A drawn out battle has led to the reconsideration and approval of a Mulwala landowner’s desired setback for a Corowa Road lakefront property.
The proposed new two storey dwelling at 71 Corowa Road Mulwala, with a foreshore building line 10 metres from the Lake Mulwala and the building to be 13.9 metres from the foreshore, has now been agreed to by Corowa Shire Council.
It was rejected by all nine Corowa Shire councillors in May despite a go-ahead recommendation from council's planning department.
And a subsequent development application for a single storey dwelling with two garages and an alfresco under the main roof at 63A Corowa Road within 10 metres and to be erected 15.6 metres from Lake Mulwala has also been approved.
In both instances it was a 5:3 vote by councillors at a special meeting in Mulwala on Monday, September 23 following their site inspection of properties.
"By coming down here and having an inspection of the properties affected, it gave us a clear viewpoint so council was enlightened on the site for everybody," Corowa Shire Mayor Fred Longmire told the Yarrawonga Chronicle after council had agreed in May with several objections in respect of 71 Corowa Road setback distance.
"It was the right decision, the lawful decision," developer and owner of the subject property, 71 Corowa Road, Peter Crawford, told the Yarrawonga Chronicle of last week's decision.
"It wasn't a feud to me. I hope everyone can move on. I congratulate councillors for changing their minds."
In an emotional address to council's special meeting before the vote, Mr Crawford said: "I checked all the rules with council and went by their recommendation.
"I don't think people have got the right to tell me what I can and can't do on my property. This has been three years of thinking. My dream's turned into a nightmare."
71 Corowa Road
In his May 2013 report for councillors, council's Director Environmental and Planning Services, Bob Parr, recommended the 10 metre setback, for several reasons. He highlighted the planning principles of senior Commissioner, Land and Environment Court of NSW, Dr John Roseth, in 2005, as earlier reported in the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
Of particular interest, Mr Parr said, was the last principle what many objectors are reluctant to accept.
"This is because in many cases, people obtain panoramic views as a result of an adjoining site being developed to a level far below its potential," he said.
"When the time arrives to intensify the development, it is hard to accept the often devastating effect on views."
Mr Parr's recommendation was also based on the fact that no-one had objected to the setback distances for properties along Corowa Road since the shire's 1990 Local Environment Plan review, and when reviewed as recently as last year.
But at this year's May meeting, councillors argued the setback distance for the dwelling at 71 Corowa Road should be the same as the existing metre building line at 73 Corowa Road.
Since that decision, developers Peter and Kaye Crawford, and their Albury consultant representative, David Hunter, submitted more reasons in their support of the 10-metre setback with proposed building line of 13.9 metres.
At council's monthly September 17 meeting, presentations were made, for a third time, by owner of No. 73, Dr George Geschelt, and Mr Hunter who was accompanied by No. 71 owners, the Crawfords.
In his presentation, Dr Geschelt urged council to "hold its nerve" and "stay the course with its earlier decision to reject the 10 metre setback for the newer application development application at 63A Corowa Road.
"I can vouch that of the 17 affected landholders, 14 support the current position (revised setbacks as currently promulgated by council). That's over 80 per cent, a clear majority," Dr Geschelt said.
Mr Hunter said all the preliminary work before council's May decision was undertaken: development controls, speaking with council's planning department and building design which involved substantial time before submission to council and which is believed to be fully compliant.
He said there were two issues: the previous application and view aspect, which follows established principles and still gives reasonable view for neighbouring properties.
"We feel it is an accepted loss of view and that the 10 metres setback should remain," Mr Hunter said.
63A Corowa Road
Mr Parr, who largely recommended approval, said the proposed siting complies with the provisions and requirements of the Building Code of Australia (BCA), the NSW Housing Code and the Corowa DCP, in a locality characterised by single and two-storey development.
But views of Lake Mulwala and its surrounds resulted in Corowa councillors resolving, at their May 2013 meeting in a separate development application, to introduce a Planning Proposal for this area of Lake Mulwala, arising from the request by No.71 owner for a 10-metre setback.
The Planning Proposal's intended aim or outcome was to "maintain the existing character and vista of the neighbourhood by amending the existing 10 metre river front building line with a variable building line ranging from between 15 to 20 metres". The building line that would be applicable to the subject allotment at 63A was 20 metres.
"In this particular instance this development, although the dwelling is to be located at 15.6 metres from the foreshore rather than the proposed alignment of 20 metres, the vista available to the neighbourhood will in fact be enhanced," Mr Parr said.
"This comes about by the removal of trees that were previously located that were previously located at the line of the foreshore and the removal of the garage that was located between the former dwelling and the foreshore.
"The only component of the proposed dwelling that could be improved to further enhance the views from the adjoining premises is to remove the bricked south-western end of the alfresco area."
Solicitor Andrew McPherson of Hargraves Solicitors Yarrawonga, who was representing developers at 63A Corowa Road, Chris and Ray Hawkins, said his clients are very pleased with the outcome.
"Corowa council gave us a fair hearing, the on-site inspection made it clear as to the merits of the development application and we got the outcome we wanted," Mr McPherson said.
"We met all the planning requirements. The reason we have planning requirements and regulations is certainty for the future."
Five objections were received to the development application, mainly related to the setback distance and perceived blocking of neighbours' views.
But Mr McPherson referred to work already undertaken with removal of an old garage and three big trees. "Although the siting of the dwelling is proposed to be in front of the 20 metres building line, the dwelling at 61 Corowa Road will now have almost panoramic views of the lake," he said.
"Views of the lake from 65 Corowa Road will not be altered or adversely impacted upon due to the presence of existing vegetation. Should the vegetation be removed in the future views from 65 will be further enhanced."
Mr Parr said the appearance of the single storey brick veneer dwelling with colourbond roof will have minimal adverse impact on the neighbourhood. "The scale and bulk of the dwelling is not out of character with many other buildings in the locality," he said.
Mr McPherson said objectors might have merit on a desire basis, but not on legal entitlement to side view.
"The development application is a compliant plan," he said. "There have been four letters of support in the vicinity in the list of 17. So five supporters out of 17 - that's at odds with other numbers bandied about.
"It's been recommended by the shire themselves. Due weight should be placed on that."
Mr McPherson dismissed a claim by 73 Corowa Road owner, Dr George Geschelt, that the proposed setback could devalue property prices. "That is a bit rich," Mr McPherson said. "It simply doesn't add up. Our applicants have put, not an insubstantial amount of money, to improve the property. In fact, what they're proposing would enhance values."
Mr McPherson took the opportunity to advise that the Hawkins are "not blow-ins" to the area. "They are farmers who have lived in Corowa Shire all their lives," he said.
At council's September monthly meeting, all councillors, except one, Deputy Mayor and Mulwala-based Daryl Davey, agreed, on the motion of Crs Francesco Bruinsma and Gail Law, that councillors inspect the properties affected.
Cr Davey maintained that council's May meeting decision to disallow the 10 metre setback was correct and should stand but was overruled.
At council's special meeting last week, voting in favour of the development application by the Crawfords were Crs Joan Palmer and Fiona Schirmer (mover and seconder of motion), Cr Paul Miegel, Cr Gail Law and Mayor Fred Longmire. Against the motion were Cr Daryl Davey, Cr Mark Shields and Cr Norm Wales. Cr Francesco Bruinsma was an apology.
Cr Davey re-iterated his stance and acknowledged council had looked at the LEP before and came up with the May decision in good faith.
"I believe we came up with a happy medium," he said. Cr Norm Wales said he fully supported Cr Davey.
"I disagree," Cr Palmer said. "Local Government operates in legislation bounded by a code of ethics. The original recommendation of Mr Parr was what we should have adopted at the time and not planning on the run."
Cr Schirmer added her support to Cr Palmer referring to "strict guidelines and legalities in a legally secure process, and we should stick with that".
The dye was cast. Approval soon followed with another 5:3 voting result for the second development application motion, relating to the Hawkins and 63A Corowa Road, when moved by Crs Miegel and Schirmer.
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