The Land and Environment Court (LEC) has rubber stamped an agreement between a developer and Byron Council regarding a controversial ‘affordable housing’ proposal, leaving residents greatly disappointed about the outcome, and the process by which it was achieved.
The matter was taken to the Land and Environment Court by developers Phillip Agnew and Adam Band after their Sunrise townhouse development application (DA) was not assessed by Council within the statutory time limit.
They asserted that this amounted to a deemed refusal of the application.
Before reaching the LEC, compulsory mediation was held, leading to an agreement. Residents claimed that they were not privy to the negotiations, nor did they know the final conditions of approval, despite making submissions and asking Council staff at the time.
During the compulsory LEC mediation, the developers offered to reduce the dwellings from eight to six, while reducing the scale and size of the proposal.
With those concessions, Byron councillors delegated authority to general manager Mark Arnold to approve the development, subject to certain conditions.
That approval occurred soon after and was formalised in a judgment from LEC Commissioner, Peter Walsh, on July 15.
Commissioner Walsh imposed a number of conditions on the development, in keeping with the agreement between the two parties.
This included that for the next ten years, the dwelling must be ‘used for the purposes of affordable housing’.
However, under the state’s affordable housing laws, only 20 per cent of a development must be affordable – in this case, only one of the six units.
Commissioner Walsh satisfied
‘I am satisfied that jurisdictional pre-requisites have been met, and the parties’ decision is one that the Court could have made in the proper exercise of its functions,’ Commissioner Walsh said.
‘In making the orders to give effect to the agreement between the parties, I was not required to make, and have not made, any merit assessment of the issues that were originally in dispute between the parties.’
As a result of the LEC judgment, developer, The Kollective, is now free to proceed with its plan to build six two-bedroom town houses at 6 Julian Rocks Drive, despite strong opposition from residents.
‘I felt like… they just went through the formal process to get the DA signed, sealed and delivered,’ local resident Cathy Stavert said.
Waste of time
‘It was a waste of residents’ time preparing and presenting submissions via phone linkup conference. It was a futile pursuit’. Another Sunrise resident, Sandra Heilpern, said her concerns went beyond the process by which the development was approved.
‘There is a very important factor in the ongoing ‘kollectivisation’ of Sunrise, and that is that the planning instruments that Council has to abide by in their decisions re DAs are woefully inadequate in protecting the Sunrise community from such inappropriate developments,’ said Ms Heilpern.
Fellow resident Wayne Byrne said the Council’s decision to reach an agreement with the developer had ‘destroyed a neighbourhood street’.
‘How is a development application accepted by Council that was never completed correctly, and [yet] went through Council processes until a resident pointed this out? Council’s answer? Ring the developers up and get them to come in and sign and tick the right boxes.’
In voting for approval, councillors supported staff’s position that there was no legal basis to oppose the development.