34 Union Street - a really nice place to call home, close to everything, even the airport, but it could be a lot better

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Real politics

Should the Owners Committee be involved in Politics? - AHB 2021

More than you realise. Our 34 Union Street premises sit in an area controlled by Moreland Council, Vic Rail and even a federal government that could inflict a large station carpark on us.

It takes a very inward looking view to decide that the management of our building should ignore all of the possible actions that could impact our enjoyment of life here and the value of our investments. Recently Moreland Council installed traffic islands that now force our garbage removal people to park opposite our building and wheel the large bins across the road and through the morning traffic. Our Owners Committee minutes for September 2021 declare that this is not an OC issue.

Fortunately one of our residents wrote to Moreland, started a dialogue with the mayor and the area in front of Shop 1 will become a loading zone. Problem solved. (April 2022 - it hasn't happened yet.)

Take the issue of upgrading the park opposite our building that was part of a presentation to residents by VicTrack, Moreland Council and NeoMetro, builders of the apartment block near Jewell station. It was to include a play area for children, along with other items. Parents with children would have found improvements to the park quite useful and another benefit of living at 34 Union Street.

Hope is not lost because there is a chance that Moreland could pick up the tab. The park land is owned by VicTrack but leased to Moreland. Like many local government matters success goes with persistence. Squeaky hinges get oiled.

34 Union Street has a resident community of about 90 people plus the absentee owners, possibly another 40. Properly informed and organised we have influence if we choose to use it. We vote and can put forward our views. A committee representing our concerned group has far more influence on our three South Ward councillors and hence Moreland Council than a single voter.

A clear example is the state of the nature strip immediately opposite our building, It's a rough strip of dirt with a Telstra column that regularly falls over. On the other side of the tracks Moreland Council has plans for substantial upgrades to the streets between the station and Sydney Road. We should push to get our side of the tracks included. Or do you like living on the other side of the tracks?

Here are a couple of hypotheticals:

VicTrack has made such a nice profit from their dealings with Neo Metro they decide to sell the west side park. It is a larger piece of land than the two lots on the east side so a much larger apartment complex is approved. All the southern apartments in our building lose their view and we all lose the park on our doorstep

Here's a more frightening case. VicTrack has decided that the best way of eliminating the Union Street level crossing is with a bridge over the rail line. The plans available show the bridge starting near Ivy Street and passing our building at a level between the first and second floor apartments. The nature strip in front of our building, including the trees, is to be removed to provide a side road for access to the RMIT car park.

The disadvantages to us are:

  • Access to our car park requires proceeding to Ivy Street, U turning and heading back along the new RMIT access road.
  • Noise level increased to all front apartments.
  • View of the park lost.
  • The two businesses at the front of the building will lose much trade.
  • All units will drop in value.

Now I am quite certain that no organisation would plan for such nonsense but if; wouldn’t owners and residents expect the Owners Committee to become very active in keeping them informed and marshalling opposition?

How do owners and residents find out about common issues or let the committee know of their concerns? Communication with the committee is either through a monitored email address or through MIA, and the committee’s communications to its electorate is again through MIA. Of course there is the notice board but investor owners don’t get to see that too often and the notices get a bit stale.

The present modus operandi of our management is a comfortable and effective way to operate that meets the rules. But is this all that owners should expect from their committee?

Consider this: Moreland Council has grand plans for Wilson Avenue, the street that leads from the climbing hump and mini-park at Sydney Road and turns to the right at Jewel station to connect with Little Gold Street. Some of the low level buildings in Wilson Avenue are to become apartment buildings, one alredy well underway, and the streetscape is to be enhanced to complement the new buildings. Details are available on Moreland's website.

An Owners Committee representative of well informed owners and residents could consider an association with the OC's of the new, larger apartment block on Jewell station south east side and the residents of the even larger housing commission apartments to impress on our south ward councillors the need for some of the Wilson Street money to be redirected to our side of the track as earlier promised.

Our management - the OC and MIA - must move from their inward looking, minimum involvement modus operandi, to become involved both with their inward community of owners and residents and the external communities such as Moreland, Vic Track and even neighbouring strata OC's.

A few facts about council elections:

  • Most voters haven’t a clue about what council is doing or planning so why bother to vote?
  • Some candidates for election are using it as an opportunity for higher office. For example Samantha Ratnam was a South Ward councillor, then Moreland mayor and now a member of the State Parliament.
  • Candidates often have no major party support and are looking for local issues that could harvest supporters.

This note isn’t canvassing the idea that we should pick a candidate in the forthcoming October Council elections and round up residents to hand out flyers. It is an effort to get the Owners Committee to recognise that it can and should have a role beyond the physical maintenance of the building and the maintenance of law and order within it.

As a body we should let all candidates clearly understand that a renovated park is important to us, and we should also correspond directly with the Council on the matter.

It could also be useful to quietly let it be known how many votes our OC can influence.

A note on who can vote

Both residents and ratepayers can vote in Council elections subject to a few conditions. For council elections, a ‘resident’ is a person who is enrolled on the state electoral roll for an address in the council area. (State rolls are maintained by the Victorian Electoral Commission.)

For council elections, ‘ratepayers’ are owners of a rateable property and up to two owners, not otherwise on the State roll for an address at the council, may be enrolled, occupiers who pay rates under a lease, again up to two occupiers and representatives of corporations who own or occupy a rateable property, one representative may be enrolled. Electors can’t vote as both owner and residents.

34 Union Street has 56 units, 27 are dual ownership so there are 83 owner votes. About half are occupied by tenants. Assume half are semi–permanent and enrolled as voters. We now have almost 100 voters who will be of interest to candidates for Councillor positions at the October elections.

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