GERA has been assisting the Save McKinnon Village folks with their campaign opposing the proposed rezoning of 88-100 McKinnon Road, McKinnon (Cnr. McKinnon and Wheatley Roads) from industrial to Mixed Use (with a 4 storey height limit). GERA has also acknowledged that the recent election of 5 new Councillors had brought about welcome changes to Council’s approach to community consultation and re-assessing previous planning proposals.
However, information presented at the recent Planning Panel Hearing and subsequent communications with Council, both GERA and the McKinnon Village Residents are seriously questioning the extent to which Council has and is
- Undertaking it’s role as the Local Planning Authority, and
- Being open and transparent when communicating with residents, and
- Being representative of the community’s expressed views.
While we highlight the above points in sections, please note that strands all of the each of points are common to each section of this posting.
Local Planning Authority
Council is the Local Planning Authority, it is responsible for preparing and maintaining (via Amendments) Glen Eira’s Planning Scheme in consultation with the community and in accordance with State Government Planning Framework. The Amendment process is a lengthy well documented process, that bascially involves Council, in consultation with the community, preparing and strategically justifying (ie evaluating) changes to the Planning Scheme which are then submitted to the Planning Minister for approval. Once approved, the Amendments are incorporated in the Planning Scheme which determines what can be built where. VCAT is not involved in the Planning Scheme processes – it is involved with the Planning Permit approval process which assesses development proposals compliance with the Planning Scheme.
In the case of the Amendment C143, when advertised, residents approached Council (29/11/16) express concerns re Council’s evaluation of the proposal, quality of communications with residents and request that the amendment be withdrawn. Residents were advised that the decision to proceed with the Amendment was made by the previous Council and now had to run its course.
As a result, Council received 182 written objection submissions (vs. 4 supporting submissions) and 30 Planning Conference presentations. All argued that the proposed amendment was inappropriate in that it
- lacked any analysis of potential zoning options
- was inconsistent with the Planning Scheme rezoning and height transition clauses
- lacked adequate strategic justification
8 of the 9 Councillors agreed and voted, against the Officer’s Recommendation, to abandon the Amendment (21/3). In dissent, Cr. Tony Anthanopolous argued that, given the status of Council’s current planning scheme review and structure planning exercise, it was inappropriate to implement zoning changes at this stage.
The motion passed by Council was
- notes the submissions received;
- abandons the proposed Mixed use Zone and Design and Development Overlay.
- endorses a General Residential Zone (Schedule 2) and an Environmental Audit Overlay; and
- refers submissions and the General Residential Zone (Schedule 2) and an Environmental Audit Overlay to an independent panel in accordance with Section 23 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
Although surprised that the Amendment was to be referred to a Planning Panel (a time consuming step usually reserved for contentious issues), residents fully expected that the Mixed Use Zone and Design and Development Overlay had indeed been abandoned and that following the Panel Hearing, Council would undertake consultation on potential zoning options, including GRZ2 – GRZ2 being an alternative that had not been discussed with residents.
Fast forward to the Panel Hearing and the significance of the inclusion of the last two points in the motion (moved by Cr. Hyams and seconded by Cr. Magee) became apparent
- the Mixed Use Zone and Design and Development Overlay were not abandoned, they remained on the table and were subject to Planning Panel review. If the Panel considered Council’s Council’s decision was found to be “popularist”, the Panel could recommend that the Amendment be adopted.
At the Hearing Council stated “The Council resolution to exhibit the amendment was not an endorsement of the amendment but a willingness to “test the waters” by putting it out for public comment. A statement which leaves residents questioning Council’s performance as a planning authority when
-having assessed the Developer’s requested proposal against the planning scheme, Council did not reject the proposal and propose an alternate re-zoning, and
– a resolution to amend the planning scheme (a lengthy and expensive process) is not seen as an endorsement but rather a “testing of the waters”.
- Since GRZ2 is considered more restrictive than the initially proposed MUZ and DDO, as per the 1987 Planning and Environment Act, there is no legal requirement to undertake any community consultation on GRZ2 zoning.
Residents have not argued against redevelopment of the site. Instead, they consistently argued that the MUZ rezoning and DDO were inappropriate and for community input in the rezoning decision. Council has not yet discussed GRZ2 re-zoning with residents. While residents presented to the Planning Panel, residents do not believe that constitutes, or should be a substitute for community consultation with Council. To support this,
– Confusion with Communications – Notice of Hearing (dated 27/3) stated it to review the MUZ and DDO vs Council resolution letter (dated 4/4) quoting the above motion to abandon. Many residents have reported by did not attend the hearing as they believe the Hearing Notice’s reference was in error as Council had advised the Amendment had been abandoned
– Panel Hearing Rules of Conduct allowed for presentation only. Questioning of information presented was not permitted either directly or “through the Chair”
– The Panel Report makes no mention of the residents’ request to recommend Council include Design and Development (DDO) and Neighbourhood Character (NCO) overlays in the amendment.
And the big question now is will Council undertake community consultation on GRZ2 rezoning (including overlays) – particularly as these waters have not been tested. “Between the lines” reading of Council’s subsequent communications leaves residents to believe no further community consultation will occur.
Open and Transparent Communication
At their initial (29/11) meeting with Council residents requested 3 things – the first two being to abandon the amendment and allow community input into the rezoning decision. The third being a request for Council to present comprehensive and understandable information to residents. Understanding the complexities of the outdated, frequently ambiguous and conflicting clauses of the Planning Scheme is difficult – the inclusion of “planning speak” only adds to the difficulty. Council agreed.
Items to note are
- At the 21/3 Council Meeting all 9 Councillors were present and spoke to this item. However, no Councillor while voting for the above motion, spoke to or explained the implications of the motion’s last two points.
- When residents were made aware of that the Mixed Use Zone and DDO6 had not been abandoned (as abandoned is generally understood) they individually contacted (email) all 9 Councillors. Only 3 responded – two expressing surprise and follow-up, third acknowledging that Councillors were aware of this prior to voting. Were Councillors aware of these ramifications when they voted? and Why weren’t they discussed – both are questions currently being raised by residents.
- An earlier GERA posting made comment of road works planned (tenders were sought in January) for the intersection of McKinnon and Wheatley Roads. However, at the Planning Panel Hearing Council, despite was tenders being sought in Jan, 2017 was unable to present current traffic data. Traffic analysis provided related to 2014 data for the Wheatley Road and Fitzroy Street intersection, incremented by 2% pa. Residents are wondering how Council prioritizes it road works and how can expensive road works be justified without undertaking traffic analysis
Local Government (vs. State or Federal) is said to be the level of government that is the closest and most responsive and representative of those it represents.
Items to note are
- Number of objections submitted and attendees at the Planning Conference clearly expressed their wishes – no MUZ & DDO and input into zone determination.
- Consultation may not be legally required by Planning Act, however, the Act doesn’t prohibit it. Council also has a legal responsibility to represent the residents and good governance principles reinforces the representation.
As per the 2016 Community Satisfaction Survey and a recent Independent Survey, Glen Eira Council has a poor track record in
- Community consultation and engagement
- Town planning
- Traffic Management
Unfortunately, particularly with regards to Amendment C143, both Councillors and the Administration are not meeting residents expectations.
Meanwhile the Save McKinnon Village folk, although suffering from objection fatigue, are striving for overlays to be applied to site to ensure that the outcome that in line with character of the McKinnon Village.