A Deakin residents group has crowd-sourced almost $30,000 in a fight to stop what it argues is the inappropriate development of a childcare centre and two other developments in the “garden suburb”.
The Deakin Residents Association (DRA) has raised the funds to pay for expert advice on the developments, one which was settled through mediation and two more subject to ongoing cases in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).
The two ongoing cases involve a 120-place childcare centre proposed by the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn and a four-townhouse development proposed by private developers Karel Sterner and Samuel McDonald.
DRA president John Bell, who represented the DRA at ACAT, said the association would not have challenged the developments if they were soundly based.
“We live in a suburb where there’s densification going on all the time and so we just live with it. We’re quite used to it,” he said. “It’s when people break the rules [that we get involved].”
Mr Bell said the early learning centre on the lapsed St Luke’s Anglican Church site in Deakin was too large for a residential area and would cause “chaos” on the suburb’s streets.
“Because of the kerb on these streets, parking on the side adjacent to the proposed childcare centre, getting in and out of your car would be quite dangerous,” he said.
“Everybody arrives with their kids at the crack of dawn and they all turn up late in the afternoon. There was going to be chaos on these little narrow streets.”
He also claimed the development did not meet a rule requiring childcare centres to be located within 200 metres of a bus stop, and that it had an unattractive boundary wall.
“This massive wall was just two metres off the Macartney Crescent boundary, so people across the road were looking straight at this big, horrible wall,” he said.
Mr Bell said the expert advice confirmed the development was “deficient and failed to meet a number of the requirements of the Territory Plan”.
The Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn was contacted for comment but did not respond at the time of publication.
The second development the DRA opposed was a proposal to demolish a single residence at 27 Lawley Street in Deakin to make way for four two-storey townhouses.
An amended version of the development, which remains ‘under assessment’ after previously being refused, requests a variation to the Crown Lease to permit four dwellings.
Mr Bell said the fundamental problem the DRA had with the development was that it proposed four (rather than one or two) dwellings on the single 967-square-metre block.
“It’s when you get to these mega developments where they cover the whole site, tear off all the trees, build right up to the boundary. This is the sort of nonsense we’re up against, with people trying to overdevelop a site,” he said.
“Had they come along with a two-townhouse development, it would have been much easier to meet all the rules and it would have gone through without any trouble.”
A reconsideration application prepared by Purdon Planning argued the development’s footprint was lower than at least three redeveloped blocks nearby and would only marginally increase the surrounding area’s density.
“The primary difference is that this proposal is more efficient in using available space on the block than a number of the single dwelling houses in the area,” the application said.
“The contention that the proposal’s footprint or plot ratio is vastly above what has and can be developed in the area is misleading.”
The application also noted the development proposal has been adjusted to retain all except one existing tree on the site.
Mr Bell said the DRA was concerned about the precedent that would be set for similarly zoned suburban sites if this particular development was approved.
However, this was also rejected in the reconsideration application, which argued “the lease for the site is relatively unique to the RZ1 zone as it creates a non-standard block”.
Non-standard blocks are former public housing sites and differ from standard blocks as they allow two dwellings and appear exempt from some provisions of the multi-unit code.
Developers Mr Sterner and Mr McDonald said they understood the development to be fully code compliant.
“Resolution attempts were made with the DRA,” they said. “They were not interested at all.
“The president of the DRA, John Bell, was contacted on several occasions, he was not open to any positive resolution.”