Disappointing decision on Mt Waverley site as developer takes advantage of state planning loophole

Council is disappointed with a decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to grant a permit for a six to seven storey retirement village and café at 554-558 High Street Road, Mount Waverley.

By taking advantage of a “loophole” in the Victorian planning schemes, the developer is able to avoid the three storey height limit that applies to apartment buildings and instead construct a seven storey vertical complex because it is classified a “retirement village”.

The developer Pace Development Group had lodged amended plans with VCAT reducing the number of apartments in its original permit and modifying its setback. However, Council retained its position that the proposed development, at six to seven storeys, was not suitable for this site.

The approved permit is for 79 apartments overall (reduced from 83) including:

  • 61 two bedroom apartments (reduced from 64)
  • 18 (reduced from 19) one bedroom apartments
  • Basement setback two metres from the western boundary (instead of building on the boundary)
  • Basement coverage reduced from 95% to 91%
  • A reduction in parking provision from 94 to 89 car spaces (including one car park for each apartment).

Mayor Shane McCluskey said it was absurd that the standard three storey height limit applying to the site can be exceeded simply because the developer calls the apartment building a “retirement village”.

Cr McCluskey said the scale of the development was a poor outcome for one of Monash’s small Neighbourhood Activity Centres and the Neighbourhood Residential Zone controls.

“These types of developments in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone fly in the face of the principle of this zone which is in place because it recognises the sensitive nature of the area,” Cr McCluskey said.

“This proposal takes advantage of a perverse loophole in the State’s planning provisions and is not reflective of the strong garden city character of this area. It will have a significant impact on the amenity of the residential areas nearby.

“It’s extremely disappointing that it’s been given the go-ahead and in our view sets a poor precedent for the remaining activity centre,” he said.

“We know residents in this area will also be disappointed at this decision by VCAT. At the end of the day our community will have to put up with a seven storey building simply because the developers say they will sell to retirees. The height of a building shouldn’t be determined by who lives in it. Councils have continually highlighted this issue, but our legitimate concerns have been ignored. The government needs to urgently fix this situation.”

Council had sought community feedback on the $25 million proposal for a six to seven storey retirement village with 35 objections and one petition with 30 signatories lodged.

This is the second application Council has received from the developer for this site. In 2017 Council refused a permit for a 4-8 storey mixed use development, which was upheld by VCAT.

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