OPEN SPACE – OPPORTUNITY LOST FOREVER

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As much as GERA would like to report that Glen Eira Council acquired the rare and unique 3142 sqm open space opportunity at 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena, we are unable to.  Regrettably, the property went under the hammer at 6.30 tonight and was passed in at $2.6m with the vendor’s representative being confident the property would be sold later this evening – presumably for high density multi-unit dwellings.  Council was noticeably absent.

Although at less than 20% higher than the top of the quoted sale price of $2.2m, the final negotiated sale price should be well within Council’s range (given the almost $2m paid for 2 Packer Park house lots which were considerably smaller than the Neerim Road property, lacked mature native vegetation and required demolition and rehabilitation works).

Despite GERA lobbying Council and individual Councillors (refer to the two postings below) and a Leader Article on the sale (18/12/2012)

Leader Article 18/12/2002

acquisition of the property was not mentioned at last Tuesday’s (18/12/2012) Council Meeting (nor was it discussed at any previous ordinary Council Meeting).  Council’s only response has been a letter, from Mayor Hyams (refer to our earlier posting below), outlining the reasons why Council was not considering purchasing property.   No individual Councillor responded.

Council’s failure to consider purchasing the property is another instance where Council’s encouraging words are not matched with corresponding actions.  Since 1998, residents have continually expressed concern over Glen Eira’s lack of public open space and the need to acquire additional open space in both the Community/Council Plan and the State Governments Satisfaction Survey.

In evaluating how well Council has responded to residents clearly expressed and well documented wishes residents should consider the following:

  • At last Tuesday’s Council Meeting a Public Question (Council Minutes 18/12/2012 – Section 11.4) re the value of revenue collected from the Open Space Levy paid by developers over the past 10 years and how it was spent (parkland acquisition vs maintenance/development of existing parks) was asked.

Council’s response was that for the period “2003/4 to 2011/12 … During those nine years Council received $12,769,669. … Council spent $1.911m acquiring the properties abutting Packer Park”.

It is interesting to note

      • that Council’s original proposal for funding of the acquisition of the 2 Packer Park properties was to sell the former Packer Park bowling club rather than using Open Space Levies paid by developers.  
      • linking the acquisition of the Packer Park house lots with the open space levy is somewhat redundant since these house lots are in fact the only additional parkland purchased by Glen Eira in the past 9 years.
      • The 1998 Open Space Strategy recommended that there be “a 50% split between acquisitions and improvements”.  Based on the figures presented above, which show an 86:14 split, Council has not complied with the recommendation in their own strategy.
  • The Open Space Levy is legislated by the State Government to provide Council with funding for the purchase of additional open space or maintenance of existing open space.  The Open Space Levy is currently set at a maximum of 5% of the land value at the time of subdivision.   Unlike other Council’s
    • Glen Eira open space levy rates vary across the municipality and rarely is the full 5% charged.  (Glen Eira Planning Scheme – Open Space Levy Rates).   Most Council’s charge an across the board 5% (ie for all areas within their municipality).
    • While other Council’s set aside the open space levy revenue for the specific purpose of purchasing new/additional parkland rather than parkland maintenance, Glen Eira does not.  Consequently, when unexpected open space opportunities arise other Council’s have funds readily available to act on the opportunities, Glen Eira does not.

The Recreation Land Fund, which was previously created (circa 1998) to set aside funds for parkland purchases is no longer included in Glen Eira accounts.

  • The 2012 Glen Eira Community Plan (Theme 5- Recreation and Open Space), includes the statement that “Council will actively seek new opportunities to increase and optimise open space for residents.”    Yet, in outlining Council’s reasons for not considering the purchase of the Neerim Road property, Council has apparently added two additional restrictive stipulations which have not been endorsed by the residents
    • “New open space may well be of even greater priority than enlarging existing open space” .   Such a statement implies a limitation on the parkland opportunities that will be considered rather assessing each opportunity on it’s own merits  – size, cost (acquisition and rehabilitation), the localities expected population growth etc. are some, but not all, factors that should be considered.
    • Council’s priorities will be to adopt and implement a prioritised and costed plan to meet the communities need for public open space”.   Such a statement lacks clarity as it implies focus on events that can be planned and costed (eg maintenance of existing parkland, pavilion developments) rather than recognition of the unexpected nature of parkland opportunities.
  • The current Glen Eira Open Space Strategy is dated 1998.  As mentioned previously, Glen Eira residents have been voicing the need to increase open space since this time.   The Open Space Strategy is a strategy that should have been regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure that the policy continually meets the needs of the community, particularly when the community is experiencing dramatic population growth and high density multi-unit developments.  Unfortunately this has not happened and the strategy is now the subject of a major re-write.

With the impending new Open Space Strategy review and community consultation residents should again be vocal about their wishes and actively ensure Council adheres to the strategy in coming years.  Unique opportunities such as this particular property should not be let go – they should be actively sought and secured for current and future residents.

UPDATE – 21/12/2012

The Sold sticker was on the property’s real estate sign this morning.

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