Molonglo Valley residents fear developers are changing the face of what their suburbs were meant to look like by proposing multi-storey apartment blocks far in excess of what is at present allowable on certain sites.
POD Projects Group’s development application for a seven-storey, 123 unit apartment development on the corner of Arthur Blakeley Way and Colbung Street in Coombs (Block 4, Section 39) is but the latest in a string of projects requesting a lease variation to cater for an increased number of dwellings.
Wright resident Ryan Hemsley, who has been watching developments closely in Molonglo, said Canberra Town Planning, representing POD, faced a hostile community meeting last week, and that residents were losing faith in the planning authority.
Mr Hemsley said the POD proposal, which was quite similar to the Zapari development, would cram 123 units on a site that was planned and sold for 40 units, and would overshadow neighbouring townhouses.
It would also take up most of the block, have little green space and insufficient parking, he said.
The units would be small, with information on the night showing two-bedroom units with an average floor area of 55 square metres, far less than the Territory Plan minimum of 70 square metres.
Mr Hemsley said last week’s meeting was deceptive as POD had already lodged the DA, while Canberra Town Planning was calling for feedback on the proposal to take back to the developer.
He said that at another Molonglo information night, he had been told that the pace of such development proposals had quickened in recent times.
“The current magnitude of changes that are being requested in terms of numbers of units on each site has just exploded since September,” he said.
Mr Hemsley acknowledged that the sites are zoned RZ5 for High Density Residential but developments like POD’s and Zapari’s bore no resemblance to what was shown on the original estate development plan for Coombs, with the POD site supposed to be home to a series of low rise three-storey buildings.
“What we are concerned about is the scale of the proposal compared to what was originally proposed,” he said.
He said very recent proposals were differing wildly to what was originally proposed, and that there had been a shift in the type of developments being proposed in the Molonglo Valley to the extent that what was built as little as five years ago would not be proposed now.
Mr Hemsley said there were many planning loopholes that developers could use in order to get through almost anything, and that flexibility was now coming at a cost to the Molonglo suburbs.
“Plans are so flexible that ACT Government proposes one thing for a suburb and residents buy into that expecting certain things to be built and then a developer can buy the site and do almost anything they want with it,” he said.
“Flexibility has now come at a cost of certainty and that’s really becoming a problem for residents where there are large open sections of the suburb where you can pretty much build anything you want there.”
He was concerned at the precedents being set, and what the subsequent impact would be on Molonglo, especially in the greenfield areas.
“Molonglo is very well situated, that’s what’s so incredibly frustrating, watching all this great potential being squandered,” he said.
The DA says that the 123-unit residential apartment complex will be built across three separate ‘forms’, with a six-storey building containing 36 apartments, a landscaped roof-top communal
terrace, yoga deck, indoor gym, sauna and multi-purpose room. “Building No. 2” is a seven-storey structure containing 52 apartments, and “Building No. 3” a five-storey building containing 35 apartments.
It says the residential building will sit above two levels of basement car parking for residents (184 spaces) and visitors (19 spaces), with another 12 visitor spaces outside, which POD describes as ample.
ACT Chief Planner Ben Ponton said a proposal that included a significant increase in yield required the planning and land authority to regard the original intentions of the estate development plan and the suitability of the site for the desired number of dwellings.
“The independent planning and land authority takes considerable care when setting height limits. Extensive analysis is undertaken to understand the impacts of height on adjacent blocks and on public spaces,” he said .
“For any proposed developments the independent planning and land authority will carefully consider the requirements of the Territory Plan, as well as the cumulative impacts associated with additional dwellings and greater height on the locality, to inform its decisions.
“Regarding the Coombs and Wright Precinct Codes, any specific height limitation specified were derived from the original Estate Development Plan. The assessment process will have regard to any such height limitations and will also consider the impacts associated with higher buildings on the locality and adjacent sites.”
Representations close on 5 December.