GE Governance


It has taken council no less than 4 weeks to fulfill its promise of answering ALL questions posed by residents at the 20th August Zoom meeting on planning.

What is concerning about the responses is:

  • The failure to answer some of the questions posed
  • The reliance on more and more motherhood statements that are meaningless
  • The unwillingness to engage directly (and honestly) with what the questions actually asked.

We’ve uploaded council’s version of the questions and their responses HERE.

Even more significant is the number of questions that remain unanswered. We list them below. We have edited out comments and only included what can be regarded as ‘questions’.

How many homes has the State govt required GE to provide over what period of time and how are we on track for that? At some point can we say ‘that’ it, we’ve built  our allocation and we can stop now’?

Can you define housing and how the current repeat building of shoe boxes is meeting the needs of older Australian’s or young families

Ron’s  photo with title”the right housing in the right place” is shops and apartments at corner of Glenhuntly Road corner of James St in Glen Huntly. But this development has a step at shop front doors and disabled access is only by pressing buzzer through apartment entry in side street. Does Glen Eira Planning Scheme now require universal access for all new shops and ground floor apartment ? Especially as Ron noted aging population wit likely greater accessibility needs.

How is planning going to fund adequate open space into activity centres, areas of need, increased population to ensure resident recreation, mental health and a decent Urban Forest policy as if 5.7% open space levy has not increased open space, 8.3% may well also be inadequate.

in regards to the Elsternwick Structure Plan, particularly as it relates to the Urban Renewal North Area. In Dec 2018 we were provided with a step-by-step process by the Mayor. Where are we at right now specifically in that  process that was presented?

How does bulldozing one heritage home after another present has proctection

In Feb 2018, Council endorsed max. of 5 stories in all Neighbourhood Centres as recommended by the Planning Officers.  To have made this recommendation Planning Officers must have undertaken statistical analysis that supported that decision.  Please advise when the Amendments supporting a request for interim height controls for 5 stories was submitted to the Minister

You mention diversity but there seems to be little diversity in  what’s being built that’s new… lots of tiny apartments.  What about townhouses, low cost housing, well equipped house sized apartments for downsizers …??

what is the status of the Caulfield North Activity Centre planning? has it been discussed with the community because the area is a real dogs breakfast at present

how do the conditions imposed on planning permit applications get enforced and followed through by Council?

When will ESD LPP be introduced and when will Council include zero net emissions from buildings  and transport by 2030 in the Planning Scheme? Is Council considering water sensitive design and biodiversity sensitive design? How will council prioiritise active transport and reduce car-dependence and car-parking provision?

how do the conditions imposed on planning permit applications get enforced and followed through by Council?

It sounds like the Planning team is under-resourced, having to put important work on hold while attending to other work – do you need more staff?

Sorry Matt but if the council isn’t listening to the community why spend money on so called “consultation”.

Caulfield South is a Neighbourhood Activity Centre, which, in the Glen Eira City Plan 2020, height limits of buildings in commercial zones are designated as 5 storeys.

 As we meet this evening there are 5 developer proposals heading to VCAT:  one of 9 storeys, one of 8 storeys and three buildings of 7 storeys in Caulfield South Neighbourhood Centre. Caulfield South is not a Major Activity Centre. Developments of this nature will seriously impact the neighbouring properties and destroy the concept of what is presently a neighbourhood centre.

Residents should not be expected to fight these battles on their own. As there are no structure plans in place for Caulfield South, and there are currently no mandatory height limits for Caulfield South Neighbourhood Centre, residents will struggle to win at VCAT.

Will Council commit to defending its City Plan by providing external legal representation to help residents oppose these developments when each of these proposals goes before VCAT?

CONCLUSION(S)

The questions that weren’t answered are important. Some seek information on status of policies and structure planning; others seek specific statistics that council should have at its fingertips. In terms of council’s needs is it really that difficult to provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a straight forward question of ‘do you need more planning staff’?

Given the sheer number of questions that didn’t receive an ‘answer’, it is impossible to accept the possibility that missing all of these was nothing more than an ‘oversight’. So why weren’t they answered? And why does council keep promising things that it has no intention of fulfilling?

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.

Featured below is an interview with a Caulfield South resident on what is happening to this neighbourhood centre. As we have stated numerous times residents have never been given a clear unequivocal answer as to whether or not Caulfield South, Bentleigh East and now Caulfield North will have structure plans with mandatory heights, or merely Urban Design Frameworks that are nothing more than ‘guidelines’. More to the point, even if structure planning is undertaken, it will still take years and years for these plans to have any legal effect.  In the meantime these suburbs will, and are already, having high rise plonked alongside one and two storey dwellings.

Council is of course playing the blame game – ie it is all the government’s fault. Nothing could be further from the truth. Had council done what every other council has for the past decade, such as structure planning, design and development overlays, and decent strategic planning, we would not be in the mess we are now. Residents are the true victims of this councils inaction and pro development agenda for the past 15 years!!!!!

Please listen to this interview since it reveals fully the impact on residents.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council will consider an application for a 9 storey building opposite the Woolworths application for a 14 and 10 storey apartment/supermarket complex. The VCAT decision on the latter is imminent.

In regards to the current application the officer recommended a permit. Please note the following:

  • The application includes provision for a maximum of 600 people attending the building at the same time. Hours will be up to 10pm on most days
  • The parking shortfall is 231 and this is considered ‘acceptable’ given the availability of public transport. There will be NO ONSITE PARKING available.
  • The height of the proposed building is equivalent to what the Woolworth’s proposal is
  • Overshadowing and overlooking is ‘acceptable’ according to the report because this is an ‘activity centre’ and hence can’t have the same safeguards

The one sentence in this entire unbelievable report which is completely insulting and dismissive to residents and objectors reads:  Each of these matters (ie objections) have been considered in this report and there are no outstanding objector concerns to consider.

Our take on this report is that resident objections have NOT BEEN considered in any meaningful way. The entire report is designed to justify the unjustifiable. We do not deny the importance of a Jewish cultural precinct, nor the fact that both state and federal governments have provided millions to ensure this happens. What we do object to strongly is the failure to assess this application on pure planning matters and current council policies.

For starters the actual permit conditions concentrate almost exclusively on what most residents would regard as ‘minor’ compared to size, bulk, and traffic management issues. We get pages and pages about preserving the Kuldig stained glass windows and the bass relief. Pages and pages about ‘updated’ traffic and acoustic reports – but only after development has already been done! Of course there is the usual Construction Management conditions but hardly a word about setbacks, heights, etc. All of the latter remain ‘acceptable’ in this report.

Much is made of the current interim structure plan and the Design and Development Overlay No.10. Yet in this report basic features are easily pushed aside. For example: on street wall height the DDO requires 13 metres and upper level setbacks of 5 metres. The application is for A four storey, 17.39m high street wall is proposed along the Selwyn Street frontage. In determining that this is okay, we get this gem:

Whilst this is higher than that envisaged by the DDO, it is consistent with the recently approved street wall height of the Holocaust Centre immediately to the north at number 13-15 Selwyn Street. 

In the first place council granted the 13-15 Selwyn Street permit in June 2018. Amendment C157 was gazetted in 16th August 2018. That is two months after council granted the permit. Hence there was no DDO at the time of this decision. Also worthy of noting is that council’s structure plan had already been accepted with a three storey street wall height in February of 2018. Council’s incompetence at that time in ignoring its own structure plan and Quality Design Guidelines therefore paves the way for this application to get the nod and the pathetic argument is that because one building has a four storey street front it is okay for the entire street to look like this – ie. the podium is acceptable and will provide a consistent street wall character. 

We next come to the issue of overall height and again the variance with the current DDO –

The roof height complies with the DDO, whilst the architectural feature that serves to screen and integrate the plant equipment extends more than 4m above that the preferred height. It is important to recognise that the architectural feature is curved, so its encroachment is softened. It is considered that the curved design of this feature is an important design element as it not only serves to screen the plant equipment, but also adds visual interest and a more sculpture look to the tower 

Does this mean that anything that is of ‘visual interest’ or ‘curved’ can attain any height the developer wants – in spite of what planning law states?

One of the most questionable ‘conditions’ comes with the issue of overlooking. Instead of requiring the developer to alter his plans, council comes up with the following ‘solution’ –

To limit overlooking impacts from these areas, expanded metal mesh cladding is proposed to cover the entire windows of these areas. The cladding will only be 23 per cent visually permeable. This affords a higher degree of protection than if the Clause 55 overlooking standard was applied. 

So we get to the ludicrous situation that where ‘convenient’ for the developer, Clause 55 does come into play and is ‘improved’ upon – even though it carried no real weight given the proposed height.

The best part is the finding that a car parking waiver of 231 spots is just fine! Why? –

The proposal generates a requirement for 231 car parking spaces and 17 bicycle parking spaces based on the Scheme requirements. No car parking is provided as this is not achievable on this land due to both the shape and size of the lot, however 40 bicycle parking spaces are provided.  

And

It is recognized that there are no options for providing any on-site parking and this must be balanced with the broader benefit of the building. 

Really? So local residents are nothing more than ‘collateral damage’????!!!!!!! And since when are there ‘no options’. There are no ‘options’ only when it doesn’t suit council and the developer and the objective is to have a 9 storey building! 

Apart from this nonsense we also have to take the word of transport assessments that state:

Car parking surveys of the area demonstrate that throughout the day there are at least 100 spaces available with typical occupancy rates of approximately 20% at the busiest times which increases to approximately 50% outside of peak times. 

Even if this were true, it does not include the resultant traffic and parking issues created by the Woolworths development and the potential supermarket traffic and that of 173 apartments in the complex. More importantly, since this application wants attendances until 10pm at night then the argument about other developments wanting ‘long term car parking’ spots goes out the window. How many visitors attending a function until 10pm that starts at say 7pm will want to travel home by public transport – especially the elderly?

Basic questions have simply not been addressed or brushed under the carpet. The so called developer’s answer to traffic and parking includes a majority of ‘promote’ options with no empirical evidence provided that these have a chance in hell to be successful.

All in all, this is a deplorable officer’s report and should be condemned for what it really is – an excuse to give the developer everything he wants. This council is simply going from bad to worse in order to facilitate its pro development agenda!

With the advent of Trump a new industry has evolved – ‘fact check’. We believe that a similar process should apply to the regular diatribes of Hyams in particular.

Below we quote some of the comments he has put up on social media in response to one of our earlier posts on C184.

Our objective is simple:

  • We want residents to judge for themselves how much of what he writes is ‘tripe’; how much is ‘dishonest’ and how much is guilt by omission – ie only revealing partial ‘truths’.

 POINT NO.1As Glen Eira “Debates” also knows, when we put our proposed planning scheme amendment, based on the structure plan, to the Minister in January 2019, it sat in his office until nearly the end of the year, and then he came back to us and said there would need to be major changes for him to give us permission to exhibit.

COMMENT: The implication of the above is that council was left sitting in the wings awaiting Wynne’s permission to exhibit for over a year. Nothing could be further from the truth. Council knew as early as the 22nd January 2019 that there were problems with the submitted amendment. Furthermore, the proposed amendment DOES NOT go straight off to the Minister but to the Department.

Following this extensive ‘review’ by the Department (DEWLP), council received the following letter from DEWLP which showed up the glaring errors in the proposed amendment. It makes us wonder once again at the competence of the planning department. Did they understand Plan Melbourne? Did they know what the VPP actually stated? What was their ‘strategic justification’ for ‘special circumstances’ relating to mandatory heights? How hard did our planners try on this point? Until today, no ‘evidence’ has been produced that council fought tooth and nail.

POINT NO.2 – It is also tripe that that the NRZ areas will now revert to what was there in 2004, because in 2004, there were no mandatory height limits in those areas, as there is now – a height limit of two storeys. It is also tripe that the zones that came in in 2013 are “notorious”. The zones gave us mandatory height limits in all but the commercial zones where previously there had been none. They also restricted development in the NRZ to two dwellings on any block, until the current government removed that restriction and put in the minimum garden requirement instead, and allowed us to require greater permeabilty and less site coverage, and increased setbacks.

COMMENT : Whilst it is true that prior to 2013 there were no mandatory height limits anywhere in Glen Eira, it is quite disingenuous to claim that the secret introduction of the zones was not the spark that caused the destruction of many residential areas in the municipality. We remind readers that many residents awoke one morning to find that their streets could suddenly go from a 9 metre discretionary height limit to a 13.5m height limit.

Hyams’ claim that these mandatory heights were ‘in all but the commercial zones’ is another furphy. Any site zoned Mixed Use and these are classified in all planning schemes as ‘residential’, remained without any height limits. Another example of ‘dishonesty’ is the statement that in 2013 sites in NRZ were restricted to ‘two dwellings on any block’ and this only changed when the MInisier removed this last year.

The zones were introduced under Amendment C110 which clearly stated:


Hence any site that was larger than your ‘conventional’ size lot became a target for multi dwellings.

Hyams’ third misrepresentation of the truth in the above comment relates to his assertion that the zones introduced greater site coverage, setbacks and permeability in the areas zoned NRZ. Not so! In 2004 with amendment C25 council achieved variations to the ResCode requirements of 50% site coverage and a 4 metre rear setback. Permeability did increase to 25% in 2013. Thus council’s proposed new zone of NRZ2 reverts back to what we had PRIOR to 2004 in terms of site coverage.

POINT NO.3 – . Also worth noting is that the new NRZ2 areas are GRZ and RGZ under the current planning scheme, and so will be getting increased protection, another reason why labelling this as negative and retrograde is tripe.

COMMENT: As per usual Hyams fails to reveal the full picture. Reducing the heights for various streets does not erase what has already been developed in these streets. When these ‘reductions’ are compared to the number of sites that are suddenly allowed to have increased heights, we can see exactly how much ‘protection’ has been introduced via this amendment. All the areas in Green below or dark blue were zoned NRZ (ie 2 storeys). Green is now zoned for 3 storeys and the dark blue for 4 storeys!

CONCLUSION

We regard it as really tragic for the residents of Glen Eira that conducting a fact check on what comes out of the mouths of our elected representatives, or council officers is even necessary. Living in a democracy one should expect that organisations answer criticisms honestly,fully and are completely transparent with their constituents. Spin, obfuscation, and deflection onto individuals rather than the issue, is the enemy of good government. It belongs in the world of Trump and his tactics. Not in a municipality that likes to portray itself as listening and acting in accordance with its residents’ aspirations.

 

The following video comes from the August 5th Kingston Council Meeting. We suggest that this video be mandatory viewing for all residents and especially our Glen Eira councillors. Why? Because it reveals in full glorious technicolour a group of councillors who are prepared to support their community and not shake their heads and say it is the government’s fault.

The video features the debate on a vital planning document – Kingston’s Housing Strategy and how they want their city zoned. Time and again we hear the majority of councillors stating clearly that they have to listen to their community; that they want the time lines extended past the election period, and that they want 78% of their municipality zoned as neighbourhood residential (2 storeys).

You can view the entire council meeting VIA THIS LINK: http://stream.kingston.vic.gov.au/archive/video20-0805.php

In case residents do not have the time, here are some quotes from what each councillor did state:

WEST: ‘no one who is currently in a 2 storey area would find themselves pushed into a 3 storey area’…..99.6% (of submissions) opposed the council strategy….if we want to preserve the neighbourhood character of those areas (ie 2 storeys and gardens)….

GLEDHILL: I have had problems for some time where we are going with this…..this comes down to what do the people that I represent , what do they want…..overwhelmingly they have told me …that there are aspects of this plan that they do not want…..

HUA: No three storeys in our suburban streets…..

STAIKOS: We are saying tonight that Kingston council is going to put forward a plan that is in line with community expectations…..

BROWNLEES: community expectations and the view of the department…..I know we would always like to agree with what residents want….we have virtually ignored what experts have said…..we will get advice back that it’s unreasonable, unworkable, unpractical…..

OXLEY: we all know this may be a bit of a gamble and we may not get approval from the department, but we’ve got to try…..we’ve got to listen to our residents….

WEST: this is clearly what our people want…..we have the opportunity to put out something wonderful, something that our community actually wants….what we have seen tonight is people power at its best in action….and that the government will respect us with speaking in this strong voice.

VOTE: 8 IN FAVOUR; ONE AGAINST AND ONE ABSTAINED

Contrast this with what Glen Eira residents repeatedly hear – “it is the government’s fault’.

Amendment C184 is an abomination because:

  • It totally ignores community views
  • It provides no justification for the changes
  • Council is already exceeding its projected housing needs
  • And something as important as this should not be rammed through by this council

Until our 9 councillors understand that their job is to represent the community first and foremost, then Glen Eira will continue to have poor governance, poor accountability, and lousy planning decisions.

We’ve received this comment on the draft Amendment C184 and feel that it deserves to be highlighted –

Below is an email I have sent to the CEO of Glen Eira Council on this issue (rmckenzie@gleneira.vic.gov.au). I will post a response when received.
_______

Dear Ms McKenzie

I am writing about Planning Scheme Amendment C184 Glen Eira – Bentleigh Activity Centre (“Proposed Amendment”).

I am owner of XXXX Road, Bentleigh. If the Proposed Amendment is implemented, all of the properties that neighbour mine, which are currently one to two stories, will suddenly be eligible for the building of developments of up to 4 stories.

Many other residents of Bentleigh (and, of course, Carnegie) are facing the same situation.

I’m so surprised and disappointed that this is being proposed.

Over recent years I’ve witnessed the many documents and social media posts published by Glen Eira Council, in which the Council continually professes to be examining responsible and appropriate ways to improve the lives and amenities of residents. The Council’s website refers to you, personally, as a person who is passionate about creating “liveable communities” with people who have “pride of place” (https://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/about-council/our-organisation/meet-our-chief-executive-officer).

Yet if you asked anyone in Bentleigh whether they think changes in the nature of the Proposed Amendment would achieve those stated aims, I would sincerely doubt anyone would believe so. Certainly not after witnessing the impacts of developments in a location such as Bent Street (Bentleigh) in recent years, such as the jamming of the street with cars (creating an effective ‘one way’ street situation), and the shadowing and loss of privacy at adjoining properties. I will leave out comments on the impact of the suburb’s “character” (despite my concerns about this), as I know this can be subjective. The other factors referenced are plainly more objectively measurable – and there can be no doubt seriously adverse impacts have occurred.

Of course, what those developments and the Proposed Amendments create is financial opportunities for the Council. No-one begrudges the Council the opportunity to chose its financial targets and boost its budgets, but to do so for its own sake at the expense of the residents the Council is supposed to support and service, is just so disappointing.

I note the Council has been separately consulting in recent periods about building a multi-story carpark off Centre Road – for purposes that include, amongst other things, freeing up some of the other carpark space for other purposes. If it is considered that this is necessary, why not use some of that space that would become available for multi-story residences? If the changes are about accommodating more people in the Council areas, utilising ‘empty space’ is surely a better option?

Perhaps most distressing of all, we have had numerous car accidents in the past 2 years at the corner of XXXX and XXX, with high volumes of traffic turning quickly into or from the busy roads – resulting in cars crashing through front fences and gardens. One can only imagine how this would exponentially increase as a result of the Proposed Amendments. Surely it can be recognised that this is a major health and safety issue? If mass developments are permitted in this area, and there are more accidents following traffic increases, will the Council accept some responsibility?

Ms McKenzie, I have young children who are learning about local government in their local Bentleigh school, and when I explain to them what is being proposed despite the impacts on residents and the risks, they can’t reconcile it with the messages they see on your website about developing “the best possible health, safety and lifestyle for the City” and having an emphasis on “community wellbeing” (https://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/about-council/our-organisation/our-guiding-values).

In this context, can you please explain to me how, specifically (not in generalities), areas like mine were chosen for these proposed planning amendments? Do any Council members live in properties that are now proposed, under the Proposed Amendment, to be allowed to be surrounded by 4 store developments? Would you like this to be applicable to your property? Do you really believe there is no other solution to whatever issues this is proposed to solve – or is the message to residents of “sorry, you’re the unlucky ones – but think of the money!” really what is intended to be communicated to residents? Are the salaries of senior Council staff linked to financial metrics that effectively incentivise accommodating mass developments like this, directly or indirectly (such as by being tied to overall financial performance)?

I know this is a proposal only, and that ‘consultation’ is occurring. I will of course make a submission. But I did want to reach out to you directly as I feel these issues are exactly what a CEO who doubtless embodies the values of the organisation should be weighing in on. I would be very grateful for your personal response.

Finally, can I ask you to – just for a moment – imagine if you were in my position. Imagine how powerless and let down you would feel by the process (being one of apparent inevitability, given what has occurred in recent years despite residents’ objections) playing out around you. I love Bentleigh dearly, but the steps to removing so much of what it is that attracted people like me to the area appears to have been set in motion. I’ll fight it every step of the way, but I really hope that is not necessary and the Council lived up to its professed values. Is reclassifying large swathes of residential area for the development of enormous buildings towering over existing homes, shadowing them and boxing them in, all in the apparent primary name of dollars, consistent with those values? If so, how? Or is the main value that is being applied one of “Growth at all costs”?

I have no doubt you are a caring and logical person who has excelled in their profession. I note you are also a Board Director at Zoos Victoria – a wonderful organisation. I am quite sure in your role relating to the zoo the approach you advocate for is not ‘fit more and more enclosures into the existing space, so we can house more exhibits/animals for the people to pay to see!’.. Rather, I imagine the focus of an organisation like the zoo is largely to improve the existing amenities and look to accommodate development and new exhibits only where it does not unfairly compromise existing enclosures. I wonder at how to reconcile the apparent approaches in Glen Eira to those in this other organisation you are part of overseeing.

I’d be very grateful for your written reply, including responses to the questions posed, so I can share this with my neighbours – who are equally concerned, and in many cases quite elderly and thus feeling even more powerless and reliant on your living up to the Council’s professed values. Like me, they see this as a moment where we’ll truly get a chance to see your and the Council’s real values in action. We look forward to seeing the professed values upheld in this regard, and thank you in advance with this expectation. I also appreciate you taking the time to read this letter.

Kind regards,

The agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting contains the draft Urban Forest Strategy. Whilst it does have an abundance of useful information, such as the economic, social, and environmental impacts of doing nothing, and the subsequent further loss of our tree canopy, the same cannot be said for its ‘Action Plan’.

Here are the most important points to consider:

TARGETS

These targets are well below what is required. A comparison with some other councils illustrates once again how late and token this council’s proposed actions really are:

These recommendations raise numerous issues that residents should consider –

  • If the stated objective is to increase the municipality’s overall tree canopy and to mitigate as much as possible against urban island heat effect, climate change, etc., then why has council REMOVED THE MANDATORY GARDEN REQUIREMENTS from those areas proposed to be zoned GRZ5 in Amendment C184 for Bentleigh & Carnegie?
  • Why is council even contemplating a zone that allows 90% site coverage and 5% permeability?
  • Why has council allowed the NRZ2 zoning in this amendment to revert back to a site coverage of 60% (from 50%)and a reduction in permeability requirements from 25% to 20%?
  • Why are we still waiting for a Water Sensitive Urban Design policy to make it into the planning scheme when this was announced 4 years ago?
  • Why do we only have a proposed Significant Tree Register that will in all likelihood only include about 150 trees (maximum) instead of far more stringent and powerful controls incorporated into the Planning Scheme as other councils have done?
  • Why, when council has declared a climate emergency do we have a budget that only provides an additional $150,000 to an already paltry sum.
  • Why does a strategy such as this nominate ‘low’ priority for monitoring and evaluation? Surely council should keep and publish all data such as tree removals as a result of development on a regular bases?

CONCLUSION

Several conclusions are possible given this draft strategy. Most importantly until we have a planning department that is in sync with other departments then no environmental strategy will come within cooee of achieving its targets. It is quite ludicrous that a strategy ostensibly devoted to increasing our tree canopy, is faced with a planning department that consistently fails to introduce controls that would facilitate this endeavour. What is happening is the reverse.

Then again, we have to wonder whether this strategy is nothing more than another public relations exercise, a ‘feel good’ document that whilst very belated, council can point to as ‘look we’re up to date’ and ‘concerned’. If council was really ‘concerned’ then perhaps we would have proper budgetary funding, and a planning scheme that contributes rather than hinders to mitigating all the environmental issues we currently face.

 

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