On Tuesday 25/07/2017 GERA advised readers of Council’s decision
- to re-zone 88-100 McKinnon Road, McKinnon from Industrial to the General Residential Zone, Schedule 2 (GRZ2) and
- not to apply the residents requested Design and Development (DDO) and Neighbourhood Character (NCO) Overlays to the sizeable site. (refer earlier posting – What the Residents Want)
This decision was passed unanimously. After listening to the decision rationale presented by Councillors and the Director of Planning, residents, “battered and dismayed” by a poorly handled amendment process (refer earlier posting – Planning and Governance), are now also “reeling”. They are seriously questioning Councillors understanding of planning issues and the relevance of overlay concepts being presented in the current of major activity centre review to significant developments in the yet to be reviewed Neighbourhood Activity centres.
Before outlining comments made by Councillors during the McKinnon Village agenda item, it’s worth mentioning that
- Glen Eira’s current Planning Scheme review was directed by the Minister for Planning. Council’s requested extension for an exemption from community consultation was replaced with a requirement for Council to undertake a review of it’s planning scheme. The review goal being to bring the GE’s Planning Scheme into line with contemporary planning principles, concepts and tools (eg. structure planning and overlays).
- The major impact of the 2013 Zone Implementation was the introduction of height controls for 3 of the residential zones. Other aspects of development (eg. built form, siting, neighbourhood characteristics, parking etc) largely remained unchanged in existing policies and strategies. Included in the Zone Implementation was a discussion paper which recognised that Council’s policies and strategies were not effective.
The McKinnon Village discussion came immediately after Council’s discussion and unanimous adoption of Council’s “Activity Centre, Housing and Local Employment Strategy” which is applicable to Glen Eira’s 18 Activity Centres (including the McKinnon Neighbourhood Activity Centre- NAC). Comments and praise for the work undertaken and presented Strategy, included
- Council is embarking on a journey of how the Municipality will look and feel in the future
- the strategy seeks a new direction, builds a stronger community
- the strategy sets up the framework for all future activity centre development
Despite the above Strategy including vision statements of
- for the GRZ (“Family Town houses are noted as the highest focus development type in residential areas of neighbourhood centres” – page 9) and
- a specific vision statement for development of the McKinnon Village NAC (“That McKinnon will be an accessible centre with a strong village feel, which recognises and celebrates its heritage, art and local history” – page 16)
when it came to the re-zoning of 88-100 McKinnon discussion comments inexplicably reverted to the current planning scheme and it’s provisions. No mention was made of strategy, how best to achieve these visions (as per the Concept Plans) nor was any mention made of the impact a site of this size (3,691 sqm) and location (extreme western edge of the activity centre) could have on achieving on these visions.
Summarised Councillor comments (followed by residents comments) included
- Re-zoning for residential development is better than re- development as industrial – possibly, however, no proposal was put forward for redevelopment as an industrial site – the pro’s and con’s are unknown.
- The resident requests for a DDO and NCO are not necessary. Existing controls in the Planning Scheme and ResCode are sufficient to preserve and protect neighbourhood amenity and character. Council’s existing Activity Centre and Housing Diversity Strategies do not include statements on Neighbourhood Character other than to say it is “emerging”. The Concept Plan documentation recommends the use of overlays to describe preferred character, development scale, design requirements and setbacks.
- The GRZ is working, the additional controls of DDO and NCO are not required. The stated intention of the GRZ is to provide “diversity of housing that is consistent with existing neighbourhood character.” Neither diversity of housing type (ie. townhouse vs. multi-unit dwellings or single, couple, family accommodations) is occurring nor are features consistent with existing neighbourhood character being incorporated. The zone is not working, why not capitalise on that work undertaken for the major activity centres by applying it to proximate Neighbourhood Centres when re-zoning opportunities arise, particularly when those with sensitive interfaces/issues.
- The appropriate time to discuss built form is during the planning permit approval process when the proposed built form is shown in detailed plans. Since no planning permit application has been received, it is not appropriate to discuss them at the proposed Amendment stage. The Planning Scheme basically defines what can be built where – the zones provide the height and overlays are the appropriate tool to set the built form design and characteristic requirements for specific locations (refer earlier reference to Concept Plan documentation). The inclusion of overlays ensures
- requirements are defined upfront and are incorporated in a planning permit application
- the achievement of desired outcomes and streamlines the permit approval process.
- Arguments presented to codify protections and requirements in a DDO and NCO are strong and they should be there, however, they are costly, risky and would involve restarting the process all over again. On balance I trust our planning experts. Acknowledgement of strong arguments outweighed by
- Costly – expenditure of residents funds to ensure planning scheme contains appropriate controls (eg. overlays that are in line with the zone’s intention, the newly approved strategy and the community’s views) is fundamental to Council’s role as the Local Planning Authority.
- Risky – no detailed explanation was provided. Comments of overlays being “not binding” left residents wondering.
- The original application included a DDO that addressed the significant built form issue of height limits
- Interim DDOs have been applied to the Carnegie and Bentleigh Activity Centres
- DDO’s are recommended, by an independent consultant, in the Concept Plans.
- Restarting/delaying the process – no explanation was provided as to why a restart would be required. Residents also do not believe that avoiding further delay justifies excluding the proposed of overlays. They also point to 3 months attributable to Council’s decision to request Planning Panel review.
- Council’s consultative process had been beyond the legal requirements … the next step in the process is to forward the amendment to the Minister for approval. Council consulted with residents on the initial MUZ and DDO proposal – a consultation that was later described as “testing the waters”. Council’s proposal to rezone site as GRZ2 was not discussed with residents prior to the Council Meeting of 21/3/2017. At this same meeting Council’s decision to abandon the MUZ and DDO was, by virtue of the inclusion of referral to a Planning Panel, meant that the MUZ and DDO remained on the table for Panel’s review and that residents only consultation on GRZ2 was with the Panel and not Council – Panel Hearing rules restricted questioning of presenters to Panel Members. Residents were also made, that Council had been advised by the Minister’s Office, that since GRZ2 was considered a more restrictive rezoning, further community consultation was not required.
Council has yet to consult with residents on the General Residential Zone and consultation is unlikely to occur. While satisfying the planning laws consultation requirements, resident believe it falls short of the representative and consultative obligations outlined in the Local Government Act and Council’s proclamations of being representative and actively encouraging community engagement.
- Council apologised for initial communications which lacked transparency and showed a need for improvement. Overall it was a good process and resident participation showed that the process worked. Residents were thanked for their participation and encouraged to continue to engage with Council. Hence the earlier comments that residents are now reeling and questioning.
End Result – The Residents View
Throughout the 9 months of communications with Council, the overall feeling amongst residents is one of dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction with Council’s
- performance as the Local Planning Authority
- performance as a consultative and representative Local Authority and
- non transparent selection of available options within the Planning Law.
While GERA has shown, and will show, support for Council initiatives and community engagements, GERA does so on a case by case basis. In this case GERA’s assessment agrees with that of the resident’s.
- 19/9/2016 – Council decision to prepare Amendment
- 14/11/2016 – Amendment Exhibited. The developer initiated proposal related to rezoning industrial land to an inappropriate zone (MUZ) and an inappropriate DDO height limit (4 stories). The proposal included misleading statements and was inconsistent with both the Planning Scheme and contemporary planning concepts. 180+ planning objections were lodged – over 90% requesting that the amendment be abandoned and residents be allowed input into the rezoning decision.
- 23/2/17 – Planning Conference attended by 30+ objectors arguing for abandonment of the proposal and input into the re-zoning decision.
- 21/3/2017 – Council voted to abandon the amendment, endorse the General Residential Zoning and refer to Planning Panel. Residents were not advised of the alternate zoning proposal, and although aware of the implications of referral to a Panel, no Councillor mentioned them. The implications being
- The abandoned proposal remained on the table for Panel Review, and
- Since GRZ rezoning was seen as “more restrictive” there was no legal requirement to undertake community consultation before applying the zoning.
- 25/5/2017 Planning Panel Hearing – 11 attendees). Initial MUZ and DDO amendment inappropriately described “testing the waters” and Council endorsed the GRZ rezoning.
- 20/6/17 Planning Panel Report and recommendation for GRZ2 rezoning made available to residents.
- 25/7/2017 – Council Decision