Tuesday 15 August

2016-10-15 11.39.46

Image: Rose Iser

Today I attended the Directions Hearing for the Flemington housing estate redevelopment, along with DHHS, MVCC, DELWP, residents from the estate, the Flemington Association and the VPTA.

The hearings will go for seven days from 11 Sept through until 21 Sept.

Planning Panels received 193 submissions. The Standing Committee must consider all relevant submissions before writing their report for the Planning and Housing Ministers.

35 submitters indicated they wished to be heard at the hearings – including 27 individuals. A timetable will be available online soon.

The DHHS will be required to circulate expert evidence by 4 September – and this will be made available online.

The submissions will not be made available online to protect the personal information of submitters.  All submissions can be viewed in person at Planning Panels Victoria. MVCC and DHHS also have copies of all submissions.

Residents from the estate who wish to present at the hearings will do so on Tuesday 19 September at the Flemington Community Centre.  If interpreters are needed, please advise the panel asap.

Other individual presenters will be on Thursday 20 September at 1 Spring St.

Any submitters will be able to cross-examine the expert witnesses who will be called by DHHS and MVCC – including traffic, urban design, planning and possibly arborist (tree) experts.

MVCC will endorse (or amend) their final submission at next week’s Council meeting.

Tonight, there is a Public Forum at MVCC – at 6pm.  The blog will be there.

Public forum 6pm

The forum is about to kick off. Residents are here to speak about the Strathaird Street Children’s Playground and Reserve.

Crs Nation, Gauci Maurici, Byrne, Sharpe and Marshall are here – which is quorum, but a few missing. Cr Lawrence has walked in, but an apology from Mayor Surace. Cr Sipek has wandered in (with his shopping?!).  Cr Cusack looks to be absent. (He came in later.)

Cr Nation is standing in for the Mayor. He says there has been one request to make a presentation – Sharon Mumford on Strathaird Reserve.

Sharon says residents have been trying to understand the history of the area. She talks about the subject land in Strathaird Street being bought by the Country Roads Board in the 60s – for access to the airport.

Sharon says that her understanding is that the government can’t depart from gov’t processes for dealing with surplus land. She says the process is not very fair, but that the process is unlikely to change wrt a small piece of land in Strathmore.

She, and residents, would like Council to reconsider its decision not to purchase the land.

The Council Plan prioritises open space, she says.  Moonee Valley’s Open Space strategy also highlights the importance of open spaces – supporting rights of the child to green open spaces to play.

The MV Open Space Strategy highlights that more development will come to Strathmore – requiring more open space.  She shows the maps from the Open Space Strategy comparing Strathmore and Avondale Heights – highlighting the already existing disparity between open space in different areas in MV.

Sharon also refers to the strategy in the Council Plan that emphasises consultation – residents have not been consulted, she says. She says residents are none the wiser about any advocacy being taken.

Sharon points out that the ‘low priority’ in the Open Space Strategy was with respect to maintenance – not importance.

Sharon is concerned about the lack of communication and loss of green space.

The CEO says the Mayor has written to VicRoads and Ministers; have not yet received any responses; believes the sale process is currently on hold.

Council believes the land shouldn’t be sold. There are a number of other properties owned by the state gov’t in MV – won’t be the first piece of land. So it is “something we need to stand by”.  “The government shouldn’t be selling it.”

The Deputy Mayor asks about the developers’ open space contribution – and why this can’t be used. The CEO says there needs to be a nexus with the developments. There is an expectation that open space will be bought within the vicinity of developments.

Cr Marshall asks about the gap in the play space if Strathaid Reserve becomes housing.

An officer says if there is a gap or a requirement for play space, if housing is built on Strathaird Reserve, the playground could be located in Mascoma St.

Sharon says this is under the flight path – right near the runway; that it is steep and would not be able to have trees planted.

No other Councillors ask Sharon any questions.

Sharon has some questions, however. One question relates to part of Boeing Reserve, which is owned by the Dep’t of Education, and leased to Council. A clause in the lease allows the DET to occupy the land.  There is no guarantee, says the CEO. It is a valuable piece of land for Council.

The CEO is concerned that if Council starts buying the land, they will be expected to purchase more government land.

“The community getting behind Council would be a good way to start,” the CEO says.

Sharon asks why residents don’t know how many other green spaces in MV are owned by the state government – it makes it hard to understand Council’s position.

The CEO says Council does not know about all of the land – and who owns it. But that it gets updates every six months about gov’t land sales.

Sharon asks why MVCC can’t object to the sale on the basis of it being under a flight path? The CEO says the land is already sub-divided, so Council can’t intervene in planning decisions as it did for Mascoma Street. An officer says that the land would have an adverse amenity clause put on it.

Have we spoken to Essendon Airport, Cr Nation asks? There have apparently been some concerns expressed from the Airport about development on the Strathaird site, but this has not yet been forwarded to VicRoads.

Anna from Mascoma Street asks a question without notice. She says her concern has been one of lack of consultation. She says there are public documents that show a trail of Council’s communications about the sale of the land: a 2013 document – a strategy that mentions Strathaird Park as a place to be cared for. She says there have been several meetings where the playground has been discussed – all available online – including the Council resolution of September 2016.

She asks why the residents of Strathmore weren’t notified in September and May that Council was considering selling the land. Why has it been discussed without letting residents know?

She says the land is listed as being prepared for sale – but has been listed in Casey.

“Please explain why we haven’t been told?”

The Deputy Mayor says the process with VicRoads has been going for close to two years. He asks the CEO what the usual process for sale is, and for advising residents?

The CEO says that when VicRoads told Council it was considering selling the land, it was one of 11 parcels of land. The CEO says he wouldn’t want to be telling residents about the other 10. He says this is a job for VicRoads.

Cr Marshall says there is a policy gap that needs to be filled. She says she personally would like to see residents being notified early.

Anna says people have bought land in the timeframe that Council knew the land was potentially to be sold. She says the amenity and value of the neighbouring homes will be impaired and there is no compensation to the residents.

Cr Nation says he takes that on board – but that people have also purchased land under this process. “So I completely acknowledge that there may have been some people who purchased land (without knowledge of parkland being sold) …. but there are other people in the area who purchased their lots under this same process.”

Cr Sipek says that a s32 statement tells residents who owns neighbouring land (no it doesn’t!!)

Cr Marshall says that people would have assumed the land was owned by Council (there is a Council sign).

Cr Cusack says “a way forward” might be to consider criteria and principles for making decisions about land: e.g. the location, the strategic value, where money might come from. “No one should be put in the situation where they have to guess what decision Council came up with.”

Cr Cusack says political factors might also be part of the decision. “If we’re going to run a case to the state government… where are the facts, where is the evidence?”

Anna asks to show one more piece of paper. She says she was involved in the battle to save Hopetoun Avenue (owned by Melbourne Water). She says that to the credit of Moreland Council at the time, they changed their mind and bought the land – and that the zoning was important, as it was being kept as parkland and that was how Council purchased at a low price.

Cr Nation says a discount may apply if the land is zoned parkland.

Cr Sipek says a lot of open space in Avondale Heights is park of Maribyrnong River. He asks if VicRoads told residents? Residents say no – the communication has only been through Council.

Another resident asks why Council would expect people to be playing on land under the flight path in Mascoma Street? The CEO says this option hasn’t been fully explored.

Cr Lawrence says there have been examples where land has been gifted back to the municipality (to City of Essendon and Broadmeadows). And this is what the Council is aiming to achieve.

Cr Sipek says he recalls 15-16 years ago when the quarry was gifted.

Cr Marshall says that this was before the implementation of the current system. “If that is the only thing we are hanging our hat on, are we likely to be successful in that?” “There is a policy and we need to be realistic.”  “There is no harm in asking questions. It would be negligent not to ask.”

Cr Nation says Council has a position from a few meetings ago and that the motion to reconsider this was defeated. “From here it would be good … if officers could take note … any developments … are communicated to Sharon…”

“If we could ensure that we could continue to keep the group updated.”

“It is Council’s position that the land not be purchased” … but there are options we can keep exploring, he says. He acknowledges that the consultation has been done poorly.

Another resident (Kathryn) asks about programs for refugees. Cr Nation says details will be taken and communication had – particularly regarding refugees “down in the south” (I have a pet dislike for Flemington being referred to in these terms!!)

Cr Cusack says MVCC has been doing work during Refugee Week – including hanging a banner on Flemington Community Centre.

Kathryn asks whether MVCC can do any advocacy work regarding resettlement.

Eugene asks when was the last time Council did a traffic survey in Macoma St. He says that Mascoma St has become a link to Matthews Ave and – and so it is difficult for children to safely cross. He says that alternative play areas are not beneficial for young children to play in, and that it is dangerous for children to reach parks across Mascoma St by themselves.

Cr Nation says MVCC does have traffic management studies broken up into different precincts.

Eugene says that a pedestrian crossing might solve some issues, but would not solve the primary issue of the loss of Strathaird Reserve.

“Council’s position is advocacy to retain the land and work with the state government,” says Cr Nation. “Hold out hope…”

Eugene says this is unfortunate. “Is there any potential for Council to reconsider?”

Cr Nation says that was done three weeks ago and the motion was lost on the casting vote of the Mayor.

Eugene repeats his question.

Cr Marshall asks if the Q can be taken on notice – rather than guessing.

End of forum.

Ed’s note: The final Q of the night was an important one: can Council reconsider its stance. I have taken a little look at the Meeting procedures. Clause 13 deals with revoking or amending resolutions of Council. A resolution can’t be revoked if it has been acted on. However, a resolution can be amended via a correctly lodged Notice of Motion. The motion of 25 July regarding Strathaird Reserve could be amended to reconsider the matter following any unsuccessful advocacy attempts – if the Council so chose (IMHO).

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