Monthly Archives: July 2013

ALMA CLUB DEVELOPMENT – MOOT COUNCIL DECISION (PART 1)

The  55+ objectors* to the Alma Club Development proposal joined together and mounted an extremely effective 4 day campaign (between the publishing of the Officers Report and the Council Meeting).  Their campaign turned what was stated to be “close call” into a unanimous decision by Councillors (2nd July 2013 Council Meeting Minutes – Item 9.1) to reject both the Officers Report recommending approval (with relatively minor modifications) and the development proposal itself.  This should become an example for the whole community as it shows that a combined and concerted effort by residents can have an impact.

* The objectors have formed an incorporated association – Glen Eira Residents’ Against Inappropriate Development (GERAID).  Those interested may contact GERAID at almaclubobjectors@gmail.com

Unfortunately, Council’s failure to comply with the statutory 60 day notification period made the developer eligible (on 17th June) to lodge at VCAT  Appeal prior to the Council Meeting and thus rendered Council’s decision moot.

UNANIMOUS DECISION TO REJECT

The unanimous decision to both reject the proposal  and not support the application at the VCAT hearing was based on the proposals non compliance with the following Planning Scheme Clauses

1. The development is inconsistent with the intent and objectives of Clause 11 Settlement, Clause 15 Built Environment and Heritage and Clause 16 Housing of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme as it fails to provide an appropriate built form response to the existing and preferred neighbourhood character.

 2. The development is inconsistent with the intent and objectives of  Clauses 21.04 Housing and Residential Development and 22.08 Minimal Change Area Policy of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme for the following reasons:

The scale and intensity of the development is inconsistent with the preferred character.

The mass and bulk of the development will have an unreasonable impact on the streetscape.

The development will impose unreasonable visual bulk impacts on adjoining properties.

There are inadequate landscaping opportunities throughout the site due to the excessive basement footprint and inadequate ‘on structure’ landscaping.

The provision of secluded private open space is inadequate.

 3. The development fails to achieve the following objectives of Clause 55 (ResCode) of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme:

Clause 55.02-1 (Neighbourhood Character) The scale, bulk and intensity of the development is inconsistent with the prevailing and preferred character.

Clause 55.02-2 (Residential Policy) The development is inconsistent with Clause 22.08 Minimal Change Area Policy.

Clause 55.03-2 (Building Height) The overall height of the development is excessive, resulting in unreasonable character and amenity impacts on the streetscape and adjoining properties   

  • Clause 55.03-5 (Energy Efficiency) Dwellings within the apartment building will have a poor level of energy efficiency due to poor orientation and access to daylight.

Clause 55.03-8 (Landscaping) The extent of the basement restricts reasonable in ground planting opportunities in the southern part of the site and fails to make adequate provision for ‘on structure’ planting.

Clause 55.04-6 (Overlooking) There are unreasonable opportunities to overlook the secluded private open space of adjoining properties.

Clause 55.05-4 (Private Open Space) The size and dimension of a number of private open space areas for townhouses and apartments is inadequate and provides a poor level of amenity to future users.

Clause 55.05-5 (Solar Access to Open Space) Solar access to the private open space of a number of dwellings is inadequate, resulting in poor internal amenity.

 4. The development fails to satisfy the residential visitor car parking requirement of Clause 52.06 of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and will have an unreasonable reliance on on-street parking in the area.

Please note the above listing is largely in line with GERA’s earlier assessment of the Alma Club development proposal.

While GERA welcomes Council’s decision (albeit moot) it raises a significant question on the role of the Planning Department and Planning Officers.  The Planning Department and it’s Officers are required to assess planning permits against the policies and standards included in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme.

Where a planning permit application is deemed to be non-compliant, Officers may negotiate with the developer to ensure compliance, however, the result of such negotiations should not be  Council attaching conditions to a permit that “reduces” or “tinkers” with some aspects of non-compliance.  Minimizing a breach does not constitute ensuring compliance with Planning Scheme, sets a precedence for future waiving or ignoring policy and results in a loss of amenity for existing and future residents.

As previously mentioned the Officers Report recommended approval of the development subject to relatively minor conditions.  Some of the “conditions”* are

  • Reducing the 4th storey of the apartment complex (a reduction of 2 dwellings to the proposed 75 dwellings)
  • Slightly improving the compromised internal amenity (ie. access to natural light) of the lower level north-side  apartments (which face an excavated wall) by increasing overhead balcony set backs.
  • Increasing the number of visitors parking spaces from the proposed 4 to 10 – 30% less than the required 15.

* The full Officers Report are included in the 2nd July 2013 Council Meeting Minutes  – Item 9.1

Given that Councillor’s and the Planning Department evaluated the development proposal against the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and arrived at very different conclusions we therefore re-iterate the above question on how the Planning Department and Officers views its/their role and how effectively it ensures compliance with the Planning Scheme.

VCAT APPEAL

As mentioned above Council’s decision to reject the proposal was made moot by Council’s Planning Department failing to comply with the 60 days notification period.  In response to a request from Cr. Magee, Jeff Akehurst (Director, City Development) commented that

  • Under the Law, Councils had 60 days, regardless of the complexity or size (major vs. minor) of a proposal, to make a decision on the proposal.

 GERA Comments:   In making this comment, it is regrettable that Mr. Akehurst did not acknowledge

  • the provisions for gaining an extension/s to the 60 day decision requirement (via requesting additional information from the developer or formally requesting departmental approval).  It is equally regrettable that no Councillor thought to  mention or question time line extension provisions
  • that, as is common practice, proposed development discussions occurred prior to planning permit lodgement (ie. prior to the commencement of the 60 day period – which started ticking when the planning permit was formally lodged on 19th March, 2013).   Given the magnitude of the proposal it is reasonable to assume that the discussions were more extensive and at a higher level than is customary.  Both the detailed reports, prepared by the developers expert witnesses, (“Town Planning and Urban Context Report”  and “Traffic Impact Assessment” ) submitted with the permit application confirm pre-application meetings and discussions with Council Officers.
  • The proposal submitted wasn’t minor or simple and involved a number of referrals to various departments which caused a delay.

GERA Comments :   It should be noted that the Officer’s Report Appendix makes the following statement “The application has been referred to various departments and individuals within Council for advice on particular issues as well as externally to the Director of Public Transport”.   Since only one of the referrals related to a third party (a routine query to the Director of Public Transport re the development’s potential impact on public transport services – “no objection”), all other referrals were internal and therefore within the management of Council’s Planning Department.

Given

  • The pre-application discussions, the subsequent 60 day period and extension provisions, and
  • That in response to a public question, Council acknowledged that the developer became eligible to lodge a “failure to comply” VCAT appeal on 17th June, 2013.  Council officers were therefore aware of the date two months prior (ie mid April and one month after the permit application was lodged)

both the complexity of the project and the referral steps, applicable to all development applications, were well known.  Residents are legitimately asking why didn’t Council’s Planning Department, prioritize allocated resources and referral processes to ensure compliance?

  • Although not a legal requirement, Glen Eira Council uniquely chooses to hold planning conferences to better provide residents with an opportunity to understand the application and express their views.  Planning conferences add a time element into the decision making process.

GERA Comment:  Leaving aside Mr. Akehurst’s comments on “Glen Eira’s “unique” planning permit consultative processes vs. that of other Councils (it will the subject of subsequent posting), again serious questions arise from Council’s failure to comply with the 60 day decision requirement.  It is worth noting that the permit application was lodged on 19/3/2013, permit advertising commenced 1.5 months later on 1st May with an objection closing date of  14/5 /2013, the resulting Planning Conference was held on 5/6/2013 and the Council decision was scheduled for 2/7/2013.  Inserting the date (17/6/201 – some 3 months or 90 days after application lodgement) the developer became eligible to lodge a failure to comply VCAT appeal into this time frame re-affirms the need to seriously question Council’s management of the assessment and decision making processes.

  • Presumably, the developer anticipated that the planning permit application would result in a VCAT appeal and therefore decided to jump the VCAT queue by lodging a failure appeal prior to Council’s formalising it’s opinion … from Council’s and the residents’ point of view the failure appeal was good news it deferred the need for Council to formalise it’s view until it’s presented to VCAT  (mediation in mid-August, final hearing end September).

GERA Comment: Such comments not only serve to re-iterate all above comments about the Planning Department’s management of this permit application (ie. failure to comply and still being unable to formalize a view, a view that should be in accordance with their own well known planning scheme) but also contradict Council’s previous criticisms of VCAT  (i.e. VCAT is an unknown and frequently goes against Council decisions or it is better for Council to approve this development to avoid the developer taking it to VCAT which may result in an even worse outcome for residents).

Many residents (both GERA members and non-members) have expressed the opinion that, with regards the Alma Club development proposal,  Council’s  failure to comply with the 60 day requirement indicates the adoption of a “politically preferred”  option i.e. let VCAT decide (presumably in favour of the development) this contentious issue and “take the blame”.   GERA is not supportive of this opinion – in the Council Meeting discussions, all Councillors and in particular Mayor Hyams,  commented that Council would unreservedly support the residents in their VCAT objections to this proposal.  Rather than speculate on Council motives, GERA prefers to review future Council and Councillor support of GERAID at the VCAT mediation and hearing – needless to say “the proof is in the pudding”.

Implications of the VCAT Appeal

 Although Jeff Akehurst made no comment on the implications of the VCAT Appeal, nor did any Councillor ask, there are significant issues that the GERAID objectors should be aware of.  These issues are

  • Council is no longer the adjudicating authority and hence Council’s role is now that of determining the conditions (ie. modifications) required to be applied to the permit application to make it compliant with the Planning Scheme and therefore acceptable to Council.  As per VCAT’s practice notes (ie. not a legally enforceable obligation) Council should notify the residents of these conditions with 7 days of the VCAT hearing.
  • While practice notes provide guidelines re the minimum requirements for keeping objectors informed, no upper limitations are placed on information provided to residents.  Since no limitations are placed on Council and the Developer continuing to negotiate “acceptable” conditions, it is important that residents maintain Council/Councillor contact to ensure they have sufficient time to fully gauge the implications of the each condition and avoid receiving all at once with limited time to review.

Such implications should be noted by GERAID members and objectors to the development.  All objectors should be actively requesting all Councillors to be aware of decisions made, or conditions agreed to, by Planning Officers and accordingly inform the resident objectors.  Councillor involvement in the process should not stop after a formal decision has been made – Councillors should be monitoring subsequent events and appropriately informing residents.  This is the proof that should be in the pudding.

GERA continues to support the objectors and wishes them well in  their  “tone it down”  quest – both for themselves and future development residents.

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ALMA CLUB DEVELOPMENT – MOOT COUNCIL DECISION (PART 2)

This posting, which focuses on the Alma Club Development’s Traffic and Parking analysis, is a continuation from our previous posting entitled “Alma Club Development – Council Decision (Part 1)”.

As previously mentioned Cr. M. Lipshutz was the only Councillor who mentioned the Traffic and Parking impacts of the development. Cr. Lipshutz commented that every development will bring about increased traffic and on street parking demand and therefore these should not be considered issues. While residents accept that the Alma Club site will be developed and that increased traffic and parking will result, the size of the proposed development combined with the site’s the limited vehicular access, will result in significant traffic congestion and on street parking demand which will have a major adverse impact on residential amenity and safety. Unfortunately, Cr. Lipshutz’s comment and the “Car Parking and Traffic” analysis included in the Officer’s Report, does little to assure residents that their concerns are being given due consideration and/or will be addressed in the future.

Map

TRAFFIC

Council’s traffic analysis included in the Officer’s Report, is as follows (Council Meeting Minutes 2/7/2013 – page 499)

“In relation to traffic, the expected traffic generation can be considered in the context of the traffic generated by the Alma Club (when it was operational). Therefore,whilst there will be a noticeable increase in traffic during residential peak times (ie weekday mornings), there will also likely be less traffic at other times when the Alma Club would have generated traffic, such as weekends. Furthermore, Council’s Transport Planning Department is satisfied Wilks Street can accommodate the traffic generated by the development. On balance it is considered an increase in traffic movements within Wilks Street as a result of this development is not unreasonable”.

After reading the above and the ”Transport Impact Assessment” prepared on behalf of the developer by GTA consultants, residents asked the following public question and received the following response (Council Meeting Minutes 2/7/2013 – page 566)

“ Council Meeting agenda item 9.1 “Officers Reports – 1 Wilks Street, Caulfield North”, under the heading “Car Parking and Traffic”, the following statement, which relates to an estimated 450-500 vehicle movements per day generated by the proposed development, is included:

“In relation to traffic, the expected traffic generation can be considered in the context of the traffic generated by the Alma Club (when it was operational). Therefore, whilst there will be a noticeable increase in traffic during residential peak times (ie weekday mornings), there will also likely be less traffic at other times when the Alma Club would have generated traffic, such as weekends”.

Since this statement is contrary to the experiences of long term Wilks Street residents, could Council please advise the date and data of the traffic analysis Council undertook to substantiate this statement.”

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

“Traffic engineering advice submitted with the application and verified by Council’s traffic engineers is that Wilks Street carries approximately 250 vehicles per day. The counts were undertaken in December 2012. Wilks Street is a local street. The State Government’s ResCode stipulates that ideally local streets should not exceed 3000 vehicles per day.”

In the absence of information from a Council undertaken traffic analysis (and the above response raises serious doubts about Council undertaking its own analysis), it is necessary to revert to the developer provided traffic analysis. This analysis was undertaken on Tuesday, 4th December, 2012 during the morning (7.30-9.15 a.m.) and afternoon (4.30 – 6.30 p.m.) peak periods and yielded the following results

• AM 2 Hour Peak Period (actual vehicles)

o 10 vehicles turning into Wilks Street from Alma Road (4 left, 6 right)
o 9 vehicles accessing Alma Road from Wilks Street (3 left, 6 right)

• PM 2 Hour Peak Period (actual vehicles)

o 14 vehicles turning to Wilks Street from Alma Road (7 left, 7 right)
o 9 vehicles accessing Alma Road from Wilks Street (4 left, 5 right)

• Based on traffic stream gaps along Alma Road additional vehicle turning access to/from Wilks Street per hour during morning and afternoon peak periods is

o Left turn from Wilks Street into Alma Road – 867 per hour
o Right turn from Wilks Street into Alma Road – 324 per hour
o Right turn from Alma Road into Wilks Street – 860 per hour

Please note the above turning estimates are per hour vs. the 2 hour period for the current actual vehicle turns.

• Based on peak hour traffic turn counts undertaken by the developer’s consultants and assuming a peak to daily ration of 10% the consultant extrapolates that Wilks Street carries approximately 250 vehicles per day.

Unfortunately neither the residents mathematical prowess nor their long term experience support the 250 continuous daily vehicle flow even when the Alma Club was fully “operational”.

To support their experience residents point to the following Alma Club facts

o In its “heyday” the Alma Club had approximately 500 members (predominantly locals) with most locals preferring to walk rather than drive.
o Squash (2 courts) and Tennis (4 courts) are predominantly individual, not team, sports which do not generate large numbers of spectators
o Bowls (1 artificial lawn area) although a competitive team sport (team numbers are less than a footy team), team members favour carpooling and the sport does not generate large numbers of spectators. As mentioned in our earlier post, residents report the only time traffic volumes in Wilks Street resulted in vehicle banking was on the opening and closing days of the lawn bowls season. Since these were timed events (arrival and departure) this vehicle banking was not a significant disruption.
o The relatively small function centre was primarily used for largish family gatherings (50th Anniversary, 21st Birthday, Small Business functions etc.) and again did not serve large numbers.
o The Alma Club provided adequate off street car parking facilities (52 car parking spaces)

• Contrary to the Planning Conference daily traffic volume estimate (450-500 vehicles per day on completion), the Traffic Impact Assessment indicates the following traffic volumes in Wilks Street

o Existing Average Weekday Daily Flows – 250 vpd (vehicles per day)
o Proposed Development Weekday Daily Flows – 420 vpd
o Post Development Weekday Daily Flows – 670 vpd

It should be noted that the 420 vpd Proposed Development Weekday Flow will comprise many heavy vehicle movements (earthmoving equipment and trucks, cranes, building material deliveries).

Given

  • the traffic volumes included in the developer’s “Traffic Impact Assessment”,
  • Council’s acceptance of the Assessment and the lack of information provided on any assessment undertaken by Council (which should have include planning permits issued, but yet to be completed or granted extensions, which will create additional traffic volumes demand in an already high demand area)
  • the lack of grounds for Council’s assessment that “whilst there will be a noticeable increase in traffic during residential peak times (ie weekday mornings), there will also likely be less traffic at other times when the Alma Club would have generated traffic, such as weekend”
  • the rat run conditions in Norwood Road arising from residents of the Dandenong Road (south side) multi-unit developments using Norwood Road to access their property.

it is understandable that residents of Wilks Streets and the surrounding streets, are concerned that their issues re development traffic are not being given appropriate consideration and that Council, if VCAT approves the development, will endeavour to ensure the adverse impact from traffic is minimised.

PARKING

Clause 52.06, relates to the statutory provisions for the car parking design and number of spaces to be provided. This clause, in line with Rescode (the minimal parking requirements as prescribed in the State Government issued Residential Code), states that the following minimum car spaces required to be provided for a residential development are

o 1 space per 1 bedroom dwelling (18 dwellings)
o 1 space per 2 bedroom dwelling (37 dwellings)
o 2 spaces per 3+ bedroom dwellings (20 dwellings)
o 1 visitor space for every 5 dwelling

Under this Clause, a minimum of 95 residential and 15 visitor off-street car parking spaces are required to be provided for the proposed 75 dwelling development. Yet the developer is seeking a waiver in the provision of on-site visitor car parking – from 15 spaces to 4 – a reduction of 9 spaces. The Planning Scheme enables car parking requirements to be reduced (to zero, if deemed appropriate) or applied to another site (eg. on-street) if the following is considered as justified following a parking demand assessment of

o “The car parking demand likely to be generated by the site
o Whether it is appropriate to allow fewer spaces to be provided than the number likely to be generated by the site use”

These somewhat nebulous statements become marginally less nebulous in Clause 52.06-6 which requires the following factors to be considered in the parking demand assessment

o “Multi purpose trips within an area
o The variation of car parking demand over time
o The short term and long term stay car parking demand
o The availability of public transport in the locality
o The convenience of pedestrian and cyclist access to the site
o The provision of bicycle parking and end of trip facilities for cyclists
o The anticipated car ownership rate of likely or proposed occupants, residents or employees.” …
o “The availability of car parking including – On street parking in residential zones for residential use”

Few would disagree with the developer’s consultant statement that, in assessing the above factors to determine parking demand, “ït is difficult to use the above factors individually in a definitive quantitative manner to establish the likely demand”.   However, we suspect that few would agree with the developer’s consultant’s conclusion that “an empirical assessment based on unspecified surveys of unnamed sites with similar characteristics … allows a better quantitative assessment to be made.”   Using the “empirical assessment” approach has enabled the consultant “to determine a peak residential visitor car parking demand of 11 spaces … demand estimated to occur during the weekday and weekend day/evening period … with a peak demand of 6 spaces estimated during daytime periods.”

The consultant also adds that any visitor car parking requirements, in excess of the 4 proposed visitor spaces, could be provided on-street since it complies with Clause 52.06-6 as it would be in a “residential zone for residential use”.   In determining the availability of on street parking the developer’s consultant undertook an on street parking assessment of Wilks Street, Alma Road and Norwood Road on

o Tuesday 4th December, 2012 at 8.00 pm
o Saturday, 8th December, 2012 at 12.00 noon and 8.00 pm.

This survey indicates a total of  50 on street parking vacancies identified with 22 vacancies being in Wilks Street – a dead-end street.   No mention is made that 28 vacancies identified in Alma and Norwood Roads reflects the high demand for on street parking currently experienced in these surrounding streets.

Additionally, the consultant’s report mentions that “one additional on-street car parking space is to be gained through the removal of the existing crossover to the Alma Bowls car park”.   However, no mention is made of the 4 on street car parking spaces, currently located at the end of Wilks Street, which will be removed and replaced within the site as visitors car parking.

As with the above outline of the traffic issues opponents to the Alma Club Development, raise the following issues regarding on street car parking.

• Council has accepted the developer’s request for a reduction in car parking requirements – the conditions attached to the permit provides for 10 visitor spaces. In the absence of any information on Council’s own survey, by doing so Council has

o not taken into account planning permits issued but yet to be completed or granted extensions, which will create additional parking demand in an already high demand area.
o not taken into account that the development is not located near a transport hub with interconnecting public transport services (buses, trams, trains) that access broad areas of metropolitan Melbourne even though numerous studies indicate this is a requirement for intense residential developments. The development is near a tramline servicing the CBD and two bus lines (three if the Nightrider Service is included)
o Accepted a provision for 25 bicycle parking spaces that are to be included in the basement (17 residential spaces) and on the ground level within the “linear park” (8 visitor spaces) yet these spaces are not included on the development plans distributed at the Planning Conference.
o yet to implement the residential parking permit scheme for local streets impacted by the development during construction and post completion.
o Accepted empirical evidence from the developer’s consultant with regards traffic and parking but has yet to acknowledge the empirical evidence offered by the residents. With regards to on site car parking, residents advise that the 52 on-site spaces (even on the busiest days (opening and closing of the bowls season) was adequate for the Club’s needs.

• While Council’s requirement for the developer to notify potential development residents, and post appropriate signage on the property, regarding the developments exclusion from the residential parking permit scheme is worthwhile, it should be noted that it is a requirement that is unenforceable by Council and has been ruled ruled as beyond the scope of planning law/rules.

As with the Traffic issues outlined above, objectors to the development hope that prior to the VCAT hearing (end September, 2013) Council, the Developer and Residents continue to discuss the issues raised by the residents and that a consensus comprise can be reached.