GE Open Space


Question after question has sought answers to what is really going on with our neighbourhood areas (activity centres) that do not have any controls on height in the commercial and mixed use zoned shopping strips.  Council’s response has been consistent: not enough ‘resources’ (presumably this means staff), plus not enough money. That they are flat out on the structure plans for Bentleigh, Carnegie, Elsternwick, East village, Caulfield  and recently added, Glen Huntly. Well, Bentleigh and Carnegie are now on the desk of the Minister awaiting permission to advertise. East Village is done and dusted as far as rezoning is concerned, and Caulfield is largely work being done by the Victorian Planning Authority. Yet, residents are still being told that controls for South Caulfield in particular are at least another 2 years away.

Nor have residents been able to get any clear response from council as to their ultimate objective. Language has varied considerably over the past 18 months. We have been told that ‘structure plans’ are in the vision. Next this becomes mere Urban Design Guidelines or a Design & Development Overlay. There is absolutely no guarantee forthcoming that our neighbourhood centres will have structure plans.

As for the delay in introducing even the most minimal controls, we do not for one second buy council’s excuses. Our theory is:

  • Council has always envisaged Glen Huntly Road from Kooyong to Hawthorn as being one single precinct – ie the expansion of the South Caulfield activity centre. Only stern opposition in 2002 prevented this from occurring.
  • Delaying controls facilitates the pro development agenda. We now have at least 5 applications in for Caulfield South (including one in Caulfield) that sit between 7 and 9 storeys and literally hundreds of apartments. Once these get their permits, probably within the next 8 months, it will be almost impossible for council to argue that the building heights under even a structure plan should be 5 storeys! We speculate that this is totally deliberate on the part of council.

The other question of course is WHY? What is the real reason that council is so gung ho on more and more development – especially when Glen Eira is well and truly above its housing needs to cater for population growth? Why have they caved in so easily on removing the mandatory height limits in Bentleigh & Carnegie and substituting ‘discretionary’ height limits? Yes, it is very easy and convenient to have Wynne as the scapegoat and put the onus on government rather than themselves. When other councils can fight tooth and nail for their residents in terms of pushing for greater land use control, knocking back panel reports, or sending out thousands of mail to their residents, our council distinguishes itself by either total silence, or complete acquiescence. The tragedy is that our councillors have all been complicit in this agenda.

Logic would suggest that there must be some ‘pay back’ or ‘benefit’ in adhering without question with government that is given greater priority than residential amenity, sustainability, and general welfare of constituents. We can only hypothesize, but suggest:

  • More dwellings, with miniscule restrictions on development, amounts to more incoming revenue.
  • More revenue is required for the grandiose schemes of at least $52 million to ‘redevelop’ Carnegie swimming pool; $5 million for a library that was ‘redeveloped’ less than 3 years ago; and the list of projects goes on and on. Please also keep in mind that residents have not been privy to any business plan (that is, if they even exist!!!!)
  • A quid pro quid with government so that grants increase? (ie the nonsense of the Inkerman Road safe bicycle track)
  • Also on the cards is the flogging off of council land to developers in order to proceed with high rise/multi level car parks. Envisaged by Monash to cost around $18 or so million for one. And all the while pathetic little done about procuring more and more desperately needed open space.

We certainly are not privy to the discussions that have occurred behind closed doors with state authorities, and even between councillors. What we do know is that strategic planning in Glen Eira continues to be a disaster. Residents can no longer accept excuse after excuse about the lack of money and resources that council claims is behind its ‘do nothing’ agenda. This excuse must be seen for the furphy  it is, especially when planning applications are down, and council’s staff numbers continue to climb, plus rates and charges also continue to climb. Residents need a council that will put ratepayers before large developers!

Council’s ability to deliver real community benefit on its financial arrangements keeps cropping up. The latest example is the agreement with the National Trust for a 3 year lease that will allow Glen Eira residents access to the Ripponlea gardens for free. No doubt a very worthwhile idea. But at what cost? And why is it that other councils can achieve the same outcome but at a cost of 5 times less? Who negotiated this deal?

The following screen dumps compare what Port Phillip managed to achieve for its residents at the cost of a maximum of $50,000 per annum and good ol’ Glen Eira is paying $250,000 for exactly the same thing!!!!

The Glen Eira resolution:

Now for the Port Phillip agreement:

History tells us that this council is woeful in negotiating anything. A $25 million loan was ‘negotiated’ at a fixed 8.4% for 25 years. To ‘renegotiate’ for a lower rate it cost ratepayers quite a tidy little sum. Of course we mustn’t forget the pathetic 4% and 5% that the Caulfield Village (MRC) development is paying for something approaching 2,500 dwellings. Every major project that this council has undertaken has resulted in time delays, over budget, and countless court cases. It is a history of poor financial management and poor decision making.

Council is proposing a new Open Space Refresh strategy. The questions residents need to consider are:

  • Does this latest version successfully address the lack of open space in Glen Eira?
  • Is the proposed increase of the developer levy sufficient?
  • How well is council utilising the revenue collected?

In order to determine resident views on these issues, we have designed a short survey which will take about one minute of your time. It also seeks to ask the questions that council doesn’t want asked. Please forward this link on to all of your contacts.

As we’ve stated repeatedly, every aspect of the Caulfield Village planning process for the past 9 years has resulted in council’s rolling over and granting the MRC everything they have applied for. The latest application for Section 7 & 8 development continues this sorry and pathetic tale.

Please note the following:

  • The Incorporated Plan of 2014 stated that there would be between 1000 and 1200 apartments. We are now well over 1200 with the Smith Street precinct (the largest and highest) still to occur.
  • The Incorporated Plan had maximum preferred heights of 5 storeys in the residential precinct. We got 6. The second precinct stipulated 8 and we have 10. The current proposal wants 9 when the incorporated plan says 8 and 6 for the centre. We get 9 and 7. These additional heights are because council refused to fight for MANDATORY provisions plus the fact that they did not stipulate the number of storeys. Instead they simply worked on height according to the Australian Height Datum (AHD) which looks at ground level. In other words, if the land slopes, plus lowering the ceiling heights and it is possible to fit in several more storeys (meaning more apartments) whilst still meeting the AHD requirement. We envisage that the last Smith Street Precinct will be anything from 22 to 24 storeys in height given past history.
  • Following amendment after amendment the developers have succeeded in: decreasing the initially proposed commercial/retail component and instead increasing the number of apartments. Money these days rests in residential, not commercial. All agreed to by council!
  • Council has made much of its ‘social/affordable’ housing policy. When they had the chance to enforce this at VCAT, council voted to abandon the proposed amendment with the argument that it would cost too much. What is still to be determined is whether the ambition of a 5% social/affordable housing component is 5% of the entire project, or simply 5% of the current application. Even this has been watered down to 16 apartments instead of 21!!!!! Again acceptable to council going by the officer’s recommendation.

The Current Proposal 

Here’s the breakdown of the major aspects of the proposal:

  • 437 apartments
  • 4 buildings of 7 storeys, 2 of 9 storeys
  • 94 studio apartments (average size 40 square metres)
  • 191 single bedroom apartments (average size 50 square metres)
  • 142 two bedroom apartments (average size 70 square metres)
  • 10 three bedroom apartments

That makes it 2.28% of dwellings that are three bedrooms. Council calls this satisfying the planning scheme’s clause regarding ‘diversity’ 

Worthy of mention is that there is not a single word in the officer’s report that mentions size of actual apartments, no figures are provided on overshadowing or overlooking. Basically we get an officer’s report that is devoid of all detail and strategic justification for the recommendation of a permit. Instead we find the following nonsense:

As part of the Whole of Land plans, it was originally anticipated that the Mixed-Use Precinct (which encompasses Stages 4-8) would have a residential yield of 732 dwellings, a supermarket space of 4000 sqm, retail space of 3,658 sqm and 798 sqm of office space.

The proposed mix is now 834 dwellings, 3,800sqm of supermarket space, 2,646sqm of retail space and 798 sqm of office space. This represents an increase in dwelling numbers (102 additional), a decrease in supermarket and retail space (by 400 sqm). The proposed office space remains the same. 

The increase in dwelling numbers has been managed within the permissible building envelope while maintaining an acceptable mix of dwelling sizes. This is considered to be consistent with the Incorporated Plan. 

Are we then supposed to accept the statement that 2.28% of apartments represents an ‘acceptable mix of dwelling sizes’? What then becomes ‘unacceptable’? And how is this considered to be ‘consistent’ with the Incorporated Plan when nothing is stated in the plan except the desire for ‘diversity’?

Interestingly, nothing in the officer’s report mentions the fact that a previous amendment to the development plan increased the size of the Mixed Use precinct. Council did not object and hence granted the MRC land that could then be developed even more as opposed to its original designation as ‘residential’!!!!!

Parking Waiver(s) 

Since council is such a stickler for claiming that everything is established via the Incorporated Plan, it is therefore amazing that the developer has asked for a car parking waiver of 154 spots and council officers think this is okay!! So much for the ‘certainty’ that residents were told again and again was provided as a result of the Incorporated Plan.

Here’s the council’s excuse for another cave in:

Council’s Transport engineers have reviewed the information provided and agree with the reduced rates for the supermarket, retail uses and the reduced rate for the 1 and 2 bedroom dwellings.  

This is considered worthy of support because there will be a number of residents across this development who are attracted to the location because of the excellent public transport options which negate the need for a private vehicle. 

Affordable Housing 

Instead of achieving 21 apartments under the banner of ‘affordable housing’, we now find that this has been reduced to 16 only. We have no problem with the provision of 2 or 3 bedroom apartments. Our problem is with the proviso that the ‘net floor area’ originally planned remains the same! There is nothing in the Incorporated Plan regarding net floor area for social housing. Another brilliant move by our council.

Even more disquieting is the fact that these arrangements will only be for 10 years!!! What happens after that? Will tenants be tossed out and the apartments sold off? And what of the entire precinct since it is not earmarked to be sold but 437 apartments to be rented out! The potential slums of the future perhaps? Also, neatly sidestepping the requirements for student accommodation, the studio and single bedroom apartments are not called ‘student accommodation’. What are the chances that they will be anything but student accommodation given their size and proximity to Monash Uni? Again, nothing in the officer’s report about this loop hole!

CONCLUSION

The willingness of this council to bend over backwards to facilitate more and more inappropriate development is again being displayed. Every aspect of Glen Eira’s dealings with the MRC has been disastrous for the community. This latest application is simply one more in the long line of disasters!

PS: we forgot to mention that because of the ‘wisdom’ of Hyams, Esakoff, Pilling & Lipshutz at the beginning of the proposals, there is NO VISITOR CARPARKING ALLOCATION for anything that is developed on this site!!! Thus over 2000 apartments will not have to provide for visitor car parking.

Another item of interest in the current agenda is the proposal to steam roll ahead with spending $51+ million on the redevelopment of the Carnegie Pool. Needless to say by the time anything is constructed this figure will have increased tremendously so we could easily be looking at a cost of $60 million plus.

As with all council proposals, residents are not given the opportunity to have a real say. The formula is to present a series of options determined from above. Surely before council commits to such huge expenditure residents have a right to see a Business Case, costings for various options, detailed ‘community benefit’ outcomes. Instead, all we often get are pretty pictures and no real detail.

Reading through the comments on the Carnegie pool, the overwhelming majority state again and again that they do not want a miniature GESAC created. The emphasis is clearly on outdoor pool and open space and the retention of the history and ambience of this pool.  The writing is on the wall that council wants another GESAC (albeit smaller)!

Next we have a forecast expenditure of $5 million on the creation of Eat Street in Bentleigh and another $5 million upgrade for the library (which underwent an upgrade less than 4 years ago). So that’s another $10 million at this stage. Add in the Inkerman Road bicycle path and the real possibility that it will be council paying for everything, then millions more are set to be spent.

We are not against upgrading ageing facilities. Nor are we against providing important community infrastructure. What we are questioning is whether all of these projects provide ‘value for money’ and how essential they really are? When council is soon to borrow another $30 million whilst still owing about $10 million, we have to query the wisdom of such decision making, especially when the community is crying out for more open space and some decent strategic planning that would safeguard our neighbourhoods. These two areas have been put on the back burner and instead we get project after project that ignores these most pressing issues.

In Glen Eira residents do not have a say on budget priorities. It is definitely time that they did.

Two planning applications are up for decision next Tuesday night which will forever change the face of Caulfield East and Caulfield South. Both have officer recommendations for approval. The recommendations are further evidence of:

  • Cow towing to the MRC in spite of what the 2014 Incorporated plan for Caulfield Village actually specifies. This is simply the continuation of the voting by Esakoff, Hyams, Lipshutz and Pilling going back nearly a decade and looks set to continue.
  • The Caulfield South (Hawthorn Road) decision flies in the face of council’s adopted strategy from last council meeting. How the planning department can ignore its own policy statements is beyond belief.

For this post we will only concentrate on the Caulfield South application.

380 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield South

The application is for the Godfrey’s site and is asking for 7 storeys, 42 apartments, 3 shops and a car parking waiver of 26 spots. The officer recommendation is for 6 storeys and the granting of a 20 spot waiver.

We find this recommendation totally unacceptable on the following grounds:

  • At last council meeting, councillors voted in the new City Plan. This included height limits for our neighbourhood and local centres as being 5 storeys. We are, 3 weeks later, being told that 6 storeys is now acceptable!
  • Having decided that a 20 spot car parking waiver is ‘acceptable’, we find that council’s urban designer had other ideas. We quote from the report: Whilst Council’s Urban Designer has advised that the reorientation of the on-street parking in Olive Street would be desirable and would improve the streetscape and safety, this is considered to be unnecessary as it would reduce the number of on-street public car spaces in the area. So first you waive 20 spots and then worry about on street car parking availability. More importantly safety becomes a lesser priority than forcing the developer to provide sufficient on site parking!!!!!
  • On potential overshadowing we get this comment: It is acknowledged that overshadowing is a significant concern for residents. The most affected properties would be those at 24-34 Cedar Street. The applicant has provided hourly overshadowing diagrams for the Equinox (September 22) from 9am to 3pm showing the effects of the proposed building on adjoining properties and the surrounding area. A review of this information has been undertaken and it is considered that the overshadowing impact of the proposal would not be unreasonable as adjoining properties, whilst experiencing new overshadowing, would still have an acceptable level of solar access, from 11am to 2pm. It is acknowledged that shadows cast in Winter would be longer and affect the Cedar Street properties to a greater extent than the Equinox shadows.

Shown below is the developer’s shadow diagrams for this period of 11am to 2pm. How on earth these diagrams can then be interpreted as an ‘acceptable level of solar access’ is truly mind boggling! And with no attempt to introduce winter solstice controls into the planning scheme the impact in winter is totally ignored.

Even more disturbing is the following:

It is acknowledged that there are currently no maximum mandatory or discretionary height limits for this area. Detailed strategic planning work will be done by Council for this activity centre in the near future. It is considered that the recommended 6 storey height of the proposed building, will not prejudice that work or the orderly planning of the area. 

But what will it do in terms of setting a precedent we ask, especially when surrounding applications are asking for 7 and 9 storeys? 

Council has been promising further work ‘strategic work. Yet this report also contains on page 31 of the agenda, under the heading of ‘seriously entertained amendment’ the response of ‘NONE’. Does this therefore mean that:

  • Caulfield South will not be part of any structure planning amendment?
  • Caulfield South will not be part of any Design & Development Overlay? or
  • Caulfield South will only be granted some wishy washy Urban Design Guidelines that are not MANDATORY and may not even be included in any shape or form into the planning scheme? They will simply remain as council ‘policy’. We remind readers that at last council meeting Hyams specifically used the term ‘urban design guidelines’. Hence, isn’t it time that residents got a firm answer as to council’s intentions?

There are many other comments throughout this report that should be severely questioned. Things are also missing. For example: legislation now requires ‘communal space’ for 40 or more dwellings. There is no discussion of this in the officer’s report. Even more disquieting is the constant referral to other applications that have not as yet been decided. Yet they are part of this decision making!

It will be mighty interesting to see what councillors do with this application given the potential, precedent setting decision.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that this council is not working for residents. Its major beneficiaries have been, and remain, developers. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its latest strategies, namely, the Open Space Refresh and the appallingly named City Plan.

The outcomes that will eventuate from such policies will only further assist in encouraging more and more development to the detriment of residents.

OPEN SPACE  

Councilors were patting themselves on the back at the last council meeting proclaiming how wonderful an 8.3% open space levy was. Admittedly, this is an increase on the current 5.7% levy. The question that residents need to ask themselves is whether or not an 8.3% levy is sufficient to meet the open space requirements of this municipality. It is not!!

Why is council opting for this sum when other councils such as Monash and Darebin are currently seeking 10% and municipalities such as Yarra are also contemplating up to 10%. In terms of existing open space, both Monash and Darebin have far more than Glen Eira. They are also much larger with Monash being 80 square km compared to Glen Eira’s 38.7 square km. The rate of multi unit development in Glen Eira is also outstripping what happens in these councils. Yet, Glen Eira sees fit to ask for much less. Why? Surely the only feasible answer is that they do not want to put too much of an impediment in the way of developers! Residents’ needs for open space is second to facilitating more development!

Here are the proposed amendments from these other councils:

CITY PLAN

Here’s another policy that leaves much to be desired and is an insight into the shoddy strategic planning that has been endemic in Glen Eira for decades. With no up to date, genuine housing strategy, with no real activity centre strategy worth the name, council has been forced to do another slap dash, one size fits all ‘refit’. If planning had been done properly years ago we would not be in the position we are in now.

Nowhere is this ‘one size fits all’ approach illustrated more clearly than in the proposed five storey height limit for our local centres. Each centre is treated as if they are identical and all will be allowed to have 5 storey discretionary height limits. No thought has been given to the differences that exist between each local centre in terms of surrounding residential areas, transport, amount of commercial space, etc. All are treated as identical! Again, this is not planning. It is policy without strategic justification.

Once again Glen Eira stands in the shadow of how other councils go about their planning. Bayside for instance in its Amendment C126 had this to say about its local and neighbourhood centres:

Only when councillors stop endorsing such poor planning will they be doing their mandated jobs of proper oversight. Thus far they have failed dismally.

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