Did Cr Waddell personally benefit as a result of changes to the City’s dual density codes?

As revealed by the Kalamunda Reporter (29/8/17) four of Kalamunda’s Councillors are currently under investigation by the Department of Local Government relating to alleged failures to properly disclose their financial interests when voting to increase housing density across the City, including on their own properties.

The revelation follows questions being asked in State Parliament which in turn confirmed an investigation was underway and that it may have begun as early April 2017.

In the article published in the Kalamunda Reporter (‘Mayor fights back’, 29/8/17) Cr Waddell is quoted, stating that “. . . to suggest there is personal gain is ridiculous”. The balance of this article is directed towards testing whether there exists any evidence that might point to a different conclusion.

Issues relating to the legal obligations of Councillors to disclose direct financial interests, to excuse themselves from participating in debate and voting on matters where they have a direct financial interest will be considered in a later article.

Property owned by Cr Waddell

Cr Waddell owns a house on a corner block, currently zoned R25, fronting Kalamunda Road in High Wycombe. The size of the block is slightly below the minimum of 1,000 square meters that was originally agreed by Council (see pt. 5.24.1(a), p. 84, of the OCM Minutes of 26th October 2015) as the ideal minimum lot size required to permit development to the higher density of R60.

It should be noted that on this occasion Cr Waddell (as did most, though not all, of his fellow Councillors affected by the proposed dual density zoning) declared a direct financial interest in the matter before Council, left the Council Chambers, did not participate in the following debate, nor exercise a vote on the item.

Following the receipt of public submissions staff brought back to Council, at its OCM of the 27th June 2016, a number of recommended modifications to the proposed dual density codes (item 10.3.3). These included the complete abolition of a minimum lot size for corner properties under the proposed R25/60 dual density zoning (pt. 59, p. 48).

In turn the above recommendation, to abolish the requirement for any minimum lot size for corner properties within the R25/60 areas, was incorporated into Attachment 7 of item 10.3.3 of the OCM held on the 27th June 2016.

In turn the substantive motion (p. 54 Minutes of the OCM 27th June 2017) incorporates Attachment 7 at point 1, where it ‘supports Amendment 82 . . . with proposed modifications to address issues raised in the submissions as per Attachment 7'.

At ths meeting, unlike earlier meetings dealing with the matter of dual density codes, Cr Waddell and other affected Councillors changed their disclosure and fully participated in the OCM of the 27th June 2016.

It is worth noting that the substantive motion was only carried as a result of the Presiding Member, Cr Waddell, exercising a second, casting, vote. Further, the substantive motion would have been defeated had those Councillors who had earlier declared a Direct Financial Interest in this matter been absent from the Council Chambers as the Local Government Act requires.

The effect of the carriage of the substantive motion for Cr Waddell’s property is to firstly bring it within the proposed R25/60 dual density zone; secondly, to exempt it from the requirement for a minimum lot size of 1,000 square meters that otherwise applies to (non-corner) properties zoned R25/60 and finally, to permit the building of up to six units as opposed to the three that were previously permissible.

The proposed scheme amendment may not put money directly into Cr Waddell’s pocket but it confers a financial benefit nonetheless by increasing the underlying value of his land.

And for ratepayers it may yet be that the next Council will have to revisit the whole issue of dual density codes given that it may be found the decisions of the OCM of the 27th June, 2017, were legally invalid.

Edited & authorised by Frank Lindsey, 95 Aldersyde Rd., Piesse Brook, WA 6076

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