Council will delay its decision on a development application involving dongas (transportable buildings) on a property on Rouse Street North after near-neighbours protested that it will bring down property values in the area.
One of those neighbours, Graham Rossington, addressed the May council meeting where the DA was to be discussed, with several more neighbours in the gallery in support. Mr Rossington said the DA goes against the covenant that he and wife Lee placed over the 13-lot subdivision back in 2015, disallowing (amongst other conditions) the establishment of a relocated residential building or one not constructed of new materials, or that isn't connected to septic or sewer.
In her report to council, planning and development services manager Tamai Davidson noted that while private developers are entitled to create such restrictions, they are not enforceable by council which is instead guided by its Local Environmental Plan. She said this does not, however, preclude civil action on the matter by those who placed the covenant or those subject to its conditions.
Representing six objectors, Mr Rossington said the development applicant had acted with a lack of respect to council, camping on the lot in a shed and mobile home, and burying effluent onsite.
He thanked council for taking action on receiving complaints, with a belated DA received after the mobile buildings were already onsite after council issued a Penalty Infringement Notice on February 20.
He said the other property owners had complied with the covenant and he fears approval of the DA will set a precedent and lower land values. The subdivision also neighbours the historic Tenterfield Station homestead, set for refurbishment itself.
"Who'd want to buy a block of land to have dongas next door?" he asked.
He agreed that ratepayers shouldn't have to subsidise new developments, but then queried the use of covenants if they can't be enforced.
Mrs Davidson recommended to councillors that the DA be approved, with conditions, as it meets the requirements of the LEP but they voted to take further time to address the aesthetic and legal concerns.
Councillor Bronwyn Petrie was among those against delaying the decision, concerned with the impact that approval would have on future development.
"If we approve this we send dreadful message to potential investors, and set a bad precedent," she said.
Mayor Peter Petty reminded councillors that if they vote against the DA the decision has to be defensible in a court of law. He is keen to arrange a meeting between councillors and the applicant. The latter was offered the opportunity to also address the council meeting, but declined.
Modified plans with a different exterior cladding had already been lodged in response to submissions received against the original plans, replacing Colorbond cladding with a Hardiplank weatherboard product.
The two dongas onsite are intended to be used in conjunction with a third transportable building yet to arrive. If the DA is refused, or is approved and works not carried out in accordance, council will commence action to have the buildings removed from the site.