10 January 2020

Zapari takes ACTPLA to ACAT over Coombs knockback

| Ian Bushnell
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Zapari Reconsideration

A render of the development from the Zapari Reconsideration, which ACTPLA rejected. Image: Supplied.

The ACT Planning Authority’s (ACTPLA) resolve to prevent another oversized development in the Molonglo Valley will be tested again with Zapari set to challenge the rejection of its 149-unit development proposal in Coombs.

Zapari is taking ACTPLA to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) after a revised proposal was knocked back last month. But with Zapari lodging its application with ACAT on Christmas Eve, it is unclear how many interested parties are aware of the action and have had time over the holiday period to make a submission, which closed on Monday (6 January).

Weston Creek Community Council has only just applied to be a party to the action.

Zapari’s original proposal for the corner of John Gorton Drive and Terry Connolly Avenue in Coombs for an eight-storey, 212-apartment development was scaled back to seven storeys and 149 apartments, with floor area more than halved and setbacks and green space increased.

ACTPLA had knocked back the original proposal because of its size relative to the site, poor design, and overshadowing and privacy implications for neighbouring residences.

The maximum number of dwellings allowable on the site is only 44 and Zapari was again seeking to vary the site’s Crown lease to accommodate what would be a 239 per cent increase.

ACTPLA’s notice of decision rejecting the revised proposal said it was “significantly” over the permitted Estate Development Plan and the development “would have an adverse impact on the neighbourhood and landscape character of the area”.

Zapari is the second developer to take ACTPLA to ACAT over development proposals in Coombs, although POD Projects managed to cut a deal over its plans for the corner of Arthur Blakely Way and Colbung Street in Coombs, which had been rejected three times.

POD wanted to build a 107-unit development on a block that has a 40-dwelling limit.

The deal will see the proposal lose two storeys and 10 units, and add more car parking, landscaping and communal green space, but the outcome will still mean a 143 per cent increase on that.

ACTPLA said there was a “reasonable prospect” that the development would be approved if it went to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

This approach angered many in the community who believed ACTPLA was not prepared to defend its decisions, which had been seen as drawing a line in the sand on inappropriate development.

Molonglo activist Ryan Hemsley said at the time that there was now a real danger that developers would see this capitulation as a green light for lodging equally inappropriate development applications in the future.

On his Save Molonglo website he asks of the latest action: “Will ACTPLA defend its decision to refuse this development (twice!), or will it roll over and let it through with some minor amendments, as it did with POD?

“If it pursues the latter option, what’s the point in having a planning authority in the first place?”

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Molonglo Valley looks like it was designed by student architects trained in Pyongyang, North Korea. Our own Beloved Leader should set up a sister city arrangement.

The densification and uglification of Canberra continues if another multi storey block of apartments proceeds. Residents do not want Canberra to resemble another New Delhi, Beijing or Sydney but the ACT Government lacks the guts to control rapacious property developers.

This development should not go ahead.

Let them fight it out in ACAT and if the developer wins then it will be clear to community that ACAT needs to have action taken against it.

There is an election on its way, a great opportunity for our politicians to promise action against an ACAT that would sell its soul to unethical developers.

Make this a test of ACAT, not a test if ACTPLA.

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