Ausbuild Thornlands project refused

PLANS for a 259-house residential development at Thornlands were knocked back at this morning’s Redland City Council meeting.

Councillors voted against developer Ausbuild’s application to subdivide six blocks of land on Boundary Road into 259 lots, some as small as 121sqm.

The developer was forced to seek council permission because the sub-division deviated from the previous council’s zoning for the area.

The previous zoning was for a mix of medium- and low- density housing around a large open space zone and community boulevard.

Councillors Wendy Boglary (div1), Craig Ogilvie (div2), Lance Hewlett (div4), Murray Elliott (div7), Paul Gleeson (div9) and Paul Bishop (Div 10) voted against the officer recommendation to approve the development.

Their major objections were about development of the site, the small-sized blocks and traffic problems caused by the project.

Cr Ogilvie said the original proposal had “undergone significant changes” and was no longer a mixture of large blocks and townhouses and was now all smaller blocks covering the majority of the site.

However, he said his main complaint with the proposal was an infrastructure deal, struck with Ausbuild, without public knowledge.

“The secret nature of the infrastructure deal is a bad look and is an insult to ordinary ratepayers,” Cr Ogilvie said.

“If councillors think that it's okay to give developers millions in discounts, then they should be ready to front the community. 

 “The ratepayers are already subsidising the infrastructure in this area by something like $35 million dollars and mates rates deals make it worse.”

The area is subject to a special Priority Infrastructure plan regime which required Ausbuild to pay $9.4million but council has previously voted 5/5 to allow Ausbuild to pay $6.3million.

Ausbuild managing director Michael Loney has previously said standard infrastructure charges should apply even though a special infrastructure regime existed for the Boundary Road site.

His father, Ausbuild's chief executive Ron Loney, addressed council this morning and said his project would deliver a wider range of housing options with price tags from $300,000.

That was supported by Cr Julie Talty (Div 6), who congratulated Ausbuild and said "groundbreaking work" saved the site from 349 dwellings with 254 houses.

Cr Talty warned councillors about voting against the project saying it would end in a legal battle and would "boot out" goodwill and result in a "sea of townhouses".

Cr Ogilvie said he would have voted for the project but it did not comply with the planning scheme.

Cr Mark Edwards (Div 5), who voted for the project, said legislation needed to be tightened and the project was an inherited problem but the best outcome.

The divisional councillor for the area, Cr Kim-Maree Hardman, said she did not like the project but felt compelled to vote for it because it complied with all planning regulations.

Cr Hewlett, opposed the project and said he wanted to see acreage, not lots of 122sqm, at the greenfield site and Cr Bishop agreed saying the small lots would create social problems.

Mayor Karen Williams declared a conflict of interest at the meeting and left the room not voting on the item because Ausbuild donated more than $500 to her mayoral campaign in 2012.

Her absence from chambers during the debate was noted by Cr Elliott who said he was disappointed she could not be part of such an important debate.

However, Cr Williams said she could legally have stayed in the room for the vote but chose not to.

Before the meeting, she said the proposal for small-lot houses was the best option for the site and would attract young families who could not afford to buy average-sized blocks.

“It is a better use of the land than having a high-density townhouse development, which the previous council proposed for the land,” Cr Williams said outside the meeting.

“I prefer opportunities for younger people to own their own property than to be part of a townhouse body corporate scenario.

“I’m not a huge fan of really small blocks but the reality is townhouse developments are code assessable and we are stuck with the plan that this particular developer has rights under.

“To find a better outcome is a bonus.”

Thornlands resident Lynn Roberts, whose Boundary Road acreage property backs on to the site, told council not to approve the proposal because it went against what the community agreed to during consultations in 2006.

Ausbuild eked out an extra 12 housing blocks in its plan by removing a 50m tree-lined “boulevard” and open space.

She was a community representative on the South East Thornlands Community Reference Group in 2006 and had some input to the Structure Plan process for the area.

Redland City Council deputy mayor Allan Beard chairs debate about granting developer Ausbuild an application to build 259 small-lot houses at a greenfield site in Thornlands. Photo: Judith Kerr

Redland City Council deputy mayor Allan Beard chairs debate about granting developer Ausbuild an application to build 259 small-lot houses at a greenfield site in Thornlands. Photo: Judith Kerr

“While the final result was far from ideal, I accepted the plan and tried to look for the positives,” she said.

“But the present proposal rips out even the small concessions in the Structure Plan and leaves us nothing but row after row of small, some very small, blocks in a boring grid fashion.

“It may very well be “innovative” to cram in quite so many lots in a residential area but it is certainly going to impact on the character and amenity of the locality.

“This 50 metre wide multi-purpose corridor is essential to give visual relief to the endless sea of roofs and was included in the Structure Plan in response to the many submissions.”