Community representatives have raised concerns about the proposed LDK Seniors’ Living aged care village on the edge of Weston Creek and Yarralumla, particularly its size and traffic management.
Both Weston Creek Community Council (WCCC) and Molonglo Valley Community Forum say the proposal for the former motel site on Cotter Road caught them by surprise, and that it has implications for traffic management on the busy Cotter Road link from the western suburbs to Adelaide Avenue and onto the city.
LDK contracted to purchase the 5.4 hectare site in February 2021 and lodged its works application with the National Capital Authority (NCA) in July, but there have been plans for high-density development there for years.
The NCA gave the nod for a retirement village on the site in 2015, and LDK’s plans for 55 single-storey villas/townhouses and 261 units across four buildings up to five storeys high have been built on much of the work of previous owners’ investigations.
WCCC interim chair Bill Gemmell said the council felt blindsided by the proposal, although he acknowledged the demand for high-quality aged care and LDK’s impressive reputation, including the success of its Greenway development.
Mr Gemmell said there are five concerns: building height, traffic, proximity to services, the impact of runoff on the adjacent river corridor, and light emissions.
He said the NCA has a responsibility to protect the vistas and questioned what kind of view there would be from the National Arboretum.
“Architecturally, is it going to look that great?” said Mr Gemmell.
He said Cotter Road in peak times is a traffic quagmire, and adding hundreds of residents and staff to the mix raises serious safety issues.
“Seniors do drive,” he said. “They’re [LDK] expecting them to do a right-hand turn in or out coming from Weston Creek and Curtin.”
With the horse paddocks next door, there would also be horse floats using the turning and slip lanes, added Mr Gemmell.
“It is very clear there will be traffic problems if nothing is done at that intersection,” he said.
Both Mr Gemmell and Molonglo Valley Community Forum spokesperson Ryan Hemsley criticised the absence of the traffic report in the works application.
Mr Hemsley said the dangers of ‘T’ intersections are well known in Weston Creek and Molonglo, where there has been many motor vehicle accidents and close calls.
He said there should also be a bus stop nearby, with two Rapid services regularly passing the site.
“What we do want to make sure is that the facility is best served by the services that are within close walking distance in terms of public transport, but also that safety is considered as part of essentially plonking a small suburb’s worth of people onto an existing arterial road,” said Mr Hemsley.
He said the community would have preferred an open conversation about the appropriateness of the development for the site, but “the horse has bolted”.
LDK Seniors’ Living CEO Byron Cannon said the company has always been open to discussion with any community group, but previous proponents had already engaged extensively with the community and the NCA.
He said much of that feedback, particularly about the size of the development, had been taken onboard.
“In some of our pre-lodgement meetings with the NCA, going back months and months, we were provided with feedback particularly around height and the impact the development would have on really important vistas throughout Canberra,” said Mr Cannon.
“In fact, we reduced the height after those discussions, and also made some adjustments to the bulk and density of the village.”
Mr Cannon said architects have worked extensively to ensure the view from the National Arboretum would not be impacted, talking long-range photos of the site and overlaying them where the village would be to show it would not have an impact.
He said the company is in the process of responding to points raised in submissions about traffic, but said the ACT Government planning for the Cotter Road duplication had taken into account that there would be high-density development on the site.
Being a seniors village, there would be fewer people driving and less traffic impacts than what would be expected for a normal residential development of that size.
“We won’t have 400 to 500 people leaving to go to work each day,” said Mr Cannon. “Seniors won’t be driving anywhere near that level.”
However, LDK will be beefing up its response to the NCA.
The development would have its own driveway and not share one with the horse owners, but there are no plans for a bus stop. Traffic lights have not been discussed.
Light emissions would be minimal because as a seniors village it would power down early in the night.
Mr Cannon said the LDK model provided for most services to be delivered onsite, and ageing in-place and continuing care so residents will never have to move again.
He said there is great demand for this kind of arrangement, and the company has already fielded enquiries about the new development.
LDK hopes to start construction on the project in 2022.