Readers may or may not be aware of the spike in multi-unit, 3 & 4 storey planning applications in the areas designated as growth zones* (ie. former Housing Diversity Areas). GERA’s previous postings (“Enough is Enough” Part 1 and Part 2) highlighted residents’ concerns re developments in Mavho and Loranne Streets in Bentleigh. GERA is now receiving requests for objection preparation assistance from growth zone residents in all suburbs within the municipality. In all cases the development is seeking the maximum building envelope allowable (i.e. height, site coverage) with little regard for neighbourhood character. Growth zone residents are becoming increasingly vocal in their criticisms of Council’s zone implementation (lack of consultation and information) and Councillors’ responses to their concerns related to specific planning permit applications.
Compared to the outcry occurring in the growth zones, the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (ie. NRZ1 – the former Minimal Change Areas or Residential 1 zone) has remained relatively quiet. However, that may change as NRZ residents begin to question the “certainty” and “protection” included in the Media Releases issued by the State Government’s Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) and Glen Eira Council
- Minister for Planning – 5/8/2013
“The Neighborhood Residential Zone will apply to nearly 80% of residential zoned land in the City of Glen Eira. These areas will be protected from apartment and unit style development with a maximum of only two homes permitted per lot with a two storey (eight metre) height limit.”
- Glen Eira Council – 5/8/2013
“In the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, in addition to the new maximum 2 storey height limit, neighbourhood character will be further protected by a limit of not more than two dwellings per lot, site coverage limited to 50%, porous area to be at least 25%, private open space to be at least 60 square metres and a rear set back of at least 4 metres. This will allow more room for canopy trees and less run off into storm water.”
Both media releases omitted to mention the impact of subdivision although that impact was known to both parties prior to zone implementation. As per the following notes of meetings between the DPCD and Council
- April, 2013 – (Glen Eira Council Director of Planning Akehurst named, other GEC attendees names redacted) – “subdivision may be a work around in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone to allow more than 2 dwellings on a lot”
- July 2013 – (Glen Eira Council Attendees – CEO Newton, Director of Planning Akehurst and then Mayor Jamie Hyams) – “Council believe that subdivision prior to unit development is the way around the maximum 2 dwelling within the NRZ”.
Use of subdivision is a legitimate and accepted means of dividing a one lot into 2 or more smaller lots for purposes of sale or development. While residents of middle ring suburbs may be accustomed to subdivision occurring post construction (ie. creation of strata tiles for multi-unit, multi-storey developments), it may also occur prior to construction (eg. for financing or other purposes) to increase a lots dwelling yield.
To achieve the levels of “certainty” and “protection” outlined in the Media Releases, Glen Eira’s zone implementation should have not only included height limits and the maximum no. of dwellings per lot in the mandatory zone definition but also minimum lot size. Many other Councils have specified a minimum lot size or a minimum lot size range (eg. 250 – 400 sqm). However, rather than specifying a minimum lot size Glen Eira has retained the previously existing criteria – if a lot size is larger than average (average determined as being the average lot size of the immediate surrounding properties). While this may have been effective in past, is expected to become much less effective in the future as more and more “immediate surrounding properties” are subdivided. The Financial Review recently (5/9/2014) published an article entitled “Property Strategy: Subdivide and Conquer” on this issue.
In addition, to the known subdivision issue, Council’s implementation of the zones overlooked the implications for large lots (a.k.a “super lots”, lots equal to or greater than 2000 sqm). To overcome this oversight, in December, 2013, Councillors unanimously approved preparation of Planning Scheme Amendment C115 for large lots within the Neighbourhood Residential Zone. This amendment would have introduced a minimum lot size of 400 sqm for the 104 properties** within the NRZ that are greater than 2000 sqm. (Some of these lots are 8000 sqm). As stated in the report recommending preparation of the C115 Amendment, the amendment was proposed in response to pressures from developers and the realization that rather than subdivide, the developers preferred to seek spot Ministerial intervention to re-zone the super lots to General Residential Zone (3 storey, multi-unit developments). Such an intervention having been achieved by the developer of the Alma Club (7,100 sqm) which Council acknowledges as not noticed prior to the zone implementation.
To avoid spot interventions (ie. retain a level of “certainty” and “protection”) and thus ensure large lot developments in keeping with the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, GERA supported preparation of Amendment C115. GERA believed the introduction of minimum lots sizes
- was a reasonable solution to Council failing to recognise the 2 dwelling per lot issue for large lots prior to zone implementation. GERA doubts any resident would agree that “super lots” should be constrained to the 2 dwelling ruling.
- may set a minimum lot size precedent for the NRZ which would be applied to all subdivisions in that zone. Within the NRZ there are many, many existing lots in the 800 – 1999 sqm range that are may be subdivided to increase their dwelling yield.
Since Amendment C115 has not been submitted for community consultation, a public question on it’s progress was asked at the 12/08/2013 Council Meeting
“In December last year, Council resolved to seek Ministerial approval to exhibit Amendment C115. Why has there been no reference to this in Council’s Quarterly Reports and what is the current position of this Amendment?”
“Amendment C115 concerns large lots (greater than 2,000m2) located within the Neighbourhood Residential Zone. The aim of the amendment is to increase the number of dwellings beyond 2 which would be the maximum number for a large lot zoned Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ). Council cannot exhibit the amendment until authorisation is obtained from the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure (Minister).
Authorisation has to date not been forthcoming on the basis that each large lot should have a stipulation as to how many dwellings will be allowed. This approach is not supported by Council officers as it would prejudge a dwelling yield in the absence of a specific development plan.”
The above response, indicates that
- The authorisation to prepare Amendment C115 for ministerial approval to submit for consultation was undertaken without advice from the Minister. Council officers and the Minister disagree on the solution and the Amendment has stalled. No advice was given on the pro’s and con’s of either solution.
- Council’s preferred approach is for the developer to prepare a subdivision plan for each of the “super lots” as and when development is imminent.
- Subdivision prior to development remains a “way around the maximum 2 dwelling within the NRZ” regardless of the size of the lot.
At the last Council Meeting (02/09/2014) a subdivision plan, combined with building envelopes, was approved for the “super lot” located at 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena (3,142 sqm).
Readers may remember that GERA lobbied Council, in December, 2012, to acquire this a cleared lot, adjacent to the existing the Riley Reserve, which would have substantially increased (60%) Riley Reserve and increased Glen Eira’s very limited parkland.
Unfortunately, although a unique opportunity, Council did not acquire the property either in 2012 when it was sold to a developer ($2.7m) or in 2013, when it was on-sold for development (amount unknown). A previously VCAT issued planning permit for the site (“three (3) storey apartment building containing 28 dwellings above basement parking”) had lapsed prior to the 2012 sale and a “new” planning permit application had not been submitted prior the 2013 sale.
As previously mentioned, at it’s last meeting (02/09/2014) Council approved a planning permit application (No. GE/PP-26552/2014) for 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena. The permit comprised
- A 7 lot subdivision of the site and
- Planning approval of “building envelopes” (i.e. high level plans) for 7 two storey residences (one per subdivided lot).
The Officer’s Report reports the application “yields a density of approximately 1 dwelling per 448 square metres of site area”. However, residents should not confuse density yield with lot sizes. The density yield of 448 sqm is the result of a dividing the total lot size (given in the Report as 3138 sqm) with the number of dwellings. The actual lot sizes are much smaller than the density yield.
The lot sizes are
- Lot 1 is 304 square metres
- Lots 2-7 (inclusive) range in size from 199 square metres to 238 square metres
The lots design (their location around the site perimeters abutting residential properties and the railway line) and their sizes being in line with the “constraints presented by the site”. The constraints being the provision of pedestrian and vehicular access to the lots (to and from Neerim Road) and “significant trees located on the site”. Both the access to/from Neerim Road and the significant trees will be considered as located on “common property”
The Officers Report states that “The application is not a development application for multi-dwellings. The subdivision includes building envelopes for seven (7) future double storey dwellings”. However, GERA is struggling to see why a subdivision plan for 7 lots and 7 building envelopes (which define building heights, foot prints and setbacks) should not be considered as a development application for multi-unit dwellings. Residents future rights to lodge objections as more detailed plans become available may be curtailed (as with the Caulfield Village Development) because building heights, footprints and setbacks have already been approved.
As previously mentioned GERA believes NRZ residents will soon be questioning
- the levels of “certainty” and “protection” the zoning provides, particularly with regards the known subdivision issue,
- a potential minimum lot size precedent being set by the 497 Neerim Road permit approval. With a 200 sqm lot size, it is possible to design a 2 storey single residence that satisfies the NRZ1 requirements for private open space, set backs, permeable surfaces etc. In terms of a “super lot”, vehicle and pedestrian access provisions will primarily determine how many 200 sqm lots with 2 storey residences can be accommodated on the site. In terms of a medium lot of, say, 1000 sqm, subdivision (even allowing for provision of vehicle and pedestrian access) may will yield 4 individual strata title 2 storey dwellings where one previously existed.+
- their rights to object to developments when building heights, footprints and setbacks have previously been approved. Regardless of what it is called (eg “Incorporated Plan” or a “Building Envelope”), if followed by a more detailed plans (eg. ”Development Plan”) as the objectors to the Caulfield Village/C60 Development Plans were informed
“It is important to note that submission comments regarding the building heights, building footprints and/or setbacks cannot be taken into consideration by Council. This is because these were determined during the Amendment C60 process and cannot be altered as part of the Development Plan Assessment”++
* Growth Zones and Heights – refer are earlier post for brief details on permissible uses and detailed zone maps
RGZ Residential Growth Zone – Height Limit 13.5m (4 stories)
GRZ General Residential Zone – Height Limit 10.5m (3 stories)
** “Super lots” – The Officers Report did not include any details (eg. ownership, location, size) of the 104 “super lots”, nor did the Report indicate if Council was considering lodging a Parkland Acquisition Overlay on any or each of the properties.
Errata – 24/9/2014
+ and ++ = clarification added to initial posting as requested by residents