Thursday, August 09, 2012

mcdonalds appeal - day 4

Prior to the council meeting, community members rallied
outside the venue. For the second time only in it's
history Yarra Ranges had to shift the meeting
venue due to the anticipated crowd numbers.
Day four of the hearing sees the end of the community submitters and onto McDonalds presenting their expert witness reports.

We started the day with Erwin Jahn, an engineer, Erwin took us through his concerns in relation to traffic  movements in and around the site. In particular Erwin highlighted the opposing two right hand turns, one into the site from Burwood Hwy and the one into McNicol Rd from Burwood Hwy.  He highlighted the inherent danger and threat to driver safety with this configuration. 

Next up was Roz Yeung, who gave an indepth presentation on the character and philosophy of the area and the strong connection to sense of place. 

This was followed by environmental volunteer, Anne Elizabeth, who talked first hand about the deficiencies of the design of the disabled car park as a person with a disability. Anne highlighted the dangerous location of the carpark, the limitations in terms of reversing out of the carpark due to sightline restrictions and being so close to the entry and exit points to Burwood Hwy. Anne also highlighted the impossibility of reversing into the car park (as shown in McDonalds photo montage), both in terms of safety (it’s too close to the Burwood Hwy entry and exit driveway) and restricting the ability to access walking aids located in the boot of motor vehicles.  Anne also queried the grade of the carpark as it appears as if it is on a slope in the montage, raising further concerns of issues around accessibility and functionality of the disabled carpark.

As Anne is an environmental volunteer with the Friends of Hazelvale Valley she spoke about the countless hours volunteers spend improving the environment throughout the Dandenongs. In particular she raised concerns about additional litter in the environment as a result of the proposal and the great burden and workload this will put on our environmental volunteers. Anne presented photos of a recent Clean Up Australia Day collection from Hazelvale Valley, which showed a staggering amount of rubbish already, let alone what could be contemplated with this development. 

Next was Barbara Crisp who spoke about the key importance of tourism to the region, making up 4.22% of the Yarra Ranges economy and contributing $381million every year to the local economy . She made specific reference to the objection lodged by the Villages of Mt Dandenong association who outlined their concerns about the detrimental impact this development would have,  as part of the council planning process.  

Local resident, Stuart Thompson was next. Stuart gave a compelling presentation about traffic across the McNicol Rd, Burwood Hwy and Sandells Rd intersections using photos taken only yesterday morning. He talked about the traffic light sequence at Sandells Rd which only allows 15 cars to cross at a time and detailed that there is often 50+ cars in the queue meaning it would take 3 sets of lights to cross the intersection if you were car 45 in the queue.  Stuart also raised the issue of Knox City Council’s  proposed widening of Burwood Hwy and that modeling had not taken this into account in the traffic reports in terms of it’s impact further up the road in Tecoma. 

Stuart reiterated a common theme throughout the hearing, that Tecoma is lights off at 10pm, a nice quiet township, a 24 hour business just doesn’t fit in. 

Anita Dealy followed Stuart and presented an extensive submission on the built form of Tecoma and the characteristics that make Tecoma unique (in terms of built form). She spoke about the fine grain treatments, buildings fitting into the attractive landscape, pitched and gabled roofs, verandahs, windows with sensitive design with attention to finishes. She highlighted more recent developments in Tecoma which reinforce the character of and respond sensitively to Tecoma. She also highlighted the rear of the established Tecoma shops which look residential in nature and provide a good interface between the business and residential zones of the township. 

Anita highlighted that the DVD Destination built form was an anomaly in the town in terms of character and was a good demonstration of a poor design outcome given it’s size and bulk. She highlighted that buildings need to reflect neighbourhood character to mitigate any adverse effects.

She finished her presentation by reinforcing the fact that a contemporary building does not respond to the character of Tecoma with its bulky, bland, boxy look.

Member Carew asked Anita how the frontages and window treatments of the proposed building could be addressed. Anita answered saying given the continuous, large long profile of the building it was very difficult to achieve the fine grain treatment that is representative of Tecoma.

Next up was Melissa Koch who was there submitting for Tecoma Preschool on behalf of Wilf Wharton who died suddenly on Friday 3 August. Wilf was a key member of the core committee formed to fight the appeal in VCAT. Melissa presented Wilf’s submission as written by Wilf which was a very emotional occasion for onlookers in the gallery who had been close to Wilf through his work in the community or through the VCAT appeal.

Melissa highlighted the development was grossly disproportionate to the needs and wants of our community. She talked about the values and philosophy of Tecoma Preschool and the work to develop a sense of place with the preschoolers. She raised the issue of localism, in that McDonalds say they buy local but in their case that’s in Australia, whilst in the hills, local means local. She also raised concerns about the aggressive marketing to children given the preschool is located adjacent to the development across Burwood Highway.  It was a wonderful tribute to Wilf, Melissa you most certainly did him and his family proud.

The last speaker on behalf of the community was Tim Radisich, a town planner representing a number of objectors.

Tim started by posing the questions about the building and works, is the design solution appropriate, is it the right contextual response, does it deliver what is contemplated in Vision2020 by Design?

He pointed out sign S5 and suggested it was an oversight by council as it was on the front fascia of the road reserve on land that doesn’t form part of the application, he also highlighted that the landscape plan included the installation of a 1.75mt fence at the rear of DVD Destination, also on land that isn’t part of the application.

He raised issues around the acoustic fence treatments, the 8 to 9 metre fall across the site, the significant constraints on design, the fact the plans are missing details on materials to be used, the lack of detail on how Customer Ordering Devices (CODs) are meant to function and sit.

He said the plans indicated that the drive through configuration impacts on the land at 1527 Burwood Highway which results in a loss of at least 4 car parks (at Bonsai Bali) and that there has been no assessment of this by the expert witnesses.

In a comprehensive submission he talked about the:
- overall loss of car parking available to the township in the order of 64 spaces;
- loss of buildings that relate to the built form of Tecoma to be replaced with a blocky, busy building;
- brutal blade sign, the irregular verandah which was discordant with the general form of Tecoma;
- issues that arise in the design of the building and how it responds to the site in that it’s poorly designed, particularly the disabled car park and convenient pedestrian access;
- principal access being from the rear, not something you see in Tecoma;
- 43mt frontage which is unlike other land parcels in the business zone, the largest frontage in the shopping centre;
- impact of the fence on 2/89 Sandells Rd and their private open space and that the height of the fence is not common in Tecoma, in addition there doesn’t seem to be recognition that the land falls an additional 700mm from the edge of car park to the boundary line – the reason why Tim has been urging the tribunal to get a levels plan of the car parks;
- terrace is higher than the existing verandah at Saffron Cottage and will be seen clearly with Tim reiterating again how important it is to have a levels plan;
- south side of the site where 1528 and 1530 Burwood Highway are located (across the road), it is residential and the relationship between this residential area and the site have not been fully explored;
- the height of the signage, the ugly building with no contextual response – “I don’t think it is working”.

He raised the issue of the built form of DVD destination, how it defines the mistakes that we don’t want to repeat. He covered off on issues around acoustics and lighting, particularly the lack of attenuation of light emissions from CODs, light poles, advertising signage.

At that point we reached lunch with Member Rundell deciding a shorter lunch break to allow us to get to hear opening submissions by McDonalds.

On resumption Tim continued his submission. At first he spoke of how a proposal for the site should be moderated in temper, footprint and extent. In particularly he raised the stacked stone on the building and blade, that there was a lack of the overriding and overwhelming character of Tecoma.

He talked about:
- the character of Tecoma already acknowledged by the Tribunal in the VCAT decision around the supermarket application;
- the relationship of the size of the building and works and intensity of use;
- the disabled car park;
- the excessive advertising, raising the issue that the blade has no other function than to advertise;
- that no community car park in Tecoma has pole lighting which is contemplated in this application;
- the drive through and how that will function on an incline, once again urging for level plans (at this point Mr Townshend SC for McDonalds interjected and suggested this was so insignificant and that Mr Radisich could ask the traffic engineers all about it);
- the site is currently around a 1:10 grade, so if the CODs aren’t on level ground it would require people to put their handbrake on to stop rolling back whilst they are ordering at the drive through and that to his knowledge all other CODs in McDonalds drive throughs are on level ground.

At this point Mr Radisich presented his hand drawn draft levels detailing the 4mt fall from the COD to the rear boundary, raising concerns about if the CODs need to be on a level grade, they would require a fill of 1.2mtrs, otherwise how could they be accessed safely, which would require a reconfiguration of the driveway surface to minimise the 1:10 grade or something in between, but the plan is silent on these matters. Mr Radisich said surely it’s the applicants desire to have CODs on level ground as the alternative has inherent dangers and risks.

At 3:10pm Member Rundell gave direction (this means it has to happen) that Mr Radisich go to his summary. In summary Mr Radisich said there was a strong and consistent policy thread for Tecoma and that the proposal did not acknowledge the fine grain character of Tecoma.

It was at this point Member Rundell said the tribunal would look for additional hearing dates (it was apparent to all of us that it was going to take longer than the two days allocated, especially if allowing for Wilf Wharton’s funeral).

At 3:23pm Chris Townshend SC commenced his submission for McDonalds. He made particular reference to the past Tribunal decision (the supermarket) and the limitations that apply to the tribunal. He said the Tribunal made an error in that past decision particularly around ‘role and function’ and that is was an incorrect assessment.

Is McDonalds paving the way for a Supreme Court challenge and is this their mechanism for doing so? To onlookers that is how it appeared.

Mr Townshend SC went on to say the decision should be about the scale of the building not the scale of use. He said it’s not busy because McDonalds made it busy, McDonalds are taking advantage of traffic driving through. He went on to say it was a low order convenience restaurant, it is a convenience not a destination, in that people who are already going by will go to the restaurant, it won’t be a destination in itself.

Mr Townshend SC said that tribunal needs to be disciplined about what it can do in relation to permit conditions (given this is a building and works permit and the use is as of right).  That conditions need to fairly and reasonably relate and implement planning policy and be based on any evidence that emerges as to necessitate the condition.

He said the proposal had been designed to meet convenience and needs, not to shut down and tell people when they have to go to bed.

At that point Mr Townshend SC finished and Member Rundell addressed some outstanding matters, in that we would hear Mr Townshend finish his submission tomorrow (Friday 10/8), Mr McGurn, planning expert would present his evidence followed by Mr Hunt, traffic expert. He also reported that the tribunal had found additional days for the hearing, the 3rd and 4th September.

Member Carew just prior to the close of the session requested a copy of the Shire’s internal referral of Urban Design Report as it was generally not supportive of the proposal.

The day closed at 4:40pm.

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At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Nicole said...

Thanks for keeping us all up to date Samantha! It is highly appreciated

At 6:41 PM, Anonymous Shonasea said...

so good to have your updates.

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Andrew said...

Whereabouts in Knox is Burwood Highway going to be widened? It is already three lanes in each direction pretty much the whole way through knox, except between Stud Road and EastLink and a small section through Upper Ferntree Gully. Personally I think that it would be good to see Burwood Highway duplicated through Tecoma, as it really is a traffic nightmare, but that's obviously not possible with the shops and such there. I can't imagine what it would be like with a McDonalds there. Should be interesting to see what McDonalds say, in rebuttal to our community's strong response.

At 2:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the updates Samantha, reading them all the way from Greece!


At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a detailed account Samantha. Will be keeping an eye out for future posts.

At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Peter D said...

While you are focusing on the traffic in Tecoma, could you please look at the traffic generated by the school. Look at the illegal parking and dropoff on burwood hwy, the illegal right hand turns out of the school carpark, and the badly positiond end carpark blocking traffic along burwood hwy when "ONE" car is waiting to turn right into the church carpark. This is the sort of issue you should be concentrating on, benefiting all residents of the shire and making safer road conditions for all.


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