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Byron Shire
May 16, 2021

Developer a Little too Keen to remove house

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Councillors on a site inspection at the house in Little Keen Street. Photo: Lismore City Council
Councillors on a site inspection at the house in Little Keen Street. Photo: Lismore City Council

Melissa Hargraves

A developer’s sincerity has been brought into question after a Little Keen Street house he deemed ‘too dilapidated’ to be retained in a DA application to Lismore City Council was found to be advertised for removal and sale for almost $90,000.

And a councillor has asked why a heritage plan commissioned by Council, which looked at the houses around it, did not consider the house in question.

Mayor Jenny Dowell used her casting vote at Lismore City Council (LCC) meeting on Tuesday night to support Cr Vanessa Ekins’s motion to defer the development approval (DA) for a dwelling removal at 2 Little Keen Street, Lismore, until a heritage conservation report comes to Council within months.

Tony Gilding of Little Keen Street spoke at public access regarding the credibility of the site developer, including the documentation supplied to Council.

Mr Gilding told Council that the developer had supplied engineering and heritage reports that indicated the building was too ‘dilapidated for inhabitation’ and that the likelihood of finding a new owner to restore the property would be difficult’.

‘Yet, that very same developer has the same house listed for a relocation sale at $89,900 (which includes delivery and restumping) saying the house is structurally sound and highly sought after.’

The sale listing declares the following attributes: ‘Located in Lismore this early 1900s home features three bedrooms with a very large main, french doors, HWD floors, VJ interior and classic layout. In need of some TLC but don’t be fooled by the rough exterior as it is structurally a sound home. A hard-to-find sought-after style so get in quick.’

Advertisement praising the qualities of the house.
Advertisement praising the qualities of the ‘dilapidated’ house.

Mr Gilding sees this as history repeating itself.

‘Incredibly, we have seen this happen with other house relocations in our street,’ he said, ‘where the same argument applied where the developer’s reports stated the house was beyond repair. One of those houses was relocated to another shire and it now looks great!

Mr Gilding told Council that a previous house removal in the street had left an eyesore on the streetscape.

He also shared some of the cultural attributes of the Little Keen Street community: community gardens, community newsletter and soccer on Sunday.

Cr Ekins stressed to Council the issue of affordable housing in Lismore.

‘This particular house, with estimated costs of repair and restumping, will still come in a lot cheaper than anywhere else,’ she said.

‘Let’s encourage more people living close to the CBD, they love it. This is Lismore’s heritage, beautiful old buildings like this, made out of rainforest timbers – you couldn’t build something like that these days.’

Holding off until the heritage report comes in will have no impact on the DA according to Council staff. Cr Ekins told Council it would be premature to act beforehand.

The development site at 2 Little Keen Street is zoned B3 Commercial Core, yet has been used for residential purposes for some time.

Cr Matthew Schiebl said the developers are acting within their rights.

‘This is a freehold block and this is the wish of the owners. Regardless of heritage, they are in their right to proceed as per the DA. This is just stalling the process for the applicant,’ said Cr Schiebl.

Not identified by report

Cr Neil Marks pointed out that this site was not identified by the heritage report.

Cr Ekins responded, ‘The resolution that this council passed is that we commission a heritage conservation report into the significance and options for a heritage conservation area/heritage listing for properties in Little Keen Street in order to ensure any future commercial development in the area takes into account heritage nature and value of the existing streetscape character’.

‘So I don’t understand how the oldest house in the street with the loveliest details is not included in the heritage study.

‘Since I have been on Council I have seen our downtown houses continually being removed, put up a Dan Murphy’s, take more away and put up something else. We are losing our housing stock, yet we are a community in housing crisis.

‘Let’s see this house repaired and not taken away, further reducing our stock.’

Cr Dowell voted for the deferral of the DA; Crs Bennet, Schiebl, Marks, Battista and Meineke voted against (Cr Ritchie absent), which saw the mayor having to use her casting vote.

On confirmation that the heritage report would arrive within months, Cr Dowell told Council, ‘as this report is imminent I will vote for this motion. If it was longer I may have made a different decision, as I take Cr Schiebl’s point very clearly about the landholder’s rights on his land. However, I am prepared to wait for one to two months for the heritage report.’


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