Where to start. Here we have an award winning redevelopment of a substantial old warehouse for new commercial use. Reading the Otago Daily Times today we learn a local businessman questions council process on consenting grounds – apparently, there was an ‘administrative error’ with a set(s) of drawings, and a condition of the resource consent issued for 123 Vogel St was neither correctly tracked or enforced.
Rightly, the businessman doesn’t wish to litigate the matter through the newspaper.
The building owner to his credit has made a large and worthy investment in the building structure and its upgrade for commercial occupancy, revitalising a large segment of the block running between Vogel and Cumberland streets.
Why then would an ungenerous attack by one party not closely involved in the proposed warehouse precinct, be lobbed at this one building owner in such negative and disastrous fashion.
What is at stake. More importantly, what does bringing the action do to enhance the historic built environment, commercial property development, and council processes – if ad hocism (planning rules enforced here, and not there?) is argued as ‘state of play’. Is there any good in an Environment Court challenge – is it ‘vexatious’.
Impartiality, transparency, technical proficiency and fairmindedness is the hoped-for collective quality to be seen in any council operation, particularly in regards to planning matters. How far can ‘the managers’ of the District Plan, a community owned living document, seek room to breathe —or indeed, treat every resource consent application on its individual merits ….for positive precinct and in-zone outcomes, for the avoidance of new (adverse) precedents or laxity of interpretation where the rules go swimming. Where does the line bite.
In practical terms we read that what was built (window-wise at second floor level) does not accord with what was granted by resource consent.
We see minorly dropped sills (pretty? hmm) and a small extra pane of glass added for greater daylighting and liveability, done in such a way that the original scale and depth of the windows remains readable. The intervention isn’t screaming. It is very quiet, and reasonable? Why then did someone fudge the option to be consented. Who did not enforce the agreed design solution? Were affected parties given all proper information as the application processed to decision? Does the error set a precedent for destruction of protected facades and heritage townscape? This most certainly can be argued and tested generally and legally – but probably not with 123 Vogel St hauled to centre stage, pointing up administrative error or wilful and confused intention at DCC if that could be shown…. The second generation district plan public consultation process is perhaps the best place to locate the discussion. Not here, unless there is something else forming the agenda for the current challenge.
Recently, there has been another example of ‘sill dropping’ in the precinct (TH13) at the corner of Rattray and Cumberland Sts. Most people – heritage advocates included – would view the degree of change to sill height as rather subtle in the context of the overall historic heritage ‘Save’. But these details niggle aesthetes and the conscientious.
Is the effect (of design subtleties – a broad tradition….) to cumulatively – with more than minor effect – destroy ‘old’ townscape in the Vogel Street Heritage Precinct, other heritage and townscape precincts, and more widely across the central city —the ‘sense of place’ (held by ‘original’ built fabric) that District Plan policy and rules are designed to constrain, curbing overt changes to external building appearance?
How on earth did this happen at the council? Perhaps the challenge and subsequent ruling (win or lose) will ensure that all comers receive the same level of service in the adminstration of consents and conditions, and the intent of District Plan rules is more strictly adhered to by council planners.
Everyone is entitled to their day in court. The other hope is that DCC is meeting all of Mr Barnes’ legal costs.
If that was the fight advertised on page 1 today.
OPTION ONE STAYED IN THE CONSENT DECISION …. Option one would have had a new sash and two panes of glass, instead of what was built.
### ODT Online Tue, 20 Jun 2017
Building owner baffled over court action
By David Loughrey
The owner of an award-winning Dunedin warehouse precinct building has been called to face the Environment Court in a case he described yesterday as “vexatious”. The court action calls on 123 Vogel St owner Chris Barnes to remove windows on the second floor and replace them with a design applicant Dunedin businessman John Evans says should have been built under the building’s resource consent. Court documents from Mr Barnes’ counsel describe the action as “utterly baffling”. Mr Barnes has questioned the intentions of Mr Evans, and the court documents ask who Mr Evans is representing, and whether he is “receiving funds from a third party”. Some people involved would not speak on the record but one claimed property interests in “the big end of town” were behind what they saw as an attack on the precinct. […] Mr Evans’ application referred to a condition in the resource consent.
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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr
This post is offered in the public interest.