Double-storey ‘disaster’

By Casey Neill

Approving a Dandenong townhouse development was the council’s “worst, most illogical” planning decision in more than four years, said councillor Matthew Kirwan.
He lodged a motion to rescind the resolution for four double-storey homes on 16 Wedge Street following the Monday 10 April Greater Dandenong Council meeting.
The matter will now be considered again at the Monday 24 April meeting.
“This very poorly designed development with inadequate setbacks, lack of private open space and excessive visual bulk failed our planning scheme in many ways,” Cr Kirwan said.
The council adopted Planning Scheme Amendment C182 last August and is waiting for Planning Minister approval to make it law.
In their report on the Wedge Street proposal, council officers said the amendment “must be taken into consideration when assessing the application”.
Under the amendment, the site is to be rezoned from residential growth zone to general residential, which allows for incremental change.
“Whilst it is considered that the site is well suited for medium density housing, the proposed design fails to comply with numerous standards and design objectives,” the officers said.
“These issues can only be addressed via a reduction in the number of dwellings.”
Cr Sean O’Reilly followed their recommendation and moved that councillors refuse the application.
“We want decent applications that meet our planning code, not just any and not those that fall under the minimum requirements,” he said.
“What it comes down to is this council willing to break its own rules, its own standards?”
Cr Kirwan said the application failed to even meet pre-C182 provisions and the council was breaking residents’ trust by approving it.
But Cr Dark opposed the motion. He said Wedge Street was wide and was “an area where we want growth”.
“It’s the heart of Dandenong,” he said.
Cr Dark said the State Government had not yet made C182 law so it should have no impact, that the proposal met 73 of 93 minimum criteria and the council would be “absolutely crazy“ to reject it.
Cr O’Reilly’s motion was lost, four votes to seven, so Cr Dark put forward an alternative.
He said it increased setbacks and greenery and made other improvements.
But Cr Kirwan said the alternative did not address liveability and design issues.
Cr Roz Blades said supporting Cr Dark’s motion would mean disregarding C182 at its first test.
“You’ve shown your propensity to trash a perfectly good planning amendment for what reason I don’t know,” she said.
Cr O’Reilly said: “This council should have consistent planning policy and make consistent decisions and fair decisions.
“No one has explained to me what’s special about this application?
“Why don’t we apply all of them with Cr Dark’s new minimums? What is special about this application?
“In black and white, on paper, it does not meet our code.
“As a planning authority we cannot allow it.”
But Cr Dark’s alternative succeeded, six votes to five.