Suburbs ignored

ANDREW LUOBIKIS of Mardie Street, Beaconsfield grew up in Willagee and Hamilton Hill but built the family home in Beaconsfield. He says Fremantle ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and merging with Melville or Cockburn might be a good thing for the port city.

Rachel Pemberton(Herald Thinking Allowed, September 28, 2013) should take a good hard look at herself and step outside the immediate area of the CBD.

Fremantle is made up of diverse suburbs such as mine—Beaconsfield—with many so-called McMansions. Her ignorant and naïve understanding of family life in the suburbs shines through in her article.

Blocks are getting smaller (something Fremantle obviously promotes), the only option for families creating space for children is to go up. The days of the quarter-acre (1011sqm) blocks are long gone—200-400sqm is the go these days.

The very urban form Rachel is objecting to is in fact the changing face of Fremantle suburban living. Even heritage housing stock is being extended and enhanced in this way (look at Marine Terrace, Salentina Ridge, and potentially the new LandCorp development near the golf course).

Development

At last week’s council meeting Rachel voted to support a development next to our family home. The developer has subdivided his adequate block of 680sqm (perfect for a modest singe storey) opting instead to shoe-horn a house onto the subdivided block, using maximum discretion on setback, impacting neighbours and flying in the face of Rachel’s stated dislike of houses “that take up the entire block”.

What do you think happens on such small blocks? This is the same council that approved the subdivision in the first place.

The council—except for our Beaconsfield representatives Josh Wilson and David Hume and Hilton ward representative Sam Wainwright—voted to support a variation to the northern setback of the new development with a 4.5m wall right up against our boundary. This contravenes the council’s own planning scheme No 4 (LPS4), the R codes and council’s own policies for a 4m setback because of the overbearing height of the wall.

The minimum side setback is 1.5m for a standard development adhering to the R codes: It now looks like we will have a building adjacent to our single storey portion with a height of 4.5m and a setback of 1.3m. All because it was considered “a modest development”—it is in fact a self-inflicted constrained development by an investor with very little off-street parking and a façade like a factory unit!

Rachel, how about considering your ratepayers and residents whose amenity will be severely affected by a developer/builder/owner who never has nor never will live here.

Cr Andrew Sullivan, after declaring an impartiality interest at the September 18 planning committee and September 25 council meetings carried on for an inordinate amount of time at both on the benefits of allowing this development to go ahead—ultimately convincing councillors he was right (the lack of robust debate or discussion was gob-smacking).

Having declared his partiality Cr Sullivan should have removed himself from the process and allowed his colleagues to make their own decision without his input.

By the way, our “McMansion” is on Mardie Street and is subject to local area scheme DGB4. After reading this policy I am left wondering how our place was ever approved, let alone the one down the road or one next door.

I now wish I hadn’t built here. Since building our rates have gone up by more than $1000 a year, just for the benefit of living in Freo. Now we have the detriment of no blue sky from our main living areas and no natural light. Anyone want to buy a house on Mardie Street, only 4km from Freo’s CBD?

Rachel, read your own planning policies!

At the meeting we asked for an explanation of why this development had been recommended for approval by council officers (despite early correspondence to the effect discretion should not be applied) and the basis for approval from the broader council members . There did not seem to be any substance to the response other than “we considered it”. A number of objections were made aside from our own and all were summarily dismissed. My wife and I made representation at both meetings, the developer at only the planning committee.

I wonder if there have been some critical conversations we have not been party to. We invited councillors to our place to get a full understanding of our issues and all we have heard is crickets.

Now, if this is your idea of a small council having a personal touch you can keep it! Is this really the true fabric of Freo? Bring on Melville and all the resource clout it can muster.

I am passionate about Fremantle with all it has to offer and wanted to foster this passion in my four-year-old daughter. I have always invested emotionally and financially in Freo and thought I always would.

Growing up as a child in the area as an 11-year-old I sold the The Daily News after school and trotting guides at Richmond Raceway for Somes News on High Street.

Long before the AFL I was at Fremantle Oval selling the weekend paper (on breaks sitting down to support the mighty Bulldogs). I bussed it every day to attend John Curtin SHS. I shop in Freo and encourage my multinational employers to invest in Freo by holding events and staying here when visiting from interstate.

Growing up in Willagee and Hamilton Hill I have worked hard to break free from my family’s dependency on welfare and state housing to build a stable and better life in the place I love.

Second fiddle

All this time I have considered myself a Freo boy. Now in my 40s still working hard I am presented with the wisdom of the Fremantle council, “playing second fiddle to its bureaucracy and red tape”. After just a couple of years owning our well-deserved “McMansion” in the Fremantle council area I am regretting my decision to make our family home smack-bang in the middle of Fremantle council.

I should have kept the big block in Hamilton Hill and built a big single storey (our preference) for the kids. I could have supported the Dockers in their new home in the progressive mega-council of Cockburn. Hmm, perhaps a merger with Cockburn is an idea. We would at least get weekly collection of our recycling bins and tip passes with our cheaper rates. This, rather than the under-resourced Fremantle with none of that.

Have you ever tried to make contact with council officers down at Fremantle? Standing at reception whilst the apologetic front desk people try frantically to make contact and take advice from officers who will not come downstairs to deal with ratepayers?

Have you ever tried to reach an officer and got them on the first phone call? Is this the friendly, accessible local touch?

Tell me Rachel, what exactly is at stake? What am I getting apart from rates, roads and rubbish? Rachel, you have helped to make up my mind in the council elections as to who has no life experience nor idea how to govern this wonderful town.

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