Neighbours of a Hidden Valley property that was given Mitchell Shire Council’s approval for an outbuilding continue to fight the development, citing drainage and development precedent among concerns.
Residents have engaged a civil engineer to independently corroborate their concerns about the Dolomite Rise permit, and have battled council for about two years over the outbuilding, which they say will negatively impact adjoining, lower-lying properties by causing flooding and erosion issues.
A permit was granted for a ‘garage for the storage of cars and tools’ for the property, while plans submitted to the Hidden Valley Design Review Board, HVDRB, show the ‘garage’ contains double bifold barn doors, a shower, toilet, separate sewerage system, shaving cabinet and mirror, and several capped hot and cold-water points with a total floor area of 220 square metres.
A Hidden Valley Association, HVA, spokesperson said the legal definition of a dwelling was that it had a shower, toilet pan, sink, and food preparation area, while R-Codes defined a garage as any roofed structure, excluding a carport, designed to accommodate one or more motor vehicles attached to the dwelling.
“Does this look like a garage to you? A typical triple-size garage in Australia is approximately 54 square metres and single-storey in height, costing around $44,900 to build,” the spokesperson said.
“The proposal is 235 square metres, double-storey in height and costing more than $300,000. It is over four times the size of a triple-size garage.
“The dwelling is over 100 metres away at the bottom of a steep hill yet is still a ‘garage’ to council.
“The proposal is of such a scale … with all its accoutrements screaming ‘house’ rather than ‘garage’, that it becomes a stretch to believe that negligence and/or incompetence on behalf of council can solely be to blame.”
MSC chief executive Brett Luxford said the application was for ‘an outbuilding ancillary to the existing dwelling’.
“A dwelling is defined in the planning scheme as ‘a building used as a self-contained residence, which must include a kitchen sink, food preparation facilities, a bath or shower and a wash basin.’ The proposal does not include cooking facilities,” he said.
“The planning permit approval was specifically for an outbuilding, and a condition of permit requires this building must only be used for the storage of vehicles and/or goods for domestic purpose and must not be used for human habitation or contain facilities that could be used for cooking, eating and sleeping.”
Original outbuilding plans contained a pizza oven and chimney, but they have been removed.
HVA dispute the use of the lot’s second envelope – contrasting with three similar Hidden Valley lots, citing section 3.1.1 of the Hidden Valley Design Guidelines and a historic advertisement obtained stating two envelopes were established allowing for a choice of primary dwelling due to difficult topography.
However, Mr Luxford said nothing in the restrictions or guidelines limited development to one envelope consistent with title restrictions.
HVA believe council and HVDRP failed to conduct a full planning merits assessment with no drainage or landscaping plans submitted prior to approval.
The HVA spokesperson said council’s economy, growth and infrastructure director Suzanne Becker told them that council could determine which requirements were to be provided.
“Ms Becker was able to determine, it would seem, that the term ‘as appropriate’ meant she could pick and choose which of the application requirements she deemed necessary,” HVA said.
“Drainage and landscaping detail were apparently not required for consideration at the planning stage. Unfathomable given the steep topography of the lot and the fact the proposal was not to be attached to stormwater.
“There are two properties sitting well below the proposed building already prone to flooding in heavy rain and the significant footprint of such a large building will compound this.”
Mr Luxford said required information depended on the application type and planning permit triggers.
“Development of [the property] need only to ensure that any drainage water from the development is controlled,” he said.
He also said existing southern lot landowners who excavated the hill to build dwellings have not completed revegetation or drainage preventing erosion or lake sedimentation contamination.
HVA said a 160-kilolitre mega water tank and 10-kilolitre tank were being added to assist drainage.
Mr Luxford said when the permit was issued there was no proposal for a water tank, nor was there a permit trigger for a water tank to service a dwelling.
He said the tank discussed was also for the primary dwelling.
With excavation preparation reported on October 27, the Review approached builders Hotondo Homes regarding drainage plans.
On November 2, Hotondo Homes said ‘the drainage plans were currently pending council approval and, once finalised, will be made available to those interested’, followed by ‘drainage plans are approved by council and available if required’ on November 3.
The HVA spokesperson said council failed to properly assess and process the application with residents driven to engage an independent civil engineer corroborating concerns.
“It speaks volumes about the lack of diligence, due process, accountability and reasonable governance of the application by council,” the HVA spokesperson said.
“The permit should never have been granted. It was assessed tokenistically at best, and negligently at worst by council’s planning department. The question is ‘why?’.”
The Review approached the homeowners of the Dolomite property, however they did not respond to requests for comment.