Three-storey village no tall order: VCAT

The vacant site for a three-storey retirement village, next door to Cambodian Buddhist temples and Bright Moon Society''s ''pagoda''. 208591_02 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A three-storey retirement village has been given the green-light in Springvale South despite the objections of Greater Dandenong Council, a resident and the Cambodian Buddhist Association of Victoria.

On 8 May, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal overturned the council’s refusal of the 60-unit proposal at 173-191 Clarke Road.

The facility on a large 7831-square-metre vacant site would include first-floor terraces, a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, a communal gym, cinema, restaurant and hall.

The site was previously used by a truck-hire company.

VCAT members Kerrie Birtwistle and Lorina Nervegna dismissed arguments against the 11-metre, three-storey height and overlooking into neighbouring yards.

Greater Dandenong Council argued for a “preferred” two-storey height, given the site was in an incremental-change zone.

But the VCAT members found the proposal was not “unreasonably counter” to the council’s design principles.

The two-storey limit was not “mandated” under the council’s own policy.

Cambodian Buddhist Association objected with concerns of overlooking. It had itself built two “visually dominant” temples of about two-to-three-storeys height, the members noted.

Bright Moon Buddhist Society’s two-to-three-storey temple and a “pagoda structure” up to nine storeys high also loomed close by.

“It cannot be said that (the temples and pagoda) provide an urban design outcome that resembles anything that is sought in the (council’s) Residential Development and Neighbourhood Character Policy,” the VCAT members stated.

“We also agree with the applicant that (independent-living units) cannot adopt a domestic idiom in their architecture.

“It will necessarily sit within a robust building form. But in our view, this does not make the built form inconsistent with its setting.”

Greater Dandenong was also concerned about the impact on amenity for two townhouses behind the site.

VCAT regarded the residences as an “anomaly” amongst a mix of uses.

In the area were temples, an indoor sports centre, a kindergarten, petrol station and vet, a vacant former landfill as well as another aged care facility run by the applicant Japara Developments.

The facility had access to public transport, open space and places of worship. It responded to an “identified need” for housing diversity in Greater Dandenong.

“There is no dispute between the parties that the site is suitable for use as a retirement village.”

In August 2019, Greater Dandenong councillors rejected a council officer’s recommendation to approve the permit.

Japara Developments appealed the decision to VCAT.

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