10 February 2022

Lyons triple occupancy proposal may set precedent for Woden Valley, says neighbour

| Ian Bushnell
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17 Derwent Avenue, Lyons

This single residence property at 17 Derwent Street, Lyons, is earmarked for a three-dwelling redevelopment. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

A triple occupancy development proposal in Lyons has a neighbour concerned that this type of project may be the thin end of the wedge in the Woden Valley.

A development application lodged by Sydney-based Rockwood Homes for 17 Derwent Street proposes three two-storey, three-bedroom, adaptable dwellings with double parking on the 896 square metre RZ2 block, currently occupied by a single residence.

The neighbour at No 15, Alistair Bestow, has made a lengthy representation calling for the DA to be rejected and the proponent to go back to the drawing board.

Mr Bestow, who has been resident there since 1994, told Region Media that the proposal had a very high proportion of hard reflective surfaces, little space for any garden or parking in a quiet loop street, and was the densest redevelopment he could find across Lyons in the RZ2 zone, which allows medium-density development.

“I am not opposed to redevelopment per se and may find a dual occupancy redevelopment acceptable on this block – one that has suitable parking and garden opportunity that is in keeping with the rest of the suburb,” Mr Bestow said.

“My concern is that if this type of inappropriate, triple-residence redevelopment is permitted unopposed, that it will set a precedent for similar such developments in Lyons and the Woden Valley in the future.”

In his representation, Mr Bestow also raises concerns about the loss of three significant trees, including potentially one on his own property that overhangs the fence and two on the verge, overshadowing of his backyard, a loss of privacy and noise, rainwater run-off through his property and insufficient parking, given there may be more than two drivers per residence as well as visitors.

Derwent Street is also subject to parking limits.

Mr Bestow says the building designer, Arkitex, has overstepped the mark around the nearly 50 per cent plot ratio, building setbacks and envelope, level of solar access, and car park space requirements for adaptive housing.

Landscaping plan

The landscaping plan for 17 Derwent Street, Lyons. The red circular images are trees to be removed. Image: Arkitex

He says the proposal would be a dramatic change, would not make a positive contribution to the neighbourhood and landscape character of the area, and would have an unreasonable impact on neighbouring properties.

“I am not averse to redevelopment. Such activities can refresh the tired aspects of a suburb and cater to the need for urban infill to accommodate our growing population,” Mr Bestow says.

“There are already some local dual occupancy redevelopments including a few doors up from me at 21 and 23 Derwent Street which sympathetically meet the Zone Objectives and are entirely in keeping with the character of the street and the wider suburb.”

Arkitex managing director Alessandro D’Ambrosio said the proposal was within the planning rules for RZ2.

He said the government allows three houses on a block if they are adaptable, suitable for ageing in place and “wheelchair friendly”.

“If it was standard housing you’d only be able to put two residences on there, and because one is behind the other, you’d only be able to have a maximum plot ratio of 35 per cent,” Mr D’Ambrosio.

“And when the blocks are under the 1000 square metres, the houses become quite small.”

He said two residences would struggle to be commercially viable.

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If there’s ‘one’ thing that Canberra has going for it, it’s the peace and tranquility provided by it’s town planning and landscaping. So along comes ‘Solomon’ Barr and his gang of wise men/women who solemnly declare the status quo is too old fashioned and should be discarded because ‘we’re’ all about the future.

In amongst the justifications and issues is car parking. Street parking suitability varies with location but at the end of the day planning that relies on unmodified street parking is effectively “adopting” street space into the development. OK in some places but not OK in others.

terryfromlyons10:51 am 12 Feb 22

As a long time resident of Lyons, I too have objected to this proposal. I did so not because I’m against redevelopment or suffer from the NIMBY syndrome, but because the proposal is so at odds with the character and housing density of the suburb, plus it will impact upon us directly. I am truly concerned this proposal is nothing more than a cynical attempt to exploit the RZ2 Adaptable Housing policy. The development appears to be about squeezing as much multi-unit infrastructure as possible on a block in order to make as much revenue as possible, in isolation of what is sympathetic to the objectives of RZ2. As residents of Canberra we should be very concerned with the direction such developments are taking us in the ‘bush capital’, and how totally at odds it is with the Government’s ‘Climate Emergency Declaration’ and ‘Cooling the City Plan’.

Dual occ not enough to be commercially viable on a 1000 sqmtr block. Rubbish!
Developers are making far too much out of the ACT. Who is benefiting? Definitely not overall residents of what was a beautiful Capital. This is not Sydney!

HiddenDragon6:32 pm 11 Feb 22

“He said the government allows three houses on a block if they are adaptable, suitable for ageing in place and “wheelchair friendly”.

Such a blatant, Trojan horse policy – as always with planning policies in this town, it’s about maximising the bucks that can be made, and the precedent would not just be for Woden.

So if two is not commercially viable then sell the land and/or house.

Changing normal density suburbs into high density areas by stealth in this way should be made economically unviable because the developers should be forced to compensate the neighbours for reducing their property values.

That goes for two or more dwellings on one block of land.

John Kerry Tozer3:50 pm 11 Feb 22

WOW! Three in RZ2! A street in RZ1 in Weetangera is going to get FIVE!

So commercial viability for the developer is an acceptable argument now?

A relative in Sydney had a multi dwelling adaptive housing development built in their street. The houses weren’t directly built for disabled people, but they had designs that could be ‘adapted’ to suit individual needs. Sounds great, I’m a big supporter of that. We need more of this kind of housing.

Lo and behold, no people with a disability ended up living in the houses. Just the highest bidders ensuring a great profit for the property developers.

Also, A friend’s former boss in the property sector has just quit a high paying salary job to start as a developer in this exact domain of specialist adaptive housing.

Same developer has proposed a similar development in Curtin. It is within the planning rules to build 3 adaptable dwellings in RZ2, however the proposal submitted does not meet the requirements for adaptable housing. Multi level developments are only allowed in exceptional circumstances (eg sloped block)…if you are building a wheelchair accessible residence it doesn’t make much sense to make it more than single story! Independent assessment is also required however the assessment was authored by the developer in this case. To say that a dual residence is not commercially viable seems far fetched guevn the examples mentioned in the article. It seems a cash grab to try and squeeze a third on there. I hope the developer has been upfront with the owner about his liberal interpretation of adaptable housing rules.

Even with good neighbours the passive noise from three residences on this small block would be an annoyance, not to mention the inevitable 2.5 cars that will end up parked out on the road.
Any single story dwelling either side would also need to reduce their solar power expectations with the 850sqm tower being built beside them.
I don’t know the block but would also assume that approval requires cutting down 2-3 trees as well, all while this government drives an Urban Forrest Stratergy, complelty unachievable while green single dwelling homes with a backyard are scrapped for dual occupancy shoe boxes!

What “tower” are you talking about? This is for the development of three 2 story townhouses less than 8.5m in height.
The development application is available to the public and would answer (and negate) many of your assumptions.

I am waiting to see what the Community Council has to say. I am sure Mr Kent will oppose on spurious grounds.

I agree with the points you made. Save the ACT should be next campaign slogan.

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