Published 31 August 2018
One of the principles of New Zealand planning law is that you don’t make conditions worse for others.
A proposal by Auckland Council urban development arm Panuku to redevelop the corner of Dominion Rd & Valley Rd in Mt Eden would dominate neighbours and put them in the shade, according to the decision by council-appointed planning commissioners to reject the proposal.
One part of the argument supporting the Panuku scheme was that more new development would follow, under the more intensification-oriented Auckland unitary plan.
But hearing chair Janine Bell wrote in the panel’s decision document that the commissioners couldn’t take account of other future developments which might not proceed. The permitted baseline for the panel to consider, therefore, was what is, not what might be.
That’s the same approach as commissioners took in July in declining a retirement village development in St Johns. Summerset Group Holdings Ltd proposed 7 buildings ranging up to 7 storeys high, and 8 storeys at part of one building, but the hearing chair Mark Farnsworth said in the decision to reject it: “The height, bulk, form & appearance of the proposal are not appropriate for the site and the potential adverse effects of the proposal do not do sufficiently balance its benefits…. The interface of the zoning of the site with the zoning of surrounding properties imposes development constraints & anticipated outcomes that will not be achieved to an acceptable extent.”
Mr Farnsworth recognised, as Ms Bell has done, that things might change. In the eastern suburbs, Mr Farnsworth noted a submission that neighbourhoods would change as development raised height levels, typically up to 3 storeys at first, including detached dwellings, terraced housing & low-rise apartments.
The same is likely to occur along Dominion Rd, assuming it becomes a light rail route from downtown Auckland to the airport. It’s not hard to see a dramatic revision of the landscape if Eden Park is replaced as a sporting venue and housing or a mixed neighbourhood is developed there. In that event – occasionally contemplated, not in any immediate plans but likely to be raised more frequently – the present lowrise suburban streetscape from Sandringham Rd at Kingsland across to Dominion Rd would quickly be intensified – and the argument over this Valley Rd corner would be ended.
Proposal “not without merit”
In the decision on the Panuku application, Ms Bell wrote: “In our view, the proposal was not without merit, as we can see the positive benefits that residential intensification would offer to this part of the inner city. As set out in our preceding discussion, it was the scale, bulk & intensity of the proposed development within this part of the business local centre zone that we find is not in keeping with the planning outcomes identified in the unitary plan for the surrounding environment, in particular the special character values of the Eden Valley area and the reduced height limit imposed by the height variation control.”
Panuku proposed the construction of a multi-level mixed use development on the 8 adjoining sites at 198-202, 214-222 Dominion Rd & 113-117 Valley Rd, Mt Eden. This would involve demolition of all existing buildings, including 2 character-supporting buildings, and development that would result in 102 apartments & 9 shops.
A new approach is not out of the question, indicated by a comment from Ms Bell in the decision: “Redevelopment of the site, with mixed use development, is both anticipated & supported. This position was confirmed by all experts & submitters. We agree. However, we consider that site redevelopment in this location – being a local centre zone where both a special character area overlay and a height variation control apply – is required to take account & provide for a wider project scope than simply ‘high intensity/urban intensification’.
“While we find that the proposal addresses these project parameters to a large degree, there remain elements of the design that result in a built form that is not compatible with the intent & purpose of the special character area values.”
For a new development approach in the near future, it would have to take account of some specific concerns raised by the hearing panel:
- Building A exceeds the 13m maximum total height standard on its eastern elevation by about 5m, and is about 17.5m from its eastern boundary
- Building C exceeds the 13m height standard by 7.5m, and is about 10.5m from its northern boundary
- The height infringement associated with Building D is less easily defined, but of a lower order than Buildings A & C, and in part complies with the terraced housing & apartment buildings zone standard of 16m for a short distance
- This end of the building also infringes the height:boundary standard to its northern boundary by between 3.8-1.4m.
3 August 2018: Commissioners decide 7 storeys too high for retirement village in mixed housing zone so soon in life of unitary plan
Attribution: Panel decision.