Earlier this year, the City of Monash proposed changes to the regulations for property development that may affect your future plans. All developers in Monash will need to understand the implications as the changes will be far reaching.
Known as ‘Amendment C125’ to the Monash Planning Scheme, the proposed changes would apply to extensions, buildings and subdivisions. Here we show how the changes are likely to affect your development and some strategies you can take to respond.
HOW IT WORKS
There are 3 existing Residential Zones set by the State Government and Council will set which one applies to a particular location in Monash.
- General Residential Zone.
Respects neighbourhood character while allowing modest housing growth and diversity.
- Residential Growth Zone.
Encourages housing growth and more diverse housing types.
- Neighborhood Residential Zone.
Restricts housing growth and protects neighborhood character.
Each zone has its own set of requirements, plus specific Schedules which will also be applied to make the zone more tailored to each local area. You can locate your address and its new residential zone from here: www.oursay.org/monash/residentialzones
Under the title ‘Amendment C125’ council proposes to change development requirements by introducing new Zone Schedules. Each Zone Schedule will have unique requirements specifying what buildings and works are appropriate for that particular property and location. These include things like distance between buildings and fences (setbacks), how big buildings can be (size, height and scale), and how much land can be built on (site coverage). All new extensions, subdivisions and building will need to meet the new criteria.
WHAT SPECIFIC REGULATIONS WERE PROPOSED?
Under the new regulations the following changes would apply to properties in ‘General Residential Zone – Schedule 3’:
- Reducing maximum site coverage from 60% to 50%. This is the amount of building coverage including carports and sheds.
- Increasing permeability from 20% to 30%. This is the minimum amount of surfaces not covered by buildings, footpaths and paving. Permeable surfaces allow rain to sink into the ground and reduce stormwater runoff.
- Increasing the rear setback from 1 metre to 5 metres. This is the distance any new building or structure must be from the rear of the block. But garages and sheds can still be built on the boundary.
- Requiring one parcel of 60 square metres of private open space per new dwelling. This is for ‘livability’ – to preserve the concept of having a green ‘back yard’ in residential dwellings.
- Requiring the planting of 2 ‘canopy’ trees. These trees will grow taller than the house, providing shade and assisting privacy. Large trees will maintain neighborhood character.
WHY DOES THE COUNCIL WANT THESE NEW REGULATIONS AND WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIVES OF THE NEW REGULATIONS?
It is estimated Melbourne will need 1.5 million new dwellings by the year 2051. That’s a huge amount of property development! Most of these will be townhouse construction, units, apartments and new homes on existing blocks built in urban areas like Monash. The council wants strategies in place to cater for this growth and is introducing new regulations to keep pace with it. These strategies are:
1. Maintain the ‘garden city’ character in Monash.
- Keep the General Residential Zone – but with new Schedules
- Introduce greater rear setbacks
- Have less site coverage
- Have higher permeability
- Require larger private open space
- Require planting of canopy trees
2. Focus most housing growth in town centres.
- Apply a Residential Growth Zone
- Have smaller setbacks and lower permeability
- Require minimal open space and fewer canopy trees
- Allow higher buildings
3. Protect heritage and environmental areas.
- Apply a Neighbourhood Residential Zone
- Limit development to no more than two dwellings per lot
- Minimum subdivision size of 300 square metres
- Limit building height to two storeys
- Have greater rear setbacks
- Require larger private open space and more canopy trees
WHAT COMMUNITY PRESSURES ARE ON COUNCIL?
According to City of Monash the changes are responding to community concerns about over-development and the desire to maintain Monash’s ‘garden city’ character. The Council claims the new regulations will protect neighbourhoods with tree-lined streets and dwellings with yards and gardens, by focusing the development of apartments in town centres, key main roads and select sites near Monash University.
On the other hand, there is also pressure being pushed back against the new proposals from residents who want to build bigger homes or other kinds of developments on their blocks.
AFTER FEEDBACK FROM THE PUBLIC, THE COUNCIL THEN MODIFIED SOME OF THE PROPOSALS
Feedback from the public over the first part of 2016 expressed concerns that the initial proposed regulations as described above, would hamper development. In response Council made some more adjustments to the proposals, which were outlined in a media release in May by Monash Mayor, Stefanie Perri.
Addressing the issue of trying to find a position that protects Monash’s ‘garden city’ reputation while still allowing for developers to capitalize on a site’s potential, Mayor Stefanie Perri said: “We’re trying to find the middle ground so that we can retain the local character and amenity that makes Monash such a wonderful place to live, while also allowing local people to redevelop their properties to meet their needs”.
Stefani Perri said she hoped a balance could be achieved with these new revised measures, published in the media release:
- Changing the previous proposal that a 60m2 parcel of private open space was to be required in new developments. Some property owners thought this was asking too much. Council is now proposing that a 50m2 minimum parcel of private open space be required, except in the areas near the Gardiners, Scotchmans and Damper Creeks where the proposal is still for a 60m2 parcel
- Shelving a previous proposal of a five metre setback between new houses and the back fence. Some property owners protested that this requirement would be too restrictive. Importantly, a rear setback of six or seven metres is still proposed to be retained for environmentally sensitive areas around the Gardiners, Scotchmans and Damper Creeks
- Requiring that a minimum of two canopy trees be incorporated in new multi-unit developments across Monash. It had initially been proposed that three canopy trees would be required in multi-unit developments in some parts of Monash, but the proposal has been changed in response to community feedback. Also, it’s now proposed that there’s no specific height set for these trees: but that the height of the trees is to be linked to the height of the new units (so if a site has a single storey building, the canopy trees only need to be as high as that building, but if it has a double storey building, the canopy trees need to meet the height of that building)
- A specified area in Glen Waverley (bounded by Highbury Rd, Springvale Rd, Waverley Rd, Gallaghers Rd, Westlands Rd and Camelot Dr) is now proposed to come under the less restrictive General Residential Zone. Previously, this area was proposed to be included in a Neighbourhood Residential Zone, where development is limited to a maximum of two houses per block.
- In response to some community concerns about overdevelopment, maximum coverage buildings would have across a property block (the site coverage) would be reduced from 60% to 50%. In environmentally sensitive areas near the Gardiners, Scotchmans and Damper Creeks, the maximum site coverage is proposed to be as low as 40% – 45%.
- Most properties in Monash currently have site coverage lower than 50%. However, occasionally there are new constructions that exceed this.
WHAT STRATEGIES CAN YOU TAKE TO RESPOND TO ANY CHANGES?
These amendments to the initial changes are still quite restrictive so adaptability is key. On a site that might have previously been developed to produce 3 mid-level townhouses, you could plan instead for 2 larger, more luxurious dwellings achieving the same financial result for the same kind of outlay, but with potentially less hassle. Your suburb selection here is critical to make sure your end values are where you need them to be.
Home values continue to rise in Melbourne’s middle ring suburbs with the South East recording strong demand and high auction clearance rates (according to the REIV) in 2015 and continuing across 2016, as more people look for homes just outside the very expensive inner ring.
Also, some architects believe they may still be able to achieve the same number of dwellings on a development site that were possible before the new regulations, but with a lesser overall building footprint, given the proposed increases in setbacks and private open space. But you need to get a savvy architect on your project, one who knows the area and has plenty of experience with developments in City of Monash and working with the council’s expectations. Early investment in the right architect / town planner can pay dividends later.
Another trend we’re seeing is the increase of developments that are between 7 – 14 townhouses. More developers are grouping sites together in-order to increase the total number of townhouses they can achieve on a site. Not a new concept at all, but as land prices increase and what seems to be the ever changing landscape of planning policies potentially restricting development is some areas, it’s easy to see how this strategy has become more widespread.
Another option is to broaden your horizons with some lateral thinking and look outside City of Monash for your development. Shifting your sights to a neighbouring council area may be the right solution.