GE Governance


We’ve received the following email from a resident –

There is very little transparency or accountability in Glen Eira. Most decisions are made by Council officers, possibly under delegated authority, but with little public evidence about who made what decision, why they made it, or what relevant considerations were actually considered.

14-22 Woorayl St is a case in point. I was an objector to a permit amendment request. There was no record in the Planning Application Register of a permit extension, so I went along to the Planning Conference to find out why the original permit hadn’t elapsed after some years. It was only at the conference that I was told, verbally, that an extension had been granted.

I asked whether the extension request had been assessed against the Kantor principles. Council claimed it had. That was extremely unlikely given the circumstances so I asked for a copy of the report that should have been written documenting the assessment. The council officer refused, but the Mayor in his role as chair said it would be made available to me.

Also at the meeting a lady asked why it was acceptable for her elderly parents to be in permanent shade on an abutting property. Council couldn’t explain why but the applicant expressed the pious hope that “it would have been carefully considered at VCAT”. The published VCAT decision makes it clear it wasn’t carefully considered.

Eight minutes before the Council meeting to consider the amendment request I received an email from the Mayor making a half-hearted attempt to explain the decision to grant an extension. There was an attached document, written only a few hours earlier. No officer was identified as making the decision, there was no date on the document, but there was metadata in the PDF identifying the author and creation date.

Critically the document didn’t mention Kantor principles, nor the “seriously entertained planning proposal” principle. It argued that policy hadn’t changed and therefore the outcome was likely be the same if a fresh application was lodged. That was far from truthful. Council had resolved to request Amendment C148 5 months earlier. It was a seriously entertained planning proposal, it was public knowledge, it changed planning policy, and as we now know, it did become part of the planning scheme. It introduced height controls to the Scheme that 14-22 Woorayl didn’t comply with.

I don’t support the officer recommendation to give officers unlimited freedom to undermine Council policy. There’s a lot of things that need to change about the culture first. The Planning Application Register should contain details of all decisions, including permit extensions. It should contain the date when each Permit expires, and be updated when extensions are granted. There should be a publicly accessible record of reasons for decisions made under delegated authority. There should be checklists of all matters that must and should be considered when making planning decisions, and those checklists used to verify compliance. Delegated authority should be constrained or limited to implementing Council policy. If there are inconsistent policies, get Council to resolve them.

For more information about Kantor principles and the role of seriously entertained planning proposals:
http://blog.vgso.vic.gov.au/2015/01/running-short-on-time-seven-key.html
http://clause1.com.au/seriously-entertained/
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VicSC/1997/167.pdf
http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2003/448.html
http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2014/993.html

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Council’s planning register is the perfect example of the lack of transparency. It fails to:

  • pinpoint who made any decision (ie delegate, council or VCAT)
  • provide details of amendments
  • collate all information pertaining to the site in one record
  • and certainly no indication as to any payments made

By way of contrast and what can and should go into a planning register, we present one example from Bayside. Readers should note the final permit is available; reasons for refusal are available; dates and times for every single action are provided.

Even more interesting is the following example from Stonnington where the amount paid in the Open Space Levy is there for all to see. Given that Glen Eira council has admitted that not all levies are paid (as they should be) such information becomes essential –

In Glen Eira the philosophy is to make it as difficult as possible for residents to have any idea as to what is going on – particularly when it comes to planning and finances!

The agenda set down for tonight’s council meeting illustrates once again how little has been achieved in a decade and how governance continues to fail miserably.

First off, we have the recommendation to create a heritage overlay on the former ABC studio site in Elsternwick. It currently has no heritage coverage. Originally zoned Neighbourhood Residential council decided to rezone it as Residential Growth Zone in 2013 and according to its draft structure plan, this became 8 storeys. Wynne’s recent intervention will make it 10 storeys.

Given all of the above, and considering that council knew in 2013 that the site was being sold, why has it taken 5 years at least to even start considering a heritage overlay? The property has now been sold and plans are surely on the drawing board for major residential development. This is made absolutely clear by council’s archaic planning scheme itself and their report into the studios in 2013 where it was stated – Given the size of the land (8000m2) and Residential zoning, it is likely that the site will be sold to developers for residential purposes.(Minutes of July 23rd, 2013). Why couldn’t council get off its backside in 2013 and initiate some positive action?

For more info, see our past posts –

https://gleneira.blog/2013/06/18/abc-studios/

https://gleneira.blog/2016/11/14/is-this-why-no-structure-plan-for-elsternwick/

The second issue, concerns the use of school grounds. Nothing new here since the minutes of 26th February, 2008 contained this resolution –

Crs Esakoff/Whiteside

That a report be prepared into any opportunities that may exist for Council in the provision of additional/improved areas of open space that could be used for both passive and active recreation within Glen Eira’s existing school network.

The resulting officer’s report was tabled on 20th May, 2008 and basically concentrated on all the ‘problems’ associated with sharing school grounds. The councillor resolution was watered down to ‘let’s write a letter’ – 

Crs Esakoff/Spaulding

That Council write to all primary and secondary schools in Glen Eira along the lines of Attachment A and send a copy to the Victoria Department of Education The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

The issue popped up again 8 years later when there was another Request for A Report –

CRS HYAMS/MAGEE 

That Officers prepare a report into the potential for Council to collaborate with schools in Glen Eira to utilise their open space and grounds for use by sporting clubs and the wider community.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY. (Minutes of 19th July, 2016) 

Thus history repeats itself. Motion after motion and nothing is done or reported back on. In fact this 2016 request for a report WAS NEVER TABLED AT ANY COUNCIL MEETING. The ghost of Newton is well and truly still alive in Glen Eira it would seem!

We therefore have 2 issues that have been on the cards for at least 5 and 10 years respectively and council has been satisfied to sit back, be reactive and achieve a big fat zero during this time.

Finally, we turn to planning and ask readers to consider the following officer’s comments for the planning application for Pearce St., South Caulfield. Is it really too much to ask that when plans come in, that council insists that they are accurate, and if it is impossible to ascertain whether they are, that they be referred back to the developer?

The plans will be required to demonstrate that the proposal provides at least 20% permeability across the site, as this is unclear when looking at the provided landscape plans. 

In regards to site coverage, the proposal appears to come in above the required maximum percentage. To further assist the development to integrate better with the neighbourhood character it is recommended that the proposal does not exceed this maximum percentage of site coverage.

Incompetence, laziness, indifference? You make up your mind!

The issue of granting permit time extensions is important, especially when planning schemes and their controls have changed. The officer’s report for this item included this paragraph –

From 1 January to 30 July 2018 there have been 102 requests for an extension of time. In the 2017 calendar year 157 requests were received. This represents a relatively high volume of work and indicates that such requests are common. 

This is literally a staggering amount of applications. Yet the community has no idea how many of these requests for time extensions were granted, or refused. Most importantly we have no idea as to the reasons why they were either granted or denied.

The issue of time extensions is important and has already been shown to have a decided impact on land use in this municipality. The most blatant example concerns an approved permit for 7 storeys in Centre Road Bentleigh. When the permit was granted by VCAT, there were no interim heights. In November 2017, after the amendment was introduced a council planner granted a time extension. Had the time extension not been granted then the developer would have had to put in a new application where the height restrictions applied – ie lower. Council thus provided the developer with a free pass to build his 7 storeys despite the fact that it is council ‘policy’ to NOT GRANT TIME EXTENSIONS IF PLANNING CONTROLS HAVE CHANGED. Below is an extract from a 2012 officer report which makes this abundantly clear. So why was this permit granted and if this is council’s policy then what were the reasons for the approval?

Since the approval was granted under delegation, the question of how council handles its delegations becomes vital. More importantly, it raised questions of transparency and accountability. In March 2018, there was a request for a report to consider the issue. It’s only taken 5 months for this report to make it into the agenda! Excuses have been that council is reviewing its delegations! Please remember that it only took 3 weeks for council to change its delegations from one council meeting to the next (ie 1st May proposed delegations were deferred until 22nd May, when some major changes were added!). There is nothing (legally) to stop councils changing their delegations at any time. Thus why are we still waiting until the ‘near future’ as stated in the officer’s report? And what does ‘near future’ actually mean – 3 months, 6 months, another year?

The officer’s report provides councillors with 4 options. They are:

  • Do nothing
  • Make it a ‘manager decision’ plus the ability of councillors to ‘call-in’ the application
  • Make it a formal council resolution
  • All decisions be via council resolution

The report recommends option 2.

Whilst this is a marked improvement, it still fails to address residents’ major concerns. Here is option 2 & 3 as presented in the officer’s report –

The wording of the recommended option 2 is far from satisfactory. (1) It limits applications to those which were the result of council resolutions alone or which fall under the category of ‘significant community interest’. Very few decisions are made by councillors in planning – less than 5% of applications. Plus, who is to decide what constitutes ‘significant community interest’. Are we talking 10 objections, 15 objections or must the magic number approach more than 50? The final sticking point is that there will be no public disclosure of which applications have been lodged since this will only go to the councillor briefings. The online planning register does not detail this information – or certainly not on a regular basis.  

Option 3 is slightly better in that it calls for councillor resolution and takes it out of the hands of ‘managers’. There is however the repetition of what was stated in Option 2.

If council is genuine in its attempts to improve transparency and accountability then these 4 options will not do the job. The public has a right to know:

  • Which developments are seeking time extensions and what the outcomes are
  • The reasons for any decisions
  • An online register that is comprehensive, up-to-date and accurate
  • Delegations which work in the community’s interests, not the developers!

Glen Eira planning scheme

 

Mr DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh)

— On Monday the Minister for Planning visited Carnegie to make a pretty big announcement for both Carnegie and neighbouring Bentleigh. My community in Carnegie specifically are acutely aware of the devastation caused by the former government and the then planning minister, now the Leader of the Opposition — I think they called him Mr Skyscraper — changing the rules to allow developers to take over Carnegie, and people have paid the price since then.

I am really pleased that on Monday the Minister for Planning came to Carnegie and announced everything that the Glen Eira City Council had asked for in relation to height controls — that is, maximum mandatory height controls in Carnegie, which will help protect the remaining character of that wonderful suburb. I am really pleased that the minister visited. I think it was his third visit to Carnegie, and I appreciate his support. He understands the need to balance development with community expectations, and that is exactly what he delivered on Monday.

Council’s Media Release –

Please pay careful attention to our highlighted sections given that:

  • No mention is made of the fact that hundreds upon hundreds of current properties will be upgraded from 2 to 3 or 4 storeys when the final amendment sees the light of day
  • ‘Discretionary’ height limits basically mean nothing when challenged at VCAT
  • Exactly what are the ‘positive outcomes’ and what is the data to justify 12 storeys?
  • Amenity is defined in the dictionary as – “any feature that provides comfort, convenience, or pleasure”. We doubt very much whether increased traffic, increased shadowing, decreased open space per resident qualifies as providing ‘comfort, convenience or pleasure’ for the vast majority of residents.
  • As for the ‘shared vision’ bullshit we suggest that councillors go back and read residents’ comments about what they wanted for their activity centres! These documents are anything but a ‘shared vision’ – they are the vision of a council determined to progress its pro-development agenda at the expense of ‘amenity’ and community representation!

Elsternwick and Carnegie development height limits: Residents blast plan

Emma-Jayne Schenk, Caulfield Glen Eira Leader

August 7, 2018 11:30am

NEW height limits for Elsternwick and Carnegie have been blasted by residents who claim they’ve been cheated because they don’t live in a marginal seat.

The interim State Government planning rules approved this week outline discretionary heights of two to 12 storeys in Elsternwick and eight to 12 storeys for the commercial area on Dandenong Road in Carnegie.

Lower limits of two to five storeys were approved for Bentleigh — a marginal seat — and two to four storeys in Carnegie’s Koornang Rd commercial area and surrounding residential zones.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the limits respected the area’s low-scale shopping strips, residential heritage and gardens, and “would provide certainty for developers and residents”.

Woolworths’ development proposal for 10-16 Selwyn St, Elsternwick.

But key campaigner and Caulfield South resident Sandy Togias questioned how such high-density living respected the area and said politics and the upcoming election had clearly come into play.

“It’s interesting that a marginal seat like Bentleigh gets two to five storeys but a safe seat like Elsternwick gets 12,” she said.

The measures will be in place until Glen Eira Council develops permanent controls, including the Elsternwick Structure Plan, which details 12-storey limits and opposed by more than 100 residents.

Ms Togias said much of the community staunchly opposed high-rise development in Glen Eira, especially Elsternwick, but had not been listened to.

“Once 12 storeys is applied for, the chances of reducing this to six, eight or 10 are very difficult,” she said.

“This now gives about a year’s grace for developers to build whatever the hell they like.”

It comes as residents fight against Woolworths’ plans for a 13-storey, 180-apartment complex at the former ABC studios on Selwyn St. Under new guidelines, it’s believed the maximum height allowed would be 10-storeys.

Opposition planning spokesman David Davis said a Liberal government would review the 12-storey height limit in Elsternwick with an intention to lower it, if elected in November.

He said the Liberals would also restore Neighbourhood Residential Zone protections.

“The caps in Bentleigh and Carnegie are too little too late and allow an absolute open season in the surrounding streets of these areas where the neighbourhood zone protections have been stripped away by Daniel Andrews,” Mr Davis said.

“These small residential streets will now become the target.”

He said Labor’s recent scrapping of visitor parking requirements in large side-street developments would cause further chaos and compromise residential amenity and parking.

In 2017, the government approved height limits up to five storeys in Bentleigh and seven storeys within Carnegie.

Source: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/inner-south/elsternwick-and-carnegie-development-height-limits-residents-blast-plan/news-story/cec31084fd3339cf5216f31dbed3aee9

Nick Staikos Media Release –

Mandatory height limits for Bentleigh

The Andrews Labor Government has unveiled new planning rules for Glen Eira that will protect neighbourhood character and put local residents first.

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne has approved new controls for activity centres in Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick, with maximum building height and setback rules that respect the area’s low scale shopping strips, residential heritage and gardens.

For Bentleigh and Carnegie, height controls have been updated and extended to reflect planning work by Council.

In Bentleigh the maximum mandatory heights are now between two and five storeys.

In Carnegie’s Koornang Road commercial area and surrounding residential growth zones, heights are set at a mandatory maximum of two to four storeys. The commercial area adjacent to Dandenong Road in Carnegie now has a maximum of eight to 12 storeys.

For Elsternwick, which previously had no height controls, discretionary heights of between two and 12 storeys have been introduced.

While the new controls are interim measures, Glen Eira City Council will prepare permanent controls to be exhibited for public consultation.

Former Planning Minister Matthew Guy approved skyscrapers that lined the pockets of developers but the Labor Government is putting residents first, protecting our famed liveability with transport infrastructure, growth corridors and fair height limits.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Planning Richard Wynne

“These interim controls will protect these communities while Council develops permanent controls.”

“This will provide certainty for both developers and residents as to what can be built in these important shopping precincts.”

Quote attributable to Member for Oakleigh Steve Dimopoulos

“The mistakes made by the previous Liberal Government are obvious to everyone who lives in my community. The changes announced today are a massive win for local residents.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Bentleigh Nick Staikos

“As a lifelong local, I am pleased to have secured height controls in Bentleigh. Unlike the local Liberal candidate, who has supported 30 storey buildings in our suburbs, I will always act to protect Bentleigh’s liveability.”

Source: http://www.nickstaikos.com.au/media-releases/mandatory-height-limits-for-bentleigh/

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