24 May 2019

Curtin shops resolution now up to ACAT after mediation fails

| Ian Bushnell
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Curtin shops

A render of the how the Curtin shops would look. The multi-storey residential component is the flashpoint. Image: JGSProperty.

The stoush over the proposed Curtin shops redevelopment looks headed to a climax in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal next month after the failure of the developer and residents association to reach a deal that would see the project move ahead.

The Curtin Residents Association has asked ACAT to set aside last December’s approval for a five-storey mixed residential and commercial building. If that fails, the CRA wants further conditions imposed on the development, including the provision of an open communal space and three or more public toilets.

The CRA took the Planning and Land authority to the Tribunal in January arguing that its decision was flawed and the proposed development is too big, will overshadow the square and is out of character with the village nature of the shops.

CRA president Chris Johnson said it was seeking to get some of the development plans made visible, and for ACTPLA to explain some of the decision-making processes behind the approval.

Mr Johnson said the ACAT process had uncovered some information but the CRA would still like to understand how the building height increased from four storeys under the draft master plan to five storeys in the revised master plan.

“After the six-storey building was rejected not on master plan grounds but general grounds, there was a process of revising the draft master plan in which the Curtin residents, the developer and the planners all participated and somehow out of that, the building height limit went up from the original draft to a five-storey limit without any rationale being presented,” Mr Johnson said.

“And what we were asking ACTPLA to explain was how that process of changing the building height limits from the draft to the revised master plan had come about and what was the basis of it, because it appeared to be focused on this one building site and doing something that the developer was asking for rather than listening to the community which was saying we don’t want any extra height there.”

Mr Johnson insisted that the CRA’s preferred position was a negotiated outcome ahead of the 18 June Tribunal date and would like to see a speedy but appropriate development.

The corner of Curtin shops where the five-storey building is proposed. File photo.

But JGSProperty says a mediation process in early March that had shown promise had come to nothing and it would now await the ACAT decision.

JGSProperty’s Director Project and Development Management Zelko Mandic said that no attempt had been made to conduct any further mediation since and a letter from CRA on Thursday had come out of nowhere.

Mr Mandic said it would be catastrophic for the Curtin residents and business community if the approval was set aside and the developer had to go back to the drawing board.

“In all probability, it is very unlikely that people will see any activity on that site for years to come given the process that must be followed to get an approved development application,” Mr Madic said.

“That would be an absolutely catastrophic outcome for the business community, for the Curtin community and quite frankly for anyone who uses that Curtin shopping centre.”

But if the CRA’s action fails, the Curtin community could see a new shopping centre within 12 to 18 months of the project commencing.

Mr Mandic said the project was positioned to begin work within weeks of satisfying all approval conditions such as waste disposal and parking matters.

“There will be no delays from our perspective,” he said.

Mr Johnson said any delays this year had largely been due to development and government processes, saying the developer’s revised plans taking into account the approval conditions were supposed to have been lodged with ACTPLA in January but did not turn up till May.

He denied claims that the CRA was divided on the ongoing legal action.

“Any organisation will have a few members who have a different point of view. The numbers appear to be very small,” he said.

“Six hundred turned up to a rally when the original proposal went up, saying it’s too big and we don’t want it.”

He laid the blame for businesses suffering at the feet of the leaseholder, the Haridemos family, which terminated leases a year before any development could have occurred.

But Mr Mandic said the CRA must take responsibility for the current situation.

“I’m afraid the applicant has set the due process path now. We are responding. We are not driving this,” he said.

It’s the CRA executive, they have driven the agenda, driven the timeline, the rest of us stakeholders are simply responsive to that timeline as respondents.”

He said concessions had already been made, with the number of units reduced from 50 to 36, and overshadowing was no longer an issue.

Any further scaling back of the project would affect its viability.

“It’s a question that we hope we don’t have to confront because the leaseholder is genuinely interested in delivering something that is good for the Curtin precinct,” he said.

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I have lived in Curtin for close to 30 years and not once has the CRA sought my views on any issue. The supposed gathering of 600 residents included many who opposed the redevelopment as it was originally proposed. The proposal was revised and now has widespread support of Curtin residents. The CRA Executive continue to oppose the development and pay no heed to the views of any who differ. The CRA’s ongoing negative campaign has done immeasurable damage to the remaining Curtin retailers, several of which are likely to close in the next few months. The CRA Executive would more accurately be referred to as the Curtin Anti-Progress Committee.

I have been a long term Curtin resident. I was initially against the development but I now 100% behind it. I’m sorry Mr Johnson and the Curtin Residents Association – you do not represent my views and the views of the majority of the community now. You need to pull your head in and listen to your community – not just the handful of the usual suspects who will never be happy. How about you commission a vote within the community but let this be run by an independent body? I don’t think you would have the guts to do this because you know what the clear outcome will be.

I agree the initial plan was not good. The developers listened to the criticism and came back with a much better plan ensuring the square gets sunlight among many other issues. Now the Curtain residents association is still not happy, clearly not willing to meet in the middle with the developers. This is how you know they are just whinging now and will never be happy unless we never change a single thing.

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