The Development Game

The development game – do I object? Will I have to go to VCAT?

If you have never had to play this game before, you really need to know the following……

Firstly identify what is the Residential zone for your area, and what overlays apply   then click on maps, then choose your area 1 to 6. Once you have this open you can see the overlays, eg, vegetation protection VPO, or significant landscape SLO and a couple more, like Heritage or Special building zones.

At the end is the Maroondah Scheme which includes the new Residential Growth Zones, which have been determined to address the most recent State Government regulations regarding increasing density. If you find a RGZ this is a Residential Growth Zone, Developers watch for these and are onto them quite quickly, as they are able to erect multi story residences. They will have known about this long before you find out.

This next link explains how the State Government policy is expected to be applied across Victoria  This explains new changes since  March 2017

So when you get to hear about a proposal, plans have been drawn, boxes ticked and money set aside by the developer for a VCAT hearing. Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal, has in the past 10 years been in a process of metamorphosis and is now most commonly perceived to be a place of dispute resolution in favour of the State Government Housing policies, and a one size fits all approach to municipal planning.

Often the developer will foresee inevitable local objections and so will deliberately include ambit plans, which they know they can rescind at VCAT, making it look like they are ready and willing to make compromise. (Go for broke, then pull back )

So you and Council object, a date is set for a “directions hearing” at VCAT. This is an opportunity to be informed of the process, to streamline the hearing if it goes that far. Just before that day, the developer frequently removes the ambit component, which will have caused part of the objection. They may make further minor alterations too. The new plans may only be able to be sighted about 5 days before the mediation day, leaving objectors struggling to keep up.

A second VCAT date is set for a mediation day. If the “differences” between developer and objectors can be sorted out, the time may be extended right then and pressure applied by the chairperson, to stay longer to achieve agreement, thus avoiding the half or full day hearing and maybe even longer, depending on how many experts are called. There may be tree experts, traffic management experts, design experts, hydrologists and many others.

If agreement cannot be reached, then a Hearing Date is set. There may also even be a compulsory conference called before that date.

If Council has opposed the development, it is best to find out the grounds and address those reasons to support the major objector. All in all it is time costly, can be financially costly and is generally quite frustrating. There is no decision on the day, you generally have to wait about 2 weeks for a decision. CCS wishes you the best of luck in fighting to retain the ambience and amenity of your neighbourhood. By the way, we haven’t given up on saving trees, we are still mapping them, so contact us if you have trees nearby that you want mapped by us, yours or neighbours we don’t mind.