Is it OK for Redland City Council to approve medium density units in an urban residential zone?
Not a problem say the Council’s planning staff who have recommended that councillors approve such a development at their meeting on Wednesday.
This development proposal, for land next to St Rita’s School in Victoria Point, has caused angst for neighbours and locals alike but the ramifications should be considered by communities across Redland City.
Really! 16 units on a 3,035 sqm lot
Council will consider the officers recommendation to approve a Multiple Dwelling proposal for 16 units on a 3,035 sq m vacant block (about 190 sq m per unit) at 41-45 Benfer Road, Victoria Point. Council’s decision on this application may establish a precedent for the development of Multiple Dwellings in the Urban Residential Zone in the Redlands which is contrary to the reasonable interests of existing residents living in that Zone as well as to the broader community.
Under the Redlands Planning Scheme (RPS) the principal purpose of the Urban Residential Zone is primarily for detached Dwellings. It is typically the Medium Density Residential Zone which is for Multiple Dwellings ie more than three dwellings on a lot.
The existing Planning Scheme does however provide the opportunity for multiple dwellings development within a sub area UR1 of the Urban Residential Zone. Then, with the very recent amendment to the RPS in March 2015, the opportunity for Multiple Dwellings in the Urban Residential Zone was extended to all lots with an area of 1,200m2 and 4,000m2 with a minimum 20 metre frontage. This not insignificant amendment was made at a time when the Council’s main public relations effort was to get the people to focus on the upcoming City Plan 2015.
Probable “planning” solutions
With regards to density of development, the intent of the RPS as expressed through the Probable Solutions in the Zone Codes to achieve the Specific Outcomes sought are as follows:-
Urban Residential Zone – “Residential development achieves a density of not greater than 1 dwelling unit per 400m2” (This maximum density applies to practically all residential development in the Urban Residential Zone)
Medium Density Residential Zone – “Residential uses achieve a density of 1 dwelling unit per 200m2 of site area”
The Benfer Road development application MCU013477 is to be decided by Council at its meeting, is for 16 units on a 3035 sq m lot which is one dwelling unit per 190 sq m. This density does not even achieve the density of the Medium Density Residential Zone. One must ask – how does this performance achieve the Specific Outcome of the Urban Residential Zone in which the property is located?
Officers have made the recommendation to approve the development, and have deemed “The proposal, as designed, is… considered compatible with detached character” over-riding the maximum density quoted in the Probable Solution. Council staff have recently argued “what is not understood (by the community) is that the planning system in Queensland is a performance based, rather than a prescriptive system” (Letter to the Editor by General Manager Community and Customer Services Redland City Bulletin 29 July 2015 and an article Redland City Council News 22 July 2015).
This development application provides some insight into the process and interaction between the applicant and Council which led to the Officer’s recommendation. For people concerned to understand how this proposal satisfies “performance based system” the full document should be examined but a sample of the depth of assessment, the use of “planners logic” “subjective opinion” and even the “planners language” (bolding by Redlands2030) includes:
Whereas I agree that the predominant form of development in this area will be low-rise detached houses, the site should be put into its locational context being adjacent to a busy school with its associated traffic and amenity issues.
The development is not at odds with the overall outcome since multiple dwellings are encouraged presumably on appropriate lots. I consider that given the proximity to the school and the large size of the allotment, Multiple Dwellings on this lot can act as a transition to Detached Dwellings further West.
Also, the development is consistent with the overall outcome since the final product will offer choice and housing affordability.
In terms of the performance based planning system perhaps it is time for Council to look at the message it is telling, the messenger, and the methodology it relies upon and stop asserting the community in some way lacks an appreciation of the benefits being bestowed upon residents!
Flow on effects?
There are at least two more advanced applications for multiple dwelling developments on Urban Residential Zoned land now before Council. The assessment and decision on the Benfer Road development proposal may well set precedents for the determination of these applications. These in turn become “bell wether” decisions which will guide future multiple dwelling development in the UR Zone in Redland City. In the pipeline are:
Rachow St, Thornlands – Proposal for 167 Multiple Dwelling Units by Roycorp Pty Ltd. (MCU013477)
The proposal is broadly described in the following item in the Redland City Times from 19 May 2015. This property is Zoned – Urban Residential – Sub Area UR1 (Approx. 1.9ha) and Open Space (Approx 4.2ha)
Multiple Dwellings are a consistent use in the UR Zone – Sub Area UR1 with a probable solution density of not greater than 1 dwelling unit per 400m2 and are an Inconsistent Use in the Open Space Zone. Following the intent of the RPS Zonings, a multiple dwelling development on the site the maximum yield would not exceed 47 units.
The proposal is for 167 Multiple Dwelling Units on a lot of approx. 3.5 ha (including approx. 1.6ha zoned Open Space) plus Road plus Public Open Space. The proposed density is approximately 1 dwelling unit per 210 sqm.
While this application is midway through the assessment process and is still subject to public notification when submissions can be made, the available Council documents indicate that Council’s position is generally favourable towards the application.
Of interest and for comparative purposes is the almost completed nearby Roycorp development (MCU012935) off Freshwater Street. This development has drawn adverse community comment from those who travel between Cleveland and Victoria Point. This site has 125 multiple dwellings located on a lot of about 3.26 ha. This is a dwelling density of 1 unit per 261 sq m. This Roycorp site is located in the Medium Density Residential Zone, (the primary zone for units) within the RPS for which the probable solution for density is 1 unit per 200 sq m.
Seabreeze Court, Ormiston – Proposal for 5 Multiple Dwelling Units by East Coast Surveys (Aust) Pty Ltd (MCU013418)
The property is zoned Urban Residential. The application relies on the recent changes to the RPS which lists Multiple Dwellings as a Consistent Use on lots in the UR Zone with an area between 1200 sq m to 4000 sq m and having a minimum frontage of 20m. Such applications are subject to Impact Assessment which includes public notification and the opportunity for submissions.
This property is located in a mature residential area of “leafy” Ormiston. There is an existing residence on a lot of 1,644 sq m. The code probable solution for density is not greater than 1 unit per 400 sq m which compares with the proposed density of one unit per 329 sq m, some 21% greater than the probable solution. When publicly notified the application drew about 50 adverse submissions. It is currently awaiting Council’s Decision.
Introducing medium density by stealth
If Council were to accept the officers recommendation on the current Benfer Road application it will provide a precedent which might lead to accepting of the density proposed for both of the Rachow Street and Seabreeze Court proposals outlined above.
There are many properties in the UR Zone, with or without amalgamation, on which Multiple Dwellings would now be consistent development. Applying the same density as the officers are recommending for approval of the Benfer Road application this could result in anything from 6 units on a 1200 sq m lot to 23 units on a 4000 sq lot.
Such an outcome may be acceptable for property Zoned Medium Density Residential (MDR) but seems totally unacceptable to the community residing within the UR Zone. Effectively this is introducing MDR development by stealth into mainly mature residential precincts within the UR Zone. This would almost certainly lead to the destruction of the character, livability and fabric of those precincts.