre-Structure-Plan

For council to therefore imply that a UDF (without associated DDO’S, MSS upgrades, structure plans or revised zone schedules) is sufficient to protect our Neighbourhood Centres is sheer bunkum.

Even more concerning is that reading between the lines, council intends to once again employ Section 20(4) of the Planning & Environment Act. That means no planning panel, no formal submissions  and the opportunity for residents to provide detailed input. The minister alone will be the final arbiter.

In the above quotes from the Planning Practice Notes, there is a strong emphases on the importance of community consultation. Council will no doubt claim that there has been plenty of ‘consultation’. Yet when we go back to the 2017 ‘consultations’ we find that the number of residents who bothered to contribute to the ‘survey’ on these three neighbourhood centres was minimal – ie

A total of 71 people contributed to the Bentleigh East survey

A total of 52 people contributed to the Caulfield Park survey

A total of 59 people contributed to the Caulfield South survey.

Hardly ‘comprehensive consultation’ and we remind readers that the survey was anything but a genuine attempt to discover what residents thought about development etc. when the terminology used was repeatedly ‘shopping strip’ and no question was directly querying matters of appropriate height, open space, etc.

There has not been any further ‘consultation’ on these three suburbs. Council will now produce its UDF, and residents will have the opportunity to provide feedback. Council will then presumably ignore this feedback and send this off to the minister as happened with the Elsternwick, Bentleigh & Carnegie interim structure plan process. That is how ‘democracy’ works in Glen Eira! Again, readers should remember the outcry over 12 storeys in Elsternwick & Carnegie. It mattered little to the subsequent decision making by this council. Our fear is that this ‘tradition’ will continue with our neighbourhood centres!

 

Up for decision next Tuesday night is an application for 7 storeys, 30 apartments, some office and retail space in Balaclava Road, Caulfield North. The site is directly opposite Caulfield park and practically on the corner of Hawthorn and Balaclava Road. The retail component is seeking a car parking waiver of 9 spots. The officer’s recommendation is to grant a permit.

As per usual we get pages and pages professing to quote the planning scheme. The conclusion is that the planning scheme supports the application. No mention is made of the fact that currently there are no height limits, nor that the so-called City Plan, calls for a maximum of 5 storeys.

These omissions are all minor compared to the following. On page 23 of the agenda we find that the report quotes Section 22.07 of the Housing Diversity Policy. What we are not told is that this is only PART of section 22.07. Completely missing from the officer’s report is the section on Commercial Zoning in Neighbourhood Centres which is the most relevant section of the planning scheme in relation to this application. We quote it below:

Ensure that where the new building is greater in height than the prevailing building height or where significant changes in building height are proposed for residential buildings:

  • There is a graduated transition in building height between the proposed building and adjoining buildings.
  • The resulting height, mass and scale of the building does not dominate or visually intrude on the streetscape and takes account of views from the wider neighbourhood and at a distance.
  • The upper storeys are recessive so that the visibility of upper storeys is reduced when viewed from the footpath opposite or residential properties to the rear.

If readers know the area, then they will know that a 7 storey building next to a 2 storey building cannot but help stick out like a sore thumb! So much for the ‘graduated transition in building height’, which the planning scheme states! There’s also the problem of how upper storeys can be truly ‘recessive’ when the setbacks of levels 4, 5 and 6 are deemed acceptable at only 2.65 metres. Readers should remember that council started off contemplating setbacks of 6 metres, then 5 metres, in its early documents/policies, so now it seems that 2.65 metres will do!

But there’s even more to query in this report. We quote directly from this report and then comment:

The area has undergone substantial change over recent years with a number of redevelopments of up to seven storeys in height extending along both Hawthorn Road and Balaclava Road.

COMMENT: Yes, it is true that Hawthorn Road has several seven storey developments approved. To the best of our knowledge, Balaclava Road, DOES NOT!

Caulfield Park is a neighbourhood centre which has a role to support increased density and to provide greater diversity of housing. …. It is an area where substantial change is anticipated. 

COMMENT: Nowhere in the current planning scheme can we find any reference to the need for ‘substantial change’ – whatever that term may mean. It is also worth pointing out that the ‘reference’ documents to the Housing Diversity Policy (Clause 22.07) date back to 2002 and 1996!!!!!! This is after ‘strategic work’ on reviewing policies was promised in 2004, 2016. Thus far we are stuck with 20 year old data and promises!

Empirical assessment confirms that the retail parking allocation is sufficient for staff parking and that car parking occupancy survey indicates that there is available car parking spaces in the surrounding streets to accommodate the customer car parking demand. 

COMMENT: The above is in relation to a 9 car parking waiver. In previous applications for 7 storeys, much was made of the LACK of street parking in this area. Delahunty in particular, commented several times on the difficulty of finding a car parking spot. We would also like to query the ‘empirical assessment’. Did council verify the developer’s data, or have they simply taken it as gospel?

There are plenty of other issues with this report and its assessment. Currently one rear laneway serves the other two 7 storey developments. Now we will have another development that in part at least will also be utilising this laneway. How much traffic can one rear laneway take? How much backing up and manoeuvring will be required since there certainly is not enough room for two cars to pass each other?

Finally, we wish to remind readers of what happens when precedent after precedent is set in an area that council has done nothing about. When the first 7 storey application came in, the officer report stated:

The proposal is inconsistent with the intent and objectives of clause 22.07 (Housing Diversity policy) as:the density, mass and scale of the development is not appropriate to the scale, character and physical size of the Caulfield Park Neighbourhood Centre 

Two years down the track when the second 7 storey application arrived, we had this: suitable for an intensive form of development that would complement the well-established mixed-use role of the Caulfield Park Neighbourhood Centre

Given that not a word had changed in the planning scheme Clause 22.07 how can we reconcile these two contradictory statements?

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of deliberative democracy or citizen juries/panels, we invite you to watch the following video created by Darebin Council quite some time ago. When most governments, organisations, and yes, local councils, are now embracing this concept which has gained popularity since the 1980’s, it is still astounding that we have troglodytes who promulgate the myth that citizen juries are ‘undemocratic’.  The Darebin experience proves the exact opposite.

If this council is truly about an open, transparent, and accountable council, determined to work with the community, then establishing such a panel is the only way to go.

It literally staggers belief how often public questions remain unanswered and unchallenged by our group of councillors. Last week’s council meeting was the perfect example of a council determined to deflect, dissemble, and refuse point blank to respond accurately and transparently to resident concerns. It remains one of the most shameful incidents of recent times.

There were quite a number of questions at this meeting. We will highlight only one of the responses  in this post – (they certainly do not merit being called  ‘answers’).

QUESTION: Can Council advise what is the number of additional dwellings that are possible under the current Planning Scheme and the total dwelling capacity of Glen Eira? 

RESPONSE: There is no prescribed limit to the number of dwellings that can be provided under the provisions of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. The Victorian Planning System is performance based, which means that every application requires analysis of its context and the application of policies and established planning principles. The planning system is designed to enable development while protecting amenity. 

As such, the total dwelling capacity of the municipality is not fixed. 

Council however monitors the number of new dwellings that have been constructed against State Government housing targets identified in Victoria in Future. Council has previously informed you that Glen Eira is on track to meet the State Government housing targets. 

COMMENT: The question was very straight forward – ie asking for the number of ‘possible’ additional dwellings given the current Planning Scheme. The response was a deft deflection through the use of the word ‘prescribed’. Yes, nothing much is ‘prescribed’ in the Planning Scheme, and ‘yes’ it is “performance based’ where each application is evaluated individually. Having said all that, what council has refused to acknowledge is that every single version of its structure planning is based on a ‘capacity’ or ‘opportunity’ analysis of the municipality’s housing.

In 2017 we got 2 versions of such documents as the  Analysis of housing consumption and opportunities. On top of this we also have: Planning Strategy Impacts on Housing Opportunity. This latter document included the sentence: Council should seek to demonstrate adequate Housing Opportunity to ensure that expected housing targets will be met. Thus available land, population, and residents per dwellings are crunched to envisage some kind of ‘capacity’ under different zonings.

Even in the documentation accompanying  the draft C184 Amendment for Bentleigh & Carnegie we also have the 2020 version from SGS entitled: Addendum: Updated Housing Assessment for Bentleigh and Carnegie Activity Centres. In short, every application for interim heights and/or structure plans has included data on the potential number of additional dwellings that can be crammed into the municipality.

Here’s a breakdown of the published data:

In October 2017, we were told that housing ‘opportunity’ was – Using various methodologies outlined previously, this report has identified opportunities within the City of Glen Eira to provide a net gain of 25,970 dwellings. At 2011-2016 rates of development, this represents approximately 36 years of supply. This figure was repeated by the authors in the December 2017 version.

What needs to be remembered is that this data was the ‘backbone’ for the introduction of the interim height amendments C147 and C148 that had discretionary 6 and 7 storeys for Carnegie and 4 mandatory and 5 discretionary for Bentleigh. With Amendment C157 (August 2018) this suddenly became 12 storeys mandatory for Carnegie. And now through proposed Amendment C184, these mandatory heights are to become discretionary, plus the removal of the mandatory garden requirement for properties proposed to be zoned GRZ5. NRZ2 will revert to pre 2004 site coverage of 60%.

What’s important is that the so called experts were telling us that with the first versions of structure planning we would achieve the potential of 25,970 net new dwellings – nearly 8000 more than required by Victoria in Future 2019. Hence, why is council prepared to accept even more and more rezoning and greater heights that destroy our neighbourhoods?

And why can’t council quote these very figures in response to a public question? Is it because they do not want residents to suddenly put one and one together and start questioning the very basis of all planning in Glen Eira? If in 2017 we had capacity for over 25000 net new dwellings, then surely we don’t need structure plans that allow developers to reach for the sky? Or is this simply another example of council’s pro-development agenda?

The refusal to provide a straight forward response to a public question, when all the data has previously been published, is inexcusable.

Council’s penchant for secrecy and burying important news in its voluminous documentation continues with the release of the July 2020 financial report contained in the agenda for the upcoming Special council meeting (8th September).

We learn that $150,000 has been spent on the purchase of 66 and 66a Mackie Road, Bentleigh East. This is a 937 square metre property, that directly abuts Mackie Reserve. The property was sold on the 20th July 2020 for $1.605M. We can only assume the $150,000 is only the deposit and that settlement had not as yet occurred to warrant entry in the July financial report.

Why is there no open and transparent statement from council as to this purchase? Why is something as important as open space buried deep with two throwaway lines in a financial report that we doubt many people would bother ploughing through? Why the secrecy once the purchase has been made?

There are many queries regarding this purchase:

  • Does this constitute a wise decision given its 500 metre proximity to Bailey Reserve and the fact that at the back of this property sits Mackie Reserve? The following map illustrates other open space areas within walking distance.

  • Is it ‘beneficial’ to simply increase the size of existing open space when countless other areas are severely open space deficient – ie major activity centres?
  • Why was this land purchased when the Open space Refresh only graded its ‘importance’ as ‘medium’. And why was the land bought prior to the recommendations of the OSS, that a master plan be created for this reserve? As far as we know, no ‘consultation’ on Mackie Reserve has been done. Here are the ‘recommendations’ of the Open Space Refresh –

The following image from Google Earth shows why we have major concerns about this purchase and whether it is really ‘value for money’. Nothing however can excuse this council’s refusal to be open and transparent with its ratepayers.

 

This is a very, very brief report on last night’s council meeting. It represents in our view one of the most shameful performances in living memory. Inconsistencies in argument abounded, as did the continuation of council policy in NEVER, but NEVER answering residents’ questions that are deemed ‘embarrassing’ to council. And God forbid that any councillor actually has the balls to criticise or even question such responses or the substandard officer reports that are continually tabled in chamber.

The true highlight is Athanasopolous’ comment that councillors should not appear to be in the ‘pockets of residents’. Esakoff and her cohort were guilty of this very thing – but only when it suited. On the one hand they supported the 9 storey development in Selwyn Street in the face of massive opposition, and then when it came to the Glen Huntly Structure Plan, the argument suddenly changed to we ‘have to listen to our residents’.

Each and every one of these councillors has failed the community time and time again. It is definitely time for change.

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