May Special Council meetings report

Residents demand 5 story limit on Channel 9 site

Last night Yarra Council held two special meetings at Richmond Town Hall. First up Councillors decided on matters not dealt with at last week’s May Council meeting.
As has been too often the case, last week’s meeting was still going at close to midnight and SP Councillors won support to stop and finish the business the following week.

Major votes taken at the dead of night by Councillors after a long day in a real job is a guarantee for rushed, unconsidered decisions. SP is pushing for fortnightly shorter meetings rather than the long monthly ones we have at the moment.

Queen Victoria statue

Independent Cllr Jackie Fristacky wanted to push ahead with plans for a new Queen Victoria statue in North Fitzroy’s Edinburgh Gardens. The officers priced it at $140,000 but she said it was possible to source a second hand statue from India at a cheaper price.

SP Cllr Jolly described the plan as a form of political narcissism, showing a complete lack of empathy with what ordinary people in the area are going through.

An alternative recommendation was passed to get costings on all works in Edinburgh Gardens and in effect shelve plans for the statue. As Cllr Jolly told the Herald Sun: “It is a good result for the community … They want us to be improving child care and sports centres, not spending that money on a dead queen.”

Victoria Park Social Club

Council voted to offer Collingwood Football Club Foundation a lease for the Victoria Park Social Club. They will pay commercial rents to Council and in turn sub-let the Social Club to local community groups including the Collingwood Toy Library. This is a great result and the final act in a long campaign to improve Victoria Park.

The Collingwood VFL team, the Fitzroy Stars and other clubs now play on the ground at weekends. Many of the walls have come down so locals have a fantastic park. With the Social Club about to be reignited into a lively space this will complete a great community facility in Yarra.

Community Housing Rates Waiver

Council officers wanted to scrap this waiver given every year to local community housing providers. This waiver helps them provide much needed low cost housing for low income residents. As Yarra faces unrelenting gentrification, support for those bucking the trend is a must.

The ALP and Independents support the cut which was no surprise. The Greens pushed for a cut (albeit it smaller) of about $13,000. This is despite Council’s strong financial position with a rising population pouring extra rates into its coffers.

SP Councillors argued to maintain the wavier in full. Cllr Main argued that the waiver should be maintained in full and that any cuts would be a blow to community housing as Yarra was one of only a handful of Councils to offer the waiver.

We lost the vote 6-2 – and the Green ‘smaller cut’ position was passed.

Channel 9 site

Straight after the spill-over meeting, Council held a special meeting to decide a way forward for the development proposed on the old Channel 9 site in Richmond. Lend Lease has purchased the site and want to build a series of towers in this low rise area.

The meeting was packed with about 100 East Richmond residents mainly organised by the new East Richmond Residents Association that was formed late last year out of a SP public meeting on the same issue.

The meeting voted to call on the Minister of Planning to appoint a panel of planning experts to consider the hundreds of submissions received on the matter. The Council submission was strengthened under pressure from residents who demanded that reference be made to the 5 storey limit outlined in Councils own guidelines.

With Lend Lease making a profit of over $220 million in the last six months of 2010 they can afford to wear such a reduction without trying to spread the lost three floors ‘sideways’ throughout the site.

The bigger issue is that as Richmond expands with new apartments we desperately need more community facilities. That’s why SP has fought hard (and successfully) to keep the 49 Tudor Street and the Loughnan Hall community centres. Originally the Greens, ALP and Independents had all supported their closure.

Side by side with expanding community facilities the Socialist Party fights for expanded, integrated and free public transport so we stop the rising gridlock in Yarra and throughout Melbourne.

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