Dickson residents declare victory

johnboy 31 January 2012 25

The Dickson Community Planning Alliance is celebrating a win in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal:

Developers had planned to replace 2 houses with 10 units. The Tribunal confirmed that the
development violated a number of planning requirements and was inconsistent with the Territory Plan.

Ms Jane Goffman, a town planner and resident of Dickson, was a key organiser of the appeal. “This development threatened the long-term amenity and liveability of the area, which attracts a culturally diverse mix of household types, and that’s one of many positive features we want to safeguard. Very importantly, the approval initially given by the government violated its own planning laws.”

Wayne Sharwood, a local resident and barrister, led the appeal at the tribunal with assistance by Clare Carnell.

“The appeal demonstrated the difficulties for residents seeking constructive input to government decisions,” Ms Goffman said.

“Despite over 130 objections, the community was unfairly viewed by the planning authority as anti-development NIMBY neanderthals. But the Tribunal’s decision shows that the opposition was based on solid factual evidence. This approval should never have been granted and the community should not have been required to do the government’s job.”

The residents are calling for an easier planning system in future.


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Bramina Bramina 11:55 pm 06 Feb 12

aussielyn said :

Is there a problem with existing residents wanting to protect their street from a development that is not sympathetic and complimentary to what is already there? Should we have a scorched earth policy for the inner suburbs to be replaced by developments that are objected to by the existing residents? The smart developers will consult with concept plans with the neighbouring residents and adapt their plans to their legitimate objections. They should negotiate in good faith, at an early stage, to allay legitimate concerns. They must appreciate that they are making a change to the street and neighbourhood. ACTPLA is working on early consultation so the smart developers will listen and not lose time & money on appeals that they knew were coming. Early negotiation is the key, not confrontation in the legal process that lawyers on both sides make money. Developers should be aware that residents are getting better organised with experts and legal opinion. Time is money!

Absolutely there is a problem. What a person does with their own property is their own business unless they are causing legitimate and significant harm to others.

And the cost in lost aesthetic value is insignificant – compared to the benefit to those 8 households of living close to the city.

And the tribunal supported this. As bystander_effect pointed out, of their 130+ claims, they only succeeded regarding technical regulations designed to protect the apartment buyers.

Which begs the question, of why the Dickson Residents Association is so damned concerned about the right of people to have balconies, but not to their right to live in Dickson.

sillysausage said :

Just want to remind a few people that housing affordability usually worsens when an area is redeveloped or rezoned for higher densities.

Prices go up because the development had added value to the land. Adding value to things is good.

But as I said before, developers do make a ridiculous profits at their customer’s expense. The best protection against this is to increase competition by making it easier for people to develop land/apartments.

aussielyn aussielyn 10:25 pm 01 Feb 12

Is there a problem with existing residents wanting to protect their street from a development that is not sympathetic and complimentary to what is already there? Should we have a scorched earth policy for the inner suburbs to be replaced by developments that are objected to by the existing residents? The smart developers will consult with concept plans with the neighbouring residents and adapt their plans to their legitimate objections. They should negotiate in good faith, at an early stage, to allay legitimate concerns. They must appreciate that they are making a change to the street and neighbourhood. ACTPLA is working on early consultation so the smart developers will listen and not lose time & money on appeals that they knew were coming. Early negotiation is the key, not confrontation in the legal process that lawyers on both sides make money. Developers should be aware that residents are getting better organised with experts and legal opinion. Time is money!

Bramina Bramina 8:53 pm 01 Feb 12

sillysausage said :

The practice in the last 5 years has been that 70% of development in the RZ2 zone for North Canberra has been dual occupancies. Most of the other stuff has been renovations. But there have been a few multi-unit applications, all of which have been approved, and many of those involved fights where the community tried to argue that this wasn’t what they signed up to back in 2002 when they gave the Garden City variation the nod. But the cost of taking an appeal through to a hearing is astronomical – 20 years ago barristers were charging 10K a day, does anyone know what these guys make now? I guarantee a four day hearing is no picnic!

This is what makes developers so rich. All of these rules and regulations for developments and all of the opposition from neighbourhood groups create barriers to people investing land. Only people with deep pockets and a knowledge of how to game the system and local residents groups are able to develop land.

People with such wealth and knowledge are few and far between so they face little competition between each other. Less competition means they make bigger profits.

If we didn’t obstruct development so much, there would be far more people developing land and competing with each other. Competition would reduce their ability to extract profits from their customers. The developers would be in intense competition to provide the apartments that people wanted. This competition negates the need for the government to protect people from developers.

Everybody would win, except the developers and who cares about them.

sillysausage said :

The idea that developers are altruists is rather funny really.

Do you think the members of the Dickson Community Planning Alliance are being altruistic? By demolishing those two houses and building apartments, 8 more households people can enjoy the convenience of living close to the city and Dickson Woolies. This convenience is of substantial and real value to each new household.

Is the Dickson Community Planning Alliance being altruistic and taking these potential residents’s welfare into account? No! They are selfishly protecting their idealistic leafy green suburb close to the city because the existence of an apartment block would so deeply offend its aesthetic appearance.

sillysausage said :

High prices for apartments are direct evidence that lots of people really want apartments. Should we as a society not conspire to give people what they want – what the value? Should we not release more apartments to lower prices?

sillysausage sillysausage 4:15 pm 01 Feb 12

The land is zoned for RZ2, according to the transcript. There were no zones as such until 2008, but there were land use policies and the one that covered this same part of Dickson was called A10. It was introduced in the Garden City variation together with several other policies to produce modest increases in density within short walking distance of shops (usually 300-400m). Strangely, Ainslie was an exception – most other Canberra suburbs with shops were given A10 areas and the reasoning was that it would focus dual occupancies into those spots and relieve the pressure on established areas.

The practice in the last 5 years has been that 70% of development in the RZ2 zone for North Canberra has been dual occupancies. Most of the other stuff has been renovations. But there have been a few multi-unit applications, all of which have been approved, and many of those involved fights where the community tried to argue that this wasn’t what they signed up to back in 2002 when they gave the Garden City variation the nod. But the cost of taking an appeal through to a hearing is astronomical – 20 years ago barristers were charging 10K a day, does anyone know what these guys make now? I guarantee a four day hearing is no picnic!

NoImRight NoImRight 3:17 pm 01 Feb 12

Where has anyone said developers are altruists?

VYBerlinaV8_is_back VYBerlinaV8_is_back 3:11 pm 01 Feb 12

sillysausage said :

Just want to remind a few people that housing affordability usually worsens when an area is redeveloped or rezoned for higher densities, for the simple reason that the more potential profit/yield you can make from land and the newer the product the more value it has. The idea that developers are altruists is rather funny really. Sure, if you chop a block into 10 little pieces and sell them for less than 2 houses cost in the first place you could make a handsome profit and save some poor overseas investor from buying a whole suburban block at 600K, but please check your Domain section on Saturday. These sorts of units are selling for 450K-700K in Braddon already and the economics are what it’s all about.

The land is already zoned for this type of development, and has been for some time now.

sillysausage sillysausage 2:58 pm 01 Feb 12

Just want to remind a few people that housing affordability usually worsens when an area is redeveloped or rezoned for higher densities, for the simple reason that the more potential profit/yield you can make from land and the newer the product the more value it has. The idea that developers are altruists is rather funny really. Sure, if you chop a block into 10 little pieces and sell them for less than 2 houses cost in the first place you could make a handsome profit and save some poor overseas investor from buying a whole suburban block at 600K, but please check your Domain section on Saturday. These sorts of units are selling for 450K-700K in Braddon already and the economics are what it’s all about.

54-11 54-11 2:20 pm 01 Feb 12

Chop71 said :

…. and then you go and cry about housing affordabilty.

And what has this to do with affordability? And quality and amenity mean nothing? Well done.

aussielyn aussielyn 1:35 pm 01 Feb 12

The ACAT Case is now listed on their website:
http://www.acat.act.gov.au/decisions.php?action=decision&id=243

It does appear that the developer David Miljenko Milin introduced amended plans during the hearing. The frequency of this happening at ACAT begs the question of moving the goals posts during the game. Traffic expert Graeme Shoobridge’s evidence has once again ensured that residents have no case regarding traffic or carparking issues.
The existing law is drafted to protect the amenity of future residents of the development not the neighbours who may be adversely impacted. There is still no definition of density and plot ratio is getting more & more complex. The response to DV306 is expected next month.

devils_advocate devils_advocate 11:38 am 01 Feb 12

Urban infill is a good thing, so long as it’s done in compliance with the rules, especially those about setback and overlooking.

People who have bought into dickson and downer have invariably paid a lot of money for their homes. They don’t have a right to expect that the neighborhood will remain exactly as it was when they bought, but they DO have a right to expect that any developments will comply with planning requirements. Moreover, they shouldn’t have to enforce these requirements themselves through court action – this is what we pay the government for.

Having a large block of flats next door changes a lot of aspects of neighborhood life – increased traffic in the street, noise, loss of privacy, sunlight, etc etc. The rules are there for a reason, developers should not be able to flout them with the apparent impunity that they have been.

Chop71 Chop71 10:39 am 01 Feb 12

…. and then you go and cry about housing affordabilty.

EvanJames EvanJames 10:26 am 01 Feb 12

For some reason, governments and even some citizens regard developers as some kind of species needing protection, that what they do is sacred.

Fact is, developers make money for themselves, and are completely un-interested in the effects their developments have on the people who have to live with them. They do not have our interests at heart. Governments are supposed to protect the citizens from people like this, but they don’t.

So kudos to these people for getting together and doing it themselves. Developers aren’t some altruistic entity that “nimbys” are preventing from doing good things.

54-11 54-11 10:19 am 01 Feb 12

bystander_effect said :

The applicants had a stack of objections, many of which were not upheld. I was aware they would make a claim about the development being “out of keeping” with the surrounds despite the technicalities of code compliance or otherwise…

So I guess it’s not a win to keep our old steetscapes, nor will it take much for a development like this to conform to the code and be approved (again). On the upside, well done to the applicants for putting in the hard yards to ensure developers and ACTPLA think twice about whether a proposal conforms to the required code. Amazing sufficient scrutiny wasn’t applied by ACTPLA after the first proposal for that site got knocked back (there were 144 objections to that).

I read it quite differently.

There were numerous contraventions of the “rules”, but as always, developers get the benefit of a bunch of far less onerous “criteria”. This is just a rare example of where residenrs are prepared to take the matter to the Tribunal, and many times they win. Many dozens of totally non-compliant developments simply go ahead.

For developers, it’s lose the odd one, but many more go ahead that are well otside the planning laws.

You say ACTPLA will think twice? Rubbish. They are simply doing the bidding of the government and developers – approving almost everything and anything, knowing that few people will go as far as the Dickson residents have. One reason for that is the stigma of ignorant people, many on RA, pulling out the NIMBY tag.

dtc dtc 9:15 am 01 Feb 12

I have said it before, and as streetlover picked up, the losers with these massive developments (think about 10 units – its a solid wall across 2 blocks) are the nearby residents who have good quality homes and want to stay.

Lets assume your block is worth $400k and due to rezoning and development it increases to $500k.

If you have a crappy house on the block, originally you would sell for $500k and now you can sell for $600k.

If you have a good quality home, originally you perhaps could sell for $700k. But who wants to live in an area surrounded by large, visible, noisy (25+ people and cars) apartment blocks? So now your house is only worth $180k plus land value, you sell for $680k. Plus your rates increase and your quality of living decreases.

My view is that if an area is rezoned and you were living before the re-zoning, you should get some concession – perhaps reduced rates, perhaps reduced stamp duty if you buy a new house.

And remember that there are very few objections to people building dual or triple occupancies, or single story townhouses. Its these developments of 2 stories, overlooking yards, blocking sun etc, that cause the problem.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back VYBerlinaV8_is_back 8:27 am 01 Feb 12

If this is the development I think it is, the ‘developer’ is a local guy and his brother. Hardly goliath!

Deref Deref 7:38 am 01 Feb 12

Great to see one win among so many losses. Sadly, it’s only a win in a minor skirmish – the battle is being lost every day.

streetlover streetlover 6:28 am 01 Feb 12

Older houses in the area offer relatively low rents and are typically shared by groups of students. As Braddon leapfrogs across to Dickson and places are knocked down for blocks of units, rents go way up and students and other low income groups (teachers, apprentices, shift workers, you name it) are either forced to move further out or forced to take a mortgage they can little afford. Rents next door go up too and guess what – so do the rates. If what you end up living next door to is a substandard development you’re going to sell, but who’s going to buy? Not the family or the retired couple looking for somewhere quiet. Not the young professionals keen to renovate. You’re left with only two kinds of buyer. The developer and the speculator.

When 10 units and 20 car spaces are shoehorned onto a site that currently has only 2 houses and big gumtrees, you’ve got to wonder how it all fits on. The answer? By ramming it in and breaking a whole lot of rules that are there to protect future occupants and their neighbours. Surely every resident deserves a little bit of sun to sit outside and daydream and somewhere to store their bike?

Dickson residents told the gubamen from the start that they welcome higher densities in strategic locations: on a high speed public transport interchange, over shops, along Sullivans Creek – plus they’re happy with double or triple what’s in the area now mixed in with the older stuff which will change over time. Studios, granny flats, yurts, dual occys: all fine. But when the gubamen sees a profit to be made they start drooling and amnesia sets in. Quadrupling? Quintupling? Come on in boys, make yourselves at home, can we make things any easier for you fine cowboys?

When it suits this lot they’re quite happy to forget the rules and cover the place with concrete. They turned a blind eye when the old gumtrees got chopped down, they ignored over 130 letters of objection, they ignored the parking standards, solar access and energy efficiency rules, private open space minimums, side setback minimums, landscape buffer minimums, and a whole bunch more. They approved a development that was double what’s allowed under their own new rules sitting in front of the Assembly, which limit the number of units on a site this size to 5.

I say SHAME on them – the capital city of a young and inspiring democratic nation deserves much better planning by qualified trained professional planners, because everyone needs somewhere decent to live and a gubamen that lets this rubbish happen isn’t worthy of even half my child’s vote.

Bramina Bramina 11:47 pm 31 Jan 12

I just don’t get why this should be prohibited.

What are the costs to local residents? Some immediate neighbours might have people looking into their backyards (I’m unsure how much people value this privacy). While other resident’s might see the apartments occasionally as they drive or walk past, it isn’t clear that apartment should be so objectionable as to pose a substantial cost to them.

But if people could build apartments in Dickson, land prices would increase (because more residents on a block of land are able to pool greater finances). Local residents would probably be substantially better off.

As for the potential residents of the apartments – an additional 8 households can have the increased amenity of living near the city and other amenities. If people are willing to live in apartments will little or no open living space, then that is their choice. Perhaps they don’t even value open living space.

The local residents benefit, the people living in the apartments benefit. What’s the problem?

aussielyn aussielyn 11:10 pm 31 Jan 12

Good win for the community who took on a most powerful development group with their five lawyers and consultant experts. Legal fees are a tax deduction for the developer. An anxious wait to find out if there will be an appeal. Appeals to ACAT on planning decisions are turning into very legalistic affairs that are beyond the means of ordinary citizens. A case last year cost the appellants $40K in legal fees! The lawyers are milking the planning appeal system, as the law gets more & more complex.

bystander_effect bystander_effect 9:28 pm 31 Jan 12

OK – so I skimmed through the 40 page appeal decision last night and whilst I am very happy that the appeal was successful, it wasn’t exactly a slam dunk.

Dissappointingly, the appeal’s success mostly rests on the lack of sufficient private open space for each unit on the plan (plus some other minor code breahes). All of this will no doubt be rectified by the developer and new plans submitted. Incremental improvement I suppose.

The applicants had a stack of objections, many of which were not upheld. I was aware they would make a claim about the development being “out of keeping” with the surrounds despite the technicalities of code compliance or otherwise. However, the Tribunal found that:
“The proposed development will not duplicate the existing development in the area, most of which dates from the 1960’s or thereabouts. But the differences are not so great that in themselves they would justify refusal to the development. Nor does the Tribunal agree that the built form or ‘bulk’ of the development when seen from the street is outside what is permissible in an Rz2 area”

So I guess it’s not a win to keep our old steetscapes, nor will it take much for a development like this to conform to the code and be approved (again). On the upside, well done to the applicants for putting in the hard yards to ensure developers and ACTPLA think twice about whether a proposal conforms to the required code. Amazing sufficient scrutiny wasn’t applied by ACTPLA after the first proposal for that site got knocked back (there were 144 objections to that).

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