Friday, June 09, 2006

Frank and Clover fight but Inner City will be the Loser

eCouncillor was elected (by draw from the hat) to the powerful Central Sydney Sydney Planning Committee (read about the CSPC here) last September as the first appointee not endorsed by either the Lord Mayor or Planning Minister of the day. So it is that I am in the unique position to sniff out political motivations and ambush from either side. The 11th hour intervention by NSW Labor Planning Minister Frank Sartor (a former Lord Mayor and chair of the CSPC himself) to effectively take state control over the most lucrative development site in Sydney (valued at up to $1 billion) has all the hallmarks of a political fix designed to humiliate the Council and help-out the fraying state finances.

Sartor's letter to the lot Mayor and CSPC (undated but faxed 25 May) undermines the Council's complex negotiations on the public domain benefits from the massive development ( read Frank's letter to Clover here). The letter was marked CC Councillors John McInerney and Shane (sic) Mallard - but strangely my (Liberal) office never received a copy.

The CSPC held an Extraordinary meeting this week to consider its response to the Minister's letter (see agenda) and consider Clover Moore's response (see Clover Moore's letter to Frank Sartor). I sat through the hand ringing and polite talk from the government CSPC representatives for half an hour waiting patiently for someone to point out how outrageous this intervention was. In the end after one of Clover's familiar read on the record monologues, I had had enough. I spoke on the whole issue attacking the 'offensive letter' from Sartor as an act of political 'bastardry' and accused him of arrogantly taking the controls off the CSPC and Council so he can force in a gross overdevelopment and rip out as much money he can for the state budget. Leaving a legacy of over-development for the City of Sydney to clean up and live with.

My motion that :"The CSPC calls upon the Minister for Planning Frank Sartor to withdraw his letter addressed to the Lord Mayor on 25 May 2006 and indicate to Fosters and CSPC that he does not intend to use his powers under section 3A of the EP&A Act to call in the CUB development site, and to direct CSPC, Council and Fosters to conclude the Voluntary Planning Agreement."

The motion was moved Mallard and seconded John McInerney (a Clover Moore independent) and lost 3 to 4 (Council vs government). The final recommendation reaffirmed the CSPC support for the current draft controls agreed to in December and the development values they set out. This was passed unanimously and put the CSPC position on the record for the Minister and State Department of Planning. The CSPC then moved an additional motion then referring the whole project to the Minister for a final determination. That referral clause was disputed by myself as running up the white flag and surrendering to 'bully boy tactics'. It was passed by the CSPC with the 4 government votes to 3 Councillors against.

The CSPC and Council is very distressed about this shabby unprecedented treatment and the local community (Chippendale) are very concerned and angry. They fear further over-development and loss of the hard fought public benefits.

The questions that arise from this affair are:

  • how long ago did the Minister start talking with Fosters about his concerns? (Answer - seems like months now).
  • Why didn't the Director General of the Department of Planning who is a member of the CSPC offer to mediate this dispute prior to the current situation with public stand-off between Sartor and Moore? (Answer - because Sartor wanted a confrontation with his old nemesis Clover Moore).
  • why was the CSPC not advised by the State government about increased levies on the project? (Answer - because the cash crisis for the Redfern waterloo Authority has only grown more evident as developers fail to show interest in the 'Redfern renewal').
  • what level of additional development is the Minister considering in return for higher cash levies? (Answer - a 'flexible' level according to the Minister)
  • how will the Minister take into account community feedback on the site? (Answer - seems not much as one of his key CSPC representative is not attending the community consultation promoted below).

Clover Moore does not escape this free of responsibility:

  • How have the two jobs as Lord Mayor and MP for Bligh (both cover the CUB/Chippendale area) benefited the community? (Answer - seems not at all).

Council Calls Community Meeting:

Urgent Update on
Carlton and United Breweries Site

An urgent meeting has been called by Council to update the community on significant events surrounding the future of the Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) site.

7.30 pm, Thursday 15 June 2006
Medina Executive Sydney Central, in the Royal Mail Room
2 Lee Street Sydney (adjacent to Central Station)

The Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, has written to the Lord Mayor at the eleventh hour seeking increased Floor Space Ratio (FSR) controls for the CUB site and last minute inclusion of the Redfern Waterloo Authority (RWA) affordable housing levy in the draft Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) that the City was almost finished negotiating with Fosters, the site owner.

The Minister's late intervention threatens to increase height and density on the site; to derail negotiations on the VPA; and to compromise the community benefits for residents, including the proposed 5,000 square metre public park and $2.5 million community centre.

The City of Sydney and Central Sydney Planning Committee (CSPC) signed off on planning controls for the site in December last year, with an agreed FSR range of 3.5:1 to of 4:1. The absolute upper end of the range is conditional on achieving high standards of amenity, heritage, design excellence, parkland and sustainability. The draft controls were developed to balance the owner's rights with environmental constraints and community benefits.

Over the past six months, the City has worked with the site's owners to complete a VPA to secure all public benefits. This process is occurring for the fist time under new planning legislation and the Council and CSPC agreed that the draft VPA be publicly exhibited with the draft planning controls.

The Minister's last minute intervention has caused uncertainty and resulted in the site's owner backing away from an agreement that was about to be signed. The City had received RWA advice that the State Government would separately negotiate an affordable housing levy. While that levy was expected to be around three per cent of the development value, it now appears a higher level is proposed, compromising the VPA and the intended public benefits.

This looks like the Cross City Tunnel all over again if the Government seeking up front fees in exchange for controls that benefit the developer but are contrary to the public interest.

SMH coverage below:

Slum city fears as Sartor grabs massive project
Sherrill Nixon Urban Affairs EditorJune 9, 2006

THE Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, is set to take control of the city's biggest residential project, igniting fears he will allow enormous apartment blocks that will become Sydney's future slums.
The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, and Chippendale residents say Mr Sartor's last-minute intervention in the $800 million Carlton and United Breweries site is a blatant grab for more cash from the eventual developers.

They fear he will approve much larger apartment blocks on the Broadway site than the City of Sydney Council was prepared to accept, in exchange for higher developer levies which would be used to fund affordable housing in the Redfern-Waterloo area.
"The Government is looking for money here and you are just looking at the slums of the future," Cr Moore said.
The 5.7-hectare development, approximately the size of four city blocks, is expected to house about 3000 people in 1800 apartments - tripling the population of Chippendale.
It has been the subject of two years of difficult negotiations between the council and the site's owner, Foster's.
The huge blow to Cr Moore and her council came on Wednesday night at an extraordinary meeting of the Central Sydney Planning Committee.
The committee, comprising four government and three council appointees, considers city developments worth more than $50 million.
The meeting was called to respond to a letter from Mr Sartor, expressing concern at how long it had taken the council and Foster's to agree on a range of planning issues. In the letter, Mr Sartor also directed the council and Foster's to negotiate the affordable housing levy - a matter both parties, and the Central Sydney Planning Committee, had believed would be negotiated separately.
Cr Moore described the letter, which arrived just days before the council and the company were due to sign an agreement, as a "bolt from the blue".
At Wednesday's meeting, the government appointees used their majority vote to ask Mr Sartor to "call in" the development and assume planning control. Neil Bird, the deputy chairman of Landcom, told the meeting he did not believe the council and Foster's could come to an agreement following Mr Sartor's intervention.
"I think it's better to act professionally and request the minister use his powers," Mr Bird said.
Cr Moore, the Liberal councillor Shayne Mallard and the Moore-aligned councillor John McInerney opposed the motion, in a rare split vote.

"The fact is that the minister's intervention is nothing but political bastardry in my mind. It is designed to harm you [Cr Moore], it is designed to harm the council," Cr Mallard said.

But the committee passed a unanimous motion affirming its support for planning controls approved in December that restrict the highest buildings on the site to 100 metres, or approximately 33 storeys, and provide for a 5000-square metre park, child-care centre and community centre on the site.
Chippendale resident groups fear Mr Sartor's takeover would jeopardise those community facilities, destroy the heritage values of the site and lead to higher-density development.
Lindsay Charles, from the Friends of the Carlton United Site group, said that local residents believed the development allowed by the council was already too large.
"We have got the CBD on one side of us. If we have got this [development] directly behind us or we are just simply never going to see the sun again," Ms Charles said.
A Foster's spokesman, Troy Hey, said the company believed it was possible to have a higher-density development while retaining the community facilities.
He welcomed the likely takeover by Mr Sartor as a way of providing more certainty for Foster's, but conceded it meant going over a lot of ground that had already been the subject of negotiations with the council.
A spokeswoman for Mr Sartor, Zoe Allebone, said the minister would seek advice about whether to assume control of the development, but believed doing so could cut six to 12 months off the approval process.

Moore and Sartor trade blows over city brewery site

Sherrill Nixon Urban Affairs EditorJune 10, 2006

THE Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, has sought assurances from the State Government that money raised from the development of the Carlton & United Breweries site on Broadway will be spent on affordable housing in Redfern.
Cr Moore called on the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, to "come clean" on how much money the Government would raise through an affordable-housing levy on the developer and how it would be spent.
The two leaders spent the day trading insults as Mr Sartor took advice about whether to assume planning control of the $800 million residential development.
More than two years of negotiations between the City of Sydney and the site's owner, Foster's, reached an impasse this month when Mr Sartor criticised the way the council had handled the talks and told the parties to negotiate the levy.
Residents and the council fear Mr Sartor will allow bigger apartment blocks to be built on the site in exchange for a larger developer contribution, at the expense of community facilities such as parkland.
"How can the minister claim to provide a balanced outcome for the community when he is ignoring expert advice and advocating for an increase in the size of the development which will see his Government reap a cash bonanza?" Cr Moore asked.
Mr Sartor said he had a record of guaranteeing quality public facilities and it was a "simple untruth" to suggest the development would be worse if he took over planning control.
"The Lord Mayor should concentrate on her administration," he said. "She's had two general managers and she should concentrate on doing her job better."
Mr Sartor also said the council was not capable of addressing the architectural quality of the apartment blocks or affordable housing, and promised that the levy - which is expected to raise about $30 million - would be spent appropriately.

and today's SMH letters..

Developers the only winners in towering mess

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