The builder-owner of a controversial house-sized ‘shed’ on millionaires row at Terranora in the Tweed, which was subject to a stop-work order and penalty notice for illegal works, has been allowed to continue with the plan with some amendments.
The narrow 4–3 vote allowing the builder to continue with the shed plan was criticised by some councillors for encouraging other builders to ‘do whatever they like’ despite several warnings from Council over unauthorised works.
Council also voted to refer the private building certifier used in the construction to the Building Professionals Board to review the certifier’s performance in the development.
A council report said objectors complained that the original application contained false information which misrepresented the size of the shed, which they say was being built as a dwelling due to the many features including air-conditioning, bi-fold doors and a rear deck.
When construction began early last year on the two-storey building at 385 Terranora Road, it angered neighbours and sparked numerous complaints for illegal earthworks, an unauthorised retaining wall and removal of screening trees on the main road frontage.
The 245 square metre shed is on a sloping block containing an existing large two-storey house and swimming pool.
Council chief planner Vince Connell in his report to councillors said neighbours were not originally notified of the development application (DA) for the shed; neither was it advertised, as officers ‘determined it was not warranted’ under council regulations.
Tweed Shire Council staff had ordered the builder-owner, J Turner of Turner Property Developments, to seek amended approvals for the illegal works but further complaints from neighbours last year that the shed was not being built or used as per the original consent led to a penalty infringement notice being issued for the builder failing to respond to that direction.
Planners then asked for a further (section 96) application to allow for some modifications to the original consent.
These included the external building appearance, such as a deck, a large masonry feature wall, a separate partitioned area on the upper level of the shed for which the owner said would be used as an office, as well as the overall height and envelope of the structure.
Mr Connell said that adjoining neighbours had to be notified of the section 96 application under state legislation, and seven submissions were received objecting to the original DA and the further section 96 application.
He said objections included loss of views, visual impact of the size, scale and building style on the site’s Terranora Road frontage, loss of amenity through the removal of existing vegetation, traffic safety of the new driveway construction, and doubts over the use of the shed ‘in its emerging form’.
Other objections included that a fence built between the shed and existing dwelling effectively subdivided the allotment and made it easier to use the shed as a separate dwelling.
The neighbouring owners also suspected the applicant would live in the shed as the existing dwelling had been leased, and the structure looked like an ‘architecturally designed contemporary dwelling’ and not a shed.
They said it would also set a precedent in the area, and that the original application was ‘dishonest’ in that it did not show additional windows and doors.
Other objections were that it would send a wrong message to the community of ‘build what you want and seek modification later’.
But Mr Connell dismissed most of the objections saying the revised plans were ‘relatively consistent with the scale, height and form of the original approved plans’.
He said that in regard to concerns on the use of the shed, the owner last month wrote to Council promising to stop ‘an existing tenancy arrangement’, and that he would ‘move back the existing dwelling house’.
He said this would satisfy ‘the ancillary arrangement between the dwelling house and the shed’ and thus recommended Council support the section 96 application.
But Crs Gary Bagnall and Katie Milne objected, and moved for it to be deferred and the owner asked to resubmit plans conforming to the original consent relating to building height and setback.
Cr Bagnall said Council had to ‘get real’ about ‘what had gone on’, where neighbours had paid around $750,000 for land in an ‘expensive strip of real estate’ for panoramic views knowing no other houses would be built in front of them to obstruct them.
Trees cut down
He said the shed area had then been cut off with a fence built down the side and nearly all the trees along the road had been chopped down, and some trees in the adjoining neighbours’ yard had also ‘mysteriously started dying’.
‘The building has ended up too tall, with wings pushing it to its limits, and a separate driveway built,’ Cr Bagnall said.
‘Big parties have also been held there and it’s been used as a holiday house,’ Cr Bagnall said.
‘How can someone build a house too tall? We’re allowing builders and developers to do whatever they like,’ he said.
‘If you asked me, I’d ask them to demolish it, we as councillors should not protect him,’ he said, to applause from those in the public gallery.
The move was defeated 3–4 (Crs Barry Longland, Bagnall and Milne for).
But an amendment by Crs Warren Polglase and Phil Youngblutt for the DA to be approved, including a condition that the partitioned area of the shed not be used ‘for any purpose other than storage ancillary to the dwelling or a home business’ without council consent was approved, with Crs Michael Armstrong and Carolyn Byrne backing it.
A further penalty infringement notice is also be issued to the owner of the property for carrying out building work not in accordance with the approved development consent.