Council Meeting 14 August

The Blog provides residents with a quick summary of the decisions being made at Moonee Valley Council meetings. Here’s a summary of this week’s meeting.

Firstly though, with another hat on, I’ll just give a plug to the Flemington Theatre Company’s proposal for the Pick My Project funding initiative:

The FTC will support local arts projects by purchasing and maintaining equipment for local groups and individuals including seating, lighting, and sound equipment.

Please vote if you can!  Flemington Kensington Community Theatre Equipment

Cast pic w Mayor

Image: Rose Iser

Now for the meeting:

Opening and Reconciliation Statement: The meeting is opened.

The Mayor explains that the new meeting protocols have been gazetted and are in force so there are some changes to proceedings

Apologies and Leave of Absence: None

Cr Surace has sought leave of absence from 28 July to 28 August 2018 inclusive. Carried unanimously.

Confirmation of Minutes:

Ordinary Meeting of Council held on Tuesday, 24 July 2018. There is a vote – carried unanimously.

Declarations of Conflict of Interest: Nope

Presentations: Standing order are suspended while a presentation is made.

A book of Remembrance containing the names of officers who died in France during the Great War.  The book was damaged in the fire at the Courthouse where artefacts preserved by the Essendon Historical Society were destroyed. The book was saved by freezing the pages and drying the book page by page. The book is being loaned long term to MVCC.

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 6.42.07 pm

Image: MVCC live streaming via Facebook

Standing orders are resumed.

Petitions and Joint Letters: 

Cr Marshall presents a petition from 700 people in Union Rd re parking restrictions. Cr Marshall moves a motion re the petition. (Is this under the new meeting protocols).

The officer explains it is a new process. Petitions will now require a resolution.

Cr Sharpe excuses herself and asks for it to be recorded.

Cr Cusack seconds. Carried unanimously.

Cr Sharpe is brought back in.

Public Question Time

The Mayor explains that the person must be present to read out their question to the Councillors and gallery.

Brett needs to come to the lectern to read questions. He is from Paramout Fitness in Union Rd. His question is about what consultation took place about the parking restrictions. The officer encourages Brett to work through the Trading Association. Brett asks his second question about the installation of the electronic sensors. He asks how the impact on businesses will be quantified. The officer says an App will allow people to be notified when parking time is up, and it will allow people to see free parking via the App. The officer says the information collected by council will be passed on to the Traders’ Association.

The Mayor says the next Public Forum will be on the 21 August at 6pm. (These forums are not live streamed.)

Reports by Mayor and Councillors: Nil.

320 – 322 Racecourse Road, Flemington – Demolition works and construction of a multi- storey building in a Commercial 1 Zone and Heritage Overlay (HO25), use of the land for a residential hotel (serviced apartments) and a reduction in car parking requirements

This is a proposal for a 7 storey, 70 room hotel between Racecourse Rd and Norwood St.

2018-03-30 15.59.30 HDR

Image: Rose Iser

The officers recommend that councillors approve the proposed development with a reduction to six (6) storeys, and (I think) 64 hotel rooms. The officers also recommend increasing the setbacks, though it looks as though these are mainly at the Racecourse Rd frontage.

The key issues are the interface with the heritage streetscape of Norwood St, the height and bulk, and the lack of planning policy for seven storey hotels in Racecourse Rd.

The proposal also purports to provide “serviced apartments” despite not providing sufficient parking spaces for serviced apartments, and fitting out only four of the rooms with kitchen facilities (it’s hard to tell from the plans online whether the amended plans have kitchenettes, and the council planning department haven’t yet responded to my query  – the original plans did not provide kitchenettes in the rooms so could not be classified as serviced apartments).

The report states (my emphasis):

“While the proposed development does not include housing per se, it does provide for accommodation. Therefore, in the absence of any other strategic documents or policies guiding growth and development within this activity centre, Clause 21.05 (Housing) provides some guidance with regard to growth, intensity and scale for new developments….”

Cr Cusack moves an alternative motion to refuse to grant a permit on the following grounds:

  • the proposed building height, scale and massing is against cl 15.01
  • heritage – cl 15.03
  • urban design – cl 21.06
  • visually dominant
  • insufficient car parking
  • vehicular access will affect safety
  • adverse traffic and pedestrian safety impacts will be substantial and unreasonable

Cr Marshall seconds the motion.

Cr Cusack says the proposal does not meet objectives of diversity of housing. He says its design is “an unfavourable outcome”.  He says VCAT has looked favourably on the protection of heritage, and that seven storeys is too high.

Cr Marshall says the site is large and that what is on site is non-contributory. “There will be a development go on the site.” The plans have been amended and the she says she thinks the facade has been much improved. “it’s important for people to know their concerns have not been ignored, but that … some of the issues were not planning concerns … There are a number of underlying issues that have not been addressed satisfactorily.”

She says internal referrals have been “either ignored or glossed over”. Traffic advice was that the proposal should not be supported. Heritage advice was that it should be reduced by 2 or 3 storeys.

She mentions the Structure Plan: “there was a significant amount of community concern … there is not a single bit of doubt in my mind that to zone Flemington as Activity Centre” would be a problem. (The problem is that what we have left is an Activity Centre without any planning controls. We’ll see what VCAT has to say about this again when this goes to VCAT – as it probably will. Activity Centres in Keilor Rd and North Essendon do not seem to be zoned Activity Centre – so I’m unclear why there is a view that Racecourse Rd must necessarily become ACZone. There needs to be a plan that argues against ACZone given the heritage interfaces.)

Cr Nation speaks in favour of the refusal. There is mention of an “illuminated sculpture”.

Carried unanimously.

53 Hayes Road, Strathmore – Construction of three dwellings

This proposal is for  three double storey dwellings in a pretty part of Strathmore where most homes have green front lawns and single dwellings on well landscaped blocks. Squeezing one five bedroom dwelling, two three bedrooms dwellings and seven car spaces onto the 790sqm is ambitious – and the design of the homes is uninspiring.

The decision in Bank St, Ascot Vale contained some useful commentary about streetscapes and the impact of visual bulk on the neighbourhood.

Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 7.52.27 pm

Image: Google Maps

Cr Lawrence moves an alternative motion to refuse on the following grounds:

  • urban design
  • neighbourhood character
  • visual bulk, scale and form
  • permeability and site coverage
  • traffic impacts

Cr Gauci Maurici seconds.

Cr Lawrence says the proposal has a built form that is out of character with the area. The set backs are inconsistent with the streetscape.

Cr Gauci Maurici and Cr Sharpe speak in favour of the refusal. Many residents have been concerned about traffic. Cr Sharpe is concerned about the front set-back.

Cr Nation asks for a point of clarification of the refusal re whether the proposal meets particular ResCode objectives. The officers’ advice is that it does meet some criteria. Cr Lawrence has a different view.

Cr Cusack says this is a difficult proposal. He thinks the refusal won’t stand up at VCAT.

Cr Byrne says she is concerned about the set-backs, but that set-backs are inconsistent already in the street. She likes the five bedroom unit, and thinks it “stacks up with ResCode”. “I’m not really sure … if there is a lot of substance,” she says.

Cr Marshall says whether something meets the ResCode objectives is a matter of fact. Either they meet the permeability measures or they don’t.

The officer repeats that this is Cr Lawrence’s view.

Cr Lawrence says he is concerned about a precedent of 5 bedroom units in the Strathmore area.

FOR: Lawrence, Gauci Maurici, Sipek, Sharpe

AGAINST: Nation, Marshall, Cusack, Byrne

The motion to refuse the permit is passed on the Mayor’s casting vote.

86 Glass Street, Essendon – Construction of a double storey dwelling to the rear of an existing dwelling

A previous application for two dwellings at the rear of this block was refused by council in 2016. It doesn’t look like the matter went to VCAT. Instead, the applicant has amended the plans to have one four bedroom dwelling with five car spaces. No one seems to want gardens anymore.


Cr Gauci Maurici moves the officer’s recommendation.

She says this is a significantly improved proposal. Cr Lawrence agrees that the bulk is significantly reduced, and that there are ample setbacks. Cr Sharpe says she supports the motion.

Carried unanimously.

Moonee Ponds Planning Update

In 2016, interim planning controls were introduced to limit heights in Moonee Ponds. They expire at the end of this year. This motion is about seeking a further 12 months from the Planning Minister while further strategic work is undertaken.

Cr Marshall moves the recommendation with an amendment about childcare.

Cr Marshall says Moonee Ponds is a case study in how not to do planning. Planners are saying this is not just about heights. We are now saying “we’ve got to look at the whole centre”. “I support the idea of requesting the extension of time for the interim height controls” so that council can do the whole package of strategic works.

Council has “got our foot on” 605 Mt Alexander Rd, Cr Marshall says.

The report is very detailed and worth a look.

The Mayor asks a point of clarification about the amendment wrt the reference to Moonee Ponds. Cr Marshall says the motion must say Moonee Ponds.

Cr Cusack says there is need for a plan for Moonee Ponds (yes – and this writer thinks there also needs to be a plan for Racecourse Rd!!) 

Carried unanimously

Review of Right of Way Policy Abutting Developments

This is a deferral from 24 July.

Cr Marshall moves a motion. Cr Nation seconds.

There are 68kms of right of ways, says Cr Nation. “They are significant community assets.” The policy is being adjusted to respond to VCAT decisions.

Carried unanimously.

Moonee Valley Racing Club Planning Assessments Special Committee

Six councillors have declared a conflict of interest with respect to the Moonee Valley Racing Club planning proposals. So a committee is being established, comprising the remaining three councillors, to make decisions with respect to the MVRC.

Crs Lawrence, Gauci Maurici and Marshall are the only councillors who have not declared a conflict of interest so they will be the three councillors on the special committee – according to this proposal.

I thought the planning delegations protocol approved a few meetings ago set out a different process – but maybe this was amended prior to voting. I’ll have to check.

In addition, I have often wondered about whether any conflict arises from the MVCC Mayoral Charity Race Day held from 2005 until 2016 at Moonee Valley race track. In 2016, the MVRC donated 50% of gate revenue and the use of the committee room for the function to help MVCC raise money for charities. The Council voted confidentially on 26 April 2017 not to proceed with the Charity Race Day “due to a projected unfavourable cost/benefit outcome”. But I wonder if the partnership between MVCC and MVRC has ever been raised as an issue with respect to planning decisions.

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 2.00.54 pm

Image: Moonee Valley Racing Club

Cr Marshall moves the motion with an amendment to  change the end date of the committee, and to remove a hyphen from Cr Gauci Maurici’s name.

Cr Marshall speaks of the concern about the arrangement that council officers would make decisions where there is a lack of quorum re MVRC decisions.

She says this is a more appropriate way of dealing with this situation.

Cr Lawrence speaks about the special committee – he is concerned about just three councillors making the decisions. “It still leaves me thinking that it doesn’t sit comfortably with me that three councillors will be making decisions on a very big development. It makes me think ‘where have we gone wrong.”

Cr Cusack says the Council has put a massive amount of work into this over many years and that threshold decisions were made in that process. “There is a body of work that supports the decision making of the three councillors.”

Cr Nation says the other option is for decisions to be made by officers.

The Mayor says there has been some excessive acceptance of gifts, but some councillors have only just gone over the margin because the laws were changed.

Cr Marshall says there is a community expectation about what we should be doing.

Carried unanimously.

Draft Council Plan 2017-21 (Year 2)

Council has to review its Council Plan and has done so following the approval of MV2040. The draft revised plan will be open for comment and submissions until 16 September.

Cr Byrne moves after some prompting from the Mayor. Cr Lawrence seconds.

Carried unanimously.

Capital Works Program Update

This is a report on the capital works completed in the past financial year including variations and projects being carried over.

Cr Byrne moves. She says it is worth about $36M worth of spending – apparently the largest council has ever taken. Cr Cusack seconds.

Carried unanimously.

Councillor Expenses and Reimbursement Policy

This item was deferred at an earlier meeting.

I commented at the time about reimbursement for councillors’ transport: the provisions are very generous, and are probably more applicable for councillors who have to travel long distances in rural areas.

If councillors have permits that allow them to park anywhere, Myki cards provided by Council, costs of parking covered, they are not necessarily getting a clear idea of parking issues and costs that residents encounter.

I don’t think many councillors seek reimbursement for transport costs, but I do think councillors should have to live within the transport and parking restrictions and conditions of all residents to better appreciate local issues.

Cr Cusack moves the officers’ recommendation noting that some issues can also be incorporated into the policy.

Cr Marshall interrupts to say there have been some alter word changes …

I can’t quite catch the changes without the reference to topics. 

Cr Lawrence asks if these are amendments. Cr Cusack says (a bit confusingly to be honest) that they are not amendments, but clarifications. Something about council covering the cost of tickets to local events; something about 17.6.5 and a few others.

Cr Marshall says cl 10 there is also a reference to Gifts Policy.

Cr Sharpe seconds.

Cr Cusack says there is a school of thought that would prefer to see the Mayoral car disappear. He says this doesn’t necessarily suit people who might be a Mayor in the future. Mayors can choose not to have a car.

Cr Marshall says the Mayor is paid about $95K a year. She says it is not an easy role, but that the package is worth about $120-130K a year. She says this is excessive given that many Mayors retain their current jobs while also being Mayor.

Cr Nation agrees with Cr Marshall that the policy is an improvement on previous policy, but does not agree a Mayoral car should be part of the package. Cr Nation says that the former policy allowed the Mayor to receive $7K in a three month period for reimbursements for the use of their own vehicle.

Cr Byrne asks a point of clarification. Cr Nation refers to new meeting procedures.

The Mayor says he will have to wind Cr Nation up. Cr Nation says the clock was not stopped when a point of clarification was asked.

He asks whether Cr Byrne said something under her breath.

Cr Nation says he does not support the motion because it retains the capacity for the Mayor to be reimbursed for use of their own car. Cr Nation doesn’t like councillors undertaking company director courses on rate-payers’ money.

Cr Marshall foreshadows an alternative motion.

Cr Lawrence says the motion is about ensuring the Mayor and councillors have the necessary resources to perform the job.

Cr Marshall calls a point of order.

Cr Lawrence is asked to withdraw a comment (that I missed). Something about councillors having course covered and whether they are useful.

Cr Nation seeks a point of clarification about whether the new policy would enable someone to undertake the Company Director’s Course. It won’t cover the costs. (Although there are smaller courses.)

Cr Gauci Maurici says $4000K for training is enough. “We are trying to discuss the few exceptions, when most councillors do the right thing.”

Cr Byrne says she sees pros and cons. She says it takes 45mins to get a bus to Moonee Ponds. She asks to move a formal amendment regarding the $4000 for training to see if that can be accumulated over two years (does she mean can use $8000K over two years?).

Cr Byrne says she is a huge advocate for training.

Cr Nation seeks a point of clarification … same Q I had. There is some clarification going on. And I will have to come back to this as standing orders are being suspended….

Proposed New Lease – Victorian YMCA Community Programming Pty Ltd over part of Cooper Street Community Centre

A proposal formalising the lease arrangements going forward.

Grants Assessment Special Committee Reports

This report on grants being awarded is timely given the next round of grants close on 16 August. It’s sad to see read the groups and projects that didn’t receive funding. Hopefully the spread of funds is wide. There seem to be some large sums going to single people or groups.

Response to Notice of Motion No.2017/17 – Tennis Strategy

I haven’t had a chance to read this but do hope it includes an improvement plan for the tennis court in Debneys Park.

Response to Notice of Motion No. 2018/06 – Plant and Tree Health

Good to see the trees of the valley being cared for. Also interesting to read the rainfall across the months. Not sure if the report notes that the rainfall tallies in December (144.7mm) and January (59.6mm) were boosted by single day weather events that led to a lot of local flooding and run-off and didn’t necessarily lead to healthy watering patterns for trees.

Confidential Reports

147-149 The Parade, Ascot Vale – Construction of more than two dwellings on a lot (13 Dwellings) in a General Residential Zone

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