Elected Member contribution to planning and development

The Minister is not wrong when he identifies the conflict faced by elected members sitting on Development Assessment Panels.

I understand and respect the concerns he has in respect of the pressure that being placed in an adjudication role has on someone whose primary role on Council requires a popular vote to retain.

 

As someone too from private enterprise I struggle with appointments made in the public arena based not on skill but a whole heap of politically correct criteria. Criteria that spells out everyone has an equal right to acquire a certain position.

In other words, I struggle with people who do not have building, planning or legal expertise sitting on development assessment panels. I sense that my colleagues at Unley view this similarly. They twice voted me to fill one of the elected member positions on our DAP in favour of others without my background who stood against me at the time. Had I stood for a 3rd term I suspect they would likely have repeated their support.

The City of Unley has in respect of appointing independent members to our DAP been mindful that one of the qualifications we want is someone who is not only a planner or whatever specialist discipline relative to sitting on our panel but someone who has an empathy with our neighbourhood.

Where two people of equal skill-set applies the one who lives in Unley I believe is likely in my opinion to get the nod.

Enter the Elected Member. This is precisely what the elected member brings to the table. An absolute empathy for the neighbourhood in which they live because they … live there. An elected member often has a better appreciation of a development given their connection to the street in which the development is proposed and their connection to the community through their role as an elected member.

Is it the most important contribution a panel member can bring to the DAP. No; because decisions must be made based on the development plan. It is not far behind though.

The current formula is a good one I believe and not in need of change where the focus on the plan out-ways the empathy provided by an elected member 4 to 3 on the panel of 7.

And what if the elected member is a planner or an architect, or a lawyer. What then Mr Rau. You are suggesting these people would not be compromised as independent members because they are professionals but they would be if an elected member…..because they are no longer professionals perhaps?

And I modestly suggest Unley, with its complex planning regime has got it right the whole time I have been a member. Very few decisions are challenged and of those that have been sent to the ERD court less than a handful have been overturned.

Residents contribution to planning and development

A major change in the current reform as noted in my earlier blog posts today is taking away the rights of individuals, neighbours to make representations on developments that will impact on their property.

 

On the surface this is not unreasonable as I put my Builder hat on. What has frustrated me as a builder are such things under the current system as when a permitted development (ie 2 storey in a 2 storey zone) is delayed to allow the neighbours to represent against the development because it is 2 storey.

Public notification on a project that complies is a nonsense in that representation will not change the minds of those charged with deciding whether or not to approve the development. It gives the representor an unrealistic expectation that they may influence the decision and extend the time it takes for the inevitable approval.

This is a Government issue not a council issue because Schedule 9 of the State Government’s Development Regulations 2008 triggers the call for public participation. If council did not do this then a neighbour could contest any decision made on that application.

The regulations SHOULD change to address this.

Problem is with the ministers proposal is that there will be no ability for the public to respond if the development proposed does not comply with the relevant development plan.

Here is the dilemma. Four years on our DAP qualifies me to suggest that many (if not a majority of) applications exceed the provisions of the development plan. His bill takes away your right as a neighbour to have a say on a project say 2 storey in a single storey zone.

As a builder I always tried and inevitably did design developments that complied with the relevant development plan. The result of this is most of my applications were passed in a very short space of time. Surely those who choose to push the boundaries should expect the process to take longer to ensure due process has been applied.

The minister is justifying his bill by indicating that people have the chance to contribute at the time a development plan is being implemented or undergoing an amendment. Look out for a subsequent blog for my thoughts on this.

 

 

Some thoughts from my dual hats of Planning Reforms

I have watched with interest the debate that has prevailed in recent times over Minister Rau’s planning reforms.

As a builder I have great empathy for the lengthy times it takes to get the most minor of projects through the planning system. As a councillor on the other hand I have true respect for the role the community plays in ensuring that development in their area is appropriate.

 

Interestingly the people frustrated at both ends can be the same people on different sides of the fence for the next development.

Builders and therefore their clients (you and your neighbours)  are rightfully frustrated by the time it takes to get an approval for their development, more often than not an addition to their own home. Councils have borne the focus of the angst that has created, often seen as the meddling cause of the delays. You are likely to have been a council critic. I know I have.

The truth is the system, as designed by the state government, is the cause not councils. There have been many changes proposed in the bill the minister has put before Parliament that are good. They will definitely help to improve the system significantly.

There are changes proposed that need to be at the forefront of change but which will be delayed due to I understand the cost of implementing them. I speak specifically about setting up a date based development plan regime. This is an area that should have  a focus long before those who may participate ion the approval process are questioned.

A major focus for the ministers bill is focused unfortunately on who may be involved however. He is set on  removing both residents and elected members of council out of the approval process.

I intend in the next 24 hours or so to put my thoughts on the removal of both residents and elected members from the process in separate blog posts.

So watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Say on the Future of Unley Central

To help guide new development and achieve the goals of the Government’s 30 year plan Council needs to change it’s development plan to accommodate the future of Unley Central.

This is something we must do as our development plan is required by law to reflect the strategic planning of the State Government. Noting this, Council’s vision for our city is that we be recognised for our “vibrant community spirit, quality lifestyle choices, business strength and innovative leadership.

To help realise this vision we conducted a study into the potential for higher and denser building forms to achieve new commercial and residential developments in and around the District Centre of Unley.

The result was we produced in 2014 the Unley Central Precinct Plan.Unley-Central-Concept-Image-for-YSU

This plan recognised not just the built form but identified opportunities to improve the public realm and the movement through the area. A copy of this plan is available at www.unley.sa.gov.au/major-projects

We have now engaged a consultant team lead by URPS to provide recommendations on the desired urban design, built form, land use, traffic, transport,  and parking to guide the preparation of the planning policy. This is where you come in.

We encourage you to have your say by reviewing the information on the web site or by attending one of our forums as listed below this week. You can then provide your thoughts and suggestions by completing a survey, meeting a member of the consultant team, reviewing the website or by contacting Angela Hazebroek or Michael Arman at URPS on 8333 7999 or [email protected]

The forums are as follows:

at the Unley Library

on Thursday 19 November 2015 between 6.00pm and 8.00pm

on Saturday 21 November between 1.00pm and 3.00pm

at the Unley Shopping Centre

on Thursday 19 November between 3.00pm and 5.00pm

on Saturday 21 November between 10.00am and 12 noon.

This is about the future of Unley Central. If you care about Unley now is the time to contribute. It will be too late under the Minister for Planning’s proposed changes to the Development Act if you wait to respond to development on the block next door to you in 5 years time. Please provide us your views by Friday 4 December, 2015.

 

 

DAP Refuses Vodafone Phone Tower

DAP this evening refused unanimously the conversion of the south east Goodwood Oval light tower to a Phone Tower.

As expected the DAP meeting was well attended with a packed gallery. Of the 107 representors (all opposing the development) we received for this development application 25 were listed to speak on the night to their representations, 6 actually spoke and there was a recurring theme through the representations provided.

For those of you who have kept abreast of this project you would be well aware and probably agree with the theme of concerns presented. They included their impact on the visual amenity, health concerns , the impact on pedestrian movement and carparking and vegetation removal.

The applicant was of the opinion, as was our planning officer that these concerns were unfounded in that the visual impact would be felt only from within the boundary of the property, that the tower would be constructed in accordance with internationally recognised guidelines on radio frequency levels. Pedestrian movement, Car parking and vegetation clearance were seen as non issues.

The regularly recognised observation is that the tower is proposed to be located in a Historic Conservation Zone and is out of character with such a residential focused area.

Another issue raised by a few was that the tower would have a detrimental impact on their property value. As noted in the planning report this is not a planning issue and can not therefore be considered by the panel. If it were it could only be established by securing a professional property valuation.

The Panel, in debating the item, found that the development was seriously at variance to the Unley Development Plan in that it is a non complying development would impact significantly on the Historic Conservation Zone, that the tower has not been designed to minimise visual impact on the surrounding neighbourhood and that the application impacts significantly on a high visitation area.

As I see it I interpret this to mean they (the Panel) agreed with the representors that the tower should be located in a more compatible environment.

People power has won the day but only because regulation has supported their stance.

Vodafone Phone Tower at Goodwood Oval to be considered by DAP

After the cat 3 public consultation back in August and another just completed consultation undertaken on behalf not of our DAP but Council the Vodafone Phone Tower Development Application at Goodwood Oval will be considered by DAP this Thursday evening.

This is a specially convened meeting and is open to the public. I expect the public gallery will be full. It is a Development Assessment Panel meeting at which those members of the public who made representations way back in August and who indicated a desire in their representation to speak to the panel will be heard. This is in accordance with the Government’s Development Regulations.

Goodwood Oval South East Light Tower

Goodwood Oval South East Light Tower

Everyone is welcome to attend but only to speak if you did indicate your wish to speak when you made your written representation. I will be there as a member of the public and look forward to meeting with you should you choose to come.

The panel, which is made up of 4 independent members and 3 elected members, must make a decision based on the Development Act and on the Unley Development Plan. The members of this panel cannot be lobbied. If they were to partake in conversation with you they would have, under the Development Act, a conflict of interest and would then not be able to vote.

In making an assessment the panel members would have to consider as I see it the following:

1    Whether the development complies with the various Australian standards concerning Electro magnetic radiation.

2   If the final structure impacts negatively on the neighbouring properties and if so whether there is sufficient screening or not to obviate this.

3   Whether the development is suitable or not in the Historic Conservation Zone in which it is located, making it a non-complying development.

The Council’s officer has indicated that he believes they have complied with item 1 and that there is sufficient screening from a visual perspective. The panel may or may not agree with this. The fact remains of course that it IS NON COMPLYING DEVELOPMENT.

If it is not approved that will be the end of it.

If it is approved I believe the proposal must then come before Council which may well be as soon as our next meeting on November 23. The reason for this is they have applied to lease the tower or the portion of public land. That requires council approval on behalf of the community. Hence the recent public consultation that ended just last week.

Should it be heard at that or subsequent meeting, which will also be a public meeting, you can:

1   Make a delegation or prepare a petition for presentation at that meeting. A petition with a delegation by one or two proponents to the petition works best in my experience. I recommend that if you wish to do this you notify the Mayor or the CEO as soon as possible after “a” decision for approval is made by the DAP.

2   Lobby all your elected members/councillors. Their contact details are available freely on the Unley web site.

Once again I would expect the public gallery to be full.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Reform Opponents Morons show respect not afforded them.

Minister Rau you are fortunate that your Planning Reform Opponents Morons are showing much more respect than that you are showing them.

To his credit Minister Rau did clarify his statement, saying the comments were “referring in general terms to critics making false statements about the contents of the Planning Bill”. “The language was however inappropriate and I apologise for using it,” he said.

He then, in defending his position, claimed “Where the present system manifestly fails is that most people have no idea what the zoning requirements are for where they live, and the first time they find out is when somebody wants to put something next door to them that they really, really hate, and they say, ‘And by the way, why didn’t somebody tell me that thing was coming?’” Rau said.

“What I am trying to do is to move that conversation right up to the beginning of it so that communities actually have a chat at the very beginning about what is going to be okay in our community.

John-Rau-3883-850x455You are completely right Minister but you have not addressed the problem. May I suggest to you that you are in the same boat as this large group of people. You do not understand the changes yourself.

I agree that not enough is done to involve people at the front end of the process. Waiting until the end of the process inevitably provides false hope as representations invariably do not address planning issues.

If you intend to provide them the opportunity to be involved at the front end you need to be serious about the consultation opportunity provided at that point of the process. While this legislation is working its way through the system your own inner suburban ministerial DPA, one of the more far reaching ever, will have a limited public consultation. This consultation will not in my opinion provide the very people you are calling morons a fair opportunity to contribute with any meaning.

And sorry but there must be a fail safe too at the end of the process. An opportunity for those affected by development that pushes the boundaries of a particular development plan, many by significant amounts; like the recent Cremorne Plaza on Unley Road which will have 40% more storeys than the recently agreed to DPA, from 5 to 7.

Minister, instead of denigrating (notwithstanding your apology) your opponents, how about listening to them. You might actually see that they have an argument worth taking on board.

Goodwood Oval Phone Tower a litmus test for Council’s DAP

I will be watching with interest the upcoming decision by Council’s DAP on the Goodwood Oval Phone Tower proposed proposed by Vodafone. It may well prove a litmus test for the Government’s proposed changes to the Development Act.

 

A number of residents have been confused as to Council’s role in this process. In particular some are of the belief that our elected members should be standing up to whoever is proposing this and saying hands off. They say this on the understanding that there will be only one view without and before knowing if that is in fact the case.

Having said that, if I were a betting man, I would say that is the case.

The fact of the matter is there is a due process that must be followed under state legislation. Council must receive the application and cannot refuse to receive it. That said the Act does allow means for public participation in certain circumstances and the phone tower is one such circumstance.

Beyond that the process provides a mechanism by which the application should be judged. In some cases this is the responsibility of the paid officers of the planning department of council. In others, including this one, that responsibility is vested in the hands of a panel known as the development Assessment Panel or DAP.

It is their job to read and understand the application and the planning officer’s report and recommendation. They must also read and understand any representation made by the public on the matter. They have to determine if the observations made in any representation, whether supporting the application or rejecting the application, is valid under the terms of the development plan.

The State Minister for Planning (and Deputy Premier) John Rau has sited often that elected members sitting on Council DAPs are making politically expedient decisions on planning matters rather than assess the application on is merits against the development plan. This is one of the core reasons why he wants to see councils and in particular elected members removed from the planning assessment process.

Many people in the street, frustrated by perceived delays in getting their 2 storey addition passed through council would probably agree with the minister. The very same people are critical then of Mr Rau for having already taken the power away from councils on high rise developments.

Our DAPs handling of the Goodwood Oval phone tower may well prove a litmus test on the minister’s move to take Council out of the development process. How the individual members of the DAP vote will at least.

Will the elected members vote the same as the independent members? Will the elected members be split in their vote? Will the independents be split in their vote? Will the elected members vote one way and the independents vote the opposite way?

Hmmmmm!

Goodwood Oval Vodafone Phone Tower FAQ

The following is a Goodwood Oval Vodafone Phone Tower FAQ list resulting from conversations I have had.

 

I reproduce them now for everyone with an interest in this proposal in an attempt help you all understand the process and further your representation if you have lodged one. The answers are my answers and they are given as my understanding.

 

Is this a council or council inspired proposal?

No. The application is a 3rd party application from Vodafone. Council is not involved

 

Will Council benefit from the Phone Tower?

As the owner of the land on which the tower is proposed to be located it would receive a rental which I understand is calculated by the State Government.

 

How much is that rent?

I would have to confirm this but I believe it is something like $ 5,000 of maybe as high as $ 15,000.

 

Has Council therefore a vested interest in the tower being approved?

For the amounts mentioned above I would hardly think this would constitute a vested interest.

 

Will you be making the decision?

No! Council and its elected members including myself do not adjudicate and cannot adjudicate on development applications.

 

Who will approve or disallow the application?

Council’s Development Assessment Panel (DAP) is empowered to make this decision. This is an independent panel which is constituted under the State Government’s Development Act.

 

If that is the case can Council represent against the proposal?

No. The DAP represents the Council and their decision is binding.

 

Who is on the DAP?

The Panel is made up of 4 independent members and 3 elected members.

 

Can I lobby members of the Panel?

No. Unlike normal Council business which is governed by the Local Government Act development applications are governed by the Development Act. This Act dictates that a member of the panel must

  • Declare a conflict of interest if they engage in conversation with any applicant or representor.
  • And then leave the meeting and not vote on the application.

 

Is it possible that similar proposals could be made by Telstra and Optus for the other phone towers?

I guess it is possible. From a development plan point of view it certainly can. Whether there are other constraints however I do not know.

 

Have I a right of appeal if the Panel approves the application?

As a category 3 application I believe so. Any such appeal will be heard by the ERD Court.

 

Does Vodafone have the same right of appeal if the Panel refuses the application?

The application is for non-complying development. As I understand it this disallows them from appealing.

 

Can I still put in a representation?

No! The time for submitting a representation has already passed.

 

Can I speak at the DAP meeting?

If you have indicated your intention on your written representation, Yes!

 

How long can I speak for?

5 minutes, plus answering any question that panel members may ask you after you have finished with your representation.

 

Is Health a consideration under the Development Plan?

My understanding of the development plan is no. DAP members will be instructed on whether this is a consideration to take into account. Given the conflicting expert opinion on the health impacts of phone towers this would be difficult.

 

Will Council be responsible if it can be proved later that these towers are cancer causing?

I honestly cannot answer that question as I am not a lawyer. I imagine not however if due process has been followed.

 

Why did I not receive a letter as others did?

In developments that are classified as category 2 applications letters are sent to the immediate neighbours and to every property on the other side of the road within 60 metres of the property being redeveloped.

Category 3 applications allow for a wider representation but the means of advising is by way of public notices in the paper.

If you fell outside the cat 2 area you would not have received a letter.

This is precisely why I posted a blog on my web site on 1 August and why I alerted the author of the Goodwood Oval website.

 

When will the DAP meet and will I be informed?

I asked this same question of our Manager of Planning a couple of weeks ago and it was expected the meeting would be held in October. The planning staff need time to collate all the representations and confer with the applicant over the representations received before preparing a report and recommendations to the panel.

I expect representors who have asked to speak will be advised of the meeting date. I will post a blog when I know the date of the meeting.

If you have an interest please keep in touch with my website and/or my Facebook page.

 

 

Vodafone Tower proposed for Goodwood Oval attracts significant public reaction from locals.

The Vodafone Tower proposed for Goodwood Oval has attracted significant public reaction from locals and the DAP meeting where it will be considered promises to be well attended and keenly observed.

 

119 Representations have been received by Council on the Vodafone Tower proposed for Goodwood Oval. This exceeds by the proverbial mile the number of representations received on any other development application during my 4 years as a member of Council’s previous Development Assessment Panels (DAP).

The number of representors wishing to be heard at the DAP is so large that I understand that this application will be the only one addressed at the meeting when it is called.  The meeting I expect will be held sometime in October but I guess it is possible (given it will be the only item addressed on the night) that it may be sooner.

As soon as I am aware of the date, time and venue for the meeting I will advise you in this platform. Those who have made representation and have indicated their intention to speak will be advised by Council.

The DAP is charged with making the decision on behalf of Council. Council (as in the elected member body) do not get a vote on the proposal.

It is a panel constituted under the State Government’s Development Act and is responsible to adjudicate the application strictly against Council’s Development Plan. It consists of 4 independent members with experience in planning matters and 3 of our elected members including Jennie my co-councillor Jennie.

Panel members are not permitted to discuss the proposal with anyone failing which they would have to declare a conflict of interest under the Act and remove themselves from the Panel. This is why I indicated in my first blogpost on this topic back on August 1 that you should refrain from speaking to Jennie.

A number of questions have arisen in the last couple of days about the Vodafone Tower proposed for Goodwood Oval and I will attempt in a separate blog post later tonight to answer as many as I can.