Developer slams call by planner

The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Building on the corner of Thomas Burns, Willis and Fryatt Sts. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Building on the corner of Thomas Burns, Willis and Fryatt Sts. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A developer hoping to breathe new life into an historic Dunedin building has slammed the Dunedin City Council after a planner recommended his resource consent application be declined.

New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Building owner Russell Lund said he was ''staggered'' planners opposed his plan to restore the category two, 1872 building and redevelop the second floor into a 24-unit apartment complex.

His comments came after council planner Daryl Sycamore recommended the hearings committee decline a resource consent application for the project.

His recommendation was largely due to ''reverse sensitivity'' issues, which centred on concern apartment residents could complain to the council about noise from existing industry in the area, potentially threatening the viability of businesses in what was a non-residential (Port 2) zone.

Mr Sycamore did leave it open for the hearings committee to approve the application, if it was ''satisfied with respect to the reverse sensitivity issues''.

Mr Lund slammed Mr Sycamore's report, accusing him of basing his recommendation on personal opinion rather than legal precedent.

As a way of mitigating concern about noise the developers had proposed a ''no complaints covenant'', which would prevent it and residents from making complaints about noise.

Mr Lund found it ''inexplicable'' that Mr Sycamore accepted the courts gave ''clear direction'' that such covenants could resolve reverse sensitivity issues.

''His biggest reason for turning it down [appears to be] that he simply doesn't like covenants. To me it is inexplicable that they think they have a right to second-guess the courts.''

''The planners appear to be having a dollar each way; they are saying 'We are going to decline it, but just in case you want to accept it here are a detailed list of conditions that we think you should impose'.''

If the hearings committee followed the recommendation, he could not see another viable use for the building.

''We have already invested a great deal of time and money to get to this stage and if it is rejected we would ... be extremely disappointed.''

He accepted Mr Sycamore left it open for the hearings committee, which is holding a consent hearing next week, to approve the consent.

''There is wriggle room there, but it raises the hurdle significantly higher for us to cross.''

None of the extra consent conditions recommended by Mr Sycamore were ''deal breakers'', but Mr Lund disputed the need for mechanical ventilation - which was suggested as a way of mitigating possible noise issues caused by residents leaving windows open to ventilate their apartments.

He believed the noise was not as bad as suggested by submitters opposed to the consent, which included Kaan's Catering Supplies Ltd and Farra Engineering Ltd.

''I've actually spent some nights in the building over the last couple of months to test that theory and there have been no issues whatsoever.''

In the report Mr Sycamore said the issue of reverse sensitivity was a ''key determinant in whether the committee approve this application''.

He noted his ''personal'' dislike of no complaints covenants, calling them a ''blunt instrument'' and ''not a suitable mechanism to address effects as residents will continue to be exposed to nuisance with no opportunity for redress''.

He said the DCC environmental health department's concern, based on noise monitoring in the area, was over ''sporadic loud'' noises at night, such as train shunting, which could wake and annoy residents.

''Irrespective of the [sound-proofing proposed], considered siting of the ventilation intakes and a no complaint covenant, it is my opinion that noise in some capacity may remain a nuisance,'' Mr Sycamore said.

Despite recommending against the resource consent, he noted many positives about the proposed development, saying as it was on the edge of the Port 2 zone it would not set a precedent for further residential developments.

Redevelopment would also be good for both the building and the area.

''The works would likely be a catalyst for further development and create vibrancy in the harbour area.''

He accepted the opinion of a council ''heritage policy analyst'' it would be difficult to ''identify a financially viable alternative'' if the consent was declined.

Concerning anti-development trend

So many young business people I talk to are highly concerned at how our council seems hell bent on making anyone keen to develop, grow and encourage new business in Dunedin jump through hoops with so many things pushed back, more consents required, and more cost added to every step of the already laborious process. This worrying trend has already made a number of people we know reconsider their options in Dunedin.

The anti development few who have the time to be vocal and the conservative planners and council are putting investors off getting involved in business down here. Painting an ugly building when you own it in the exchange (could surely only be a good thing), developing apartments, or starting a new hotel, even putting in cafe's into existing commercial buildings, why are these not signed off and encouraged.

If this apartment development went ahead, who seriously would be negatively affected by any of it? The fact is it is giving more vitality to the area, and bringing in more money to our city!

Why cant the DCC/ dunedin tourism and OCC get together and advertise a new strategy encouraging people to come here, start new ventures, be supported by our local council in doing so and even perhaps have a contact who can help them through the process and develop our town instead of saying no to everything? [abridged]

An honest professional opinion...

Lily, he is paid to offer an honest professional opinion for the committee to weight up the merits of, so if he feels that no noise covenants are a croc (ie because residents can still end up living in noisy conditions) then it's his duty to say so where he thinks this might be the case.  I don't see any problem with that? And that still leaves room for Council to work on a solution that is suitable for everyone (eg further covenants and/or some redesigning).

And if I'm reading it correctly the planner identifies problems more than just the noise, but the covenant only deals with noise. Thus he seems quite right in pointing these issues out; indeed he'd surely be not doing his job properly if he didn't.

Sorry for using noise as an example. Think of it this way - if people moved in next door to a stock car track in an industrial area with a no noise covenant and then later complained about the smell of petrol or the vibrations, etc, I'd want the Council to have made it clear to them all the problems (ie not just noise) of living in the area are their problem as it was their informed choice to move there. 


Like Greenwich Village, NY

What are the design plans for renovation? Studio apartments with aslant windows and skylights suit inner city living. Such design can be seen in 'Friends' TV series, and problematically, in the film 'Rear Window'.

Did you read it?

Baxter- did you read all of it? That's the whole point of the covenant. The developer has already dealt with all of the suggested problems and has a solution that is upheld by the Courts. The planner said he didn't "personally" agree. That's the whole issue.

Passive aggressive City Planning

Isn't it time experts in the contemporary fields of passive ventilation and acoustic control hosted a workshop for DCC planners and interested property investors? The planning report (LUC-2014-259) suggests council staff (and some opposing submitters) are well behind the pace. Let's learn them something, sigh.

A fair point

The planner has correctly identified a potentially serious problem - it's no different to the houses in Auckland built near a stock-car racing track which now complain about the noise. It shouldn't be the track's problem, and nor should it cost rate-payers to solve it because planners failed to identify such issues.

What is important is what we do now. Obviously this is a pretty good development, and presumably this issue is not unsolvable.

One solution might be to allow the development, but with the strict caveat that any noise and vibration problems are entirely the owner's problem because they chose to move into an industrial area.

It seems unfair that existing businesses in the area should have to limit hours of operation, or similar, because of people who have chosen to move there. Is this what those who are proposing we blindly go ahaead with developments are proposing?

What certainly won't help is shouting ‘nay-sayer' and the like at people who identify such issues in developments. Just look where it got us by ignoring and marginalising those who warned us of the problems with the stadium.

Room for approval

Otepoti: the 28-storey accommodation block proposed for 41 Wharf St was scrapped, not because of reverse sensitivities issues such as noise but because it presented insuperable problems of access and because it would have blighted the values and character of the neighbouring areas. Russell Lund's proposal for the Mercantile and Loan building would enhance the values of the Queens Gardens precinct of which it is a member and only marginally affect others in its own Port zone and the adjacent industrial zone.

Because this building is a part of a valuable townscape precinct, it perhaps should have been kept within the Harbourside zone when this was notified, and then either industrial or residential use could have been allowed as of right. I believe there is room for the proposal to be approved with the inclusion of some mitigating measures such as sound proofing and covenants to ensure neighbouring industries can continue conducting whatever nuisance activities they are currently entitled to conduct.

Don't see the problem?

Time to open your eyes and ears then, macfod.

The problems with the likes of Western Springs and Levels Raceway in Timaru, to name just a couple, are well documented.

In those situations, people moved into the area knowing full well of the existence of these venues, then did their best to shut them down/curtail their business.

What is it with Dunedin?

One minute people complain that there is no work being done to improve the city, then the next we read about things like this... It's just unnecessary and is the reason Dunedin is being left behind in New Zealand. Get rid of all this backward overly bureaucratic nonsense and give the city room to grow. What investor is going to swoop in and save our debt woes when they have to jump through hoops of fire to get there?

Tenants' choice?

Call me crazy but isn't it up to the tenants if they choose to live somewhere potentially noisy? It's kind of obvious that if you live in a warehouse precinct next to a train track that there may be noise sometimes. I can't fathom what this has to do with the Council. I'm guessing the planner doesn't realise that lots of young people live in warehouse areas all over the world. It's something people choose as a lifestyle. There are piles of apartments down there already including a few metres away above Plato restaurant. What's the difference?

Resource consent?

Is this not the same area proposed for the building of the new $100 million Hotel Complex that would alleviate the problem of accommodation for the crowds visiting the new $266.4 million Forsyth Barr Stadium, was it the noise issue the reason that idea was scrapped?.. Poor old Dunedin.. if we just let it fall down historical ruins could be its new tourist draw card.. (but for day visitors only ).

I hope this succeeds

I very much hope this application succeeds. The restoration of this complex is highly desirable. Use as residences seems to me to be more likely to bring about the restoration of its facades than continued use as an industrial structure since the industrial uses of its recent past have contributed to its neglect and defacement. And industrial activites don't always treat respect for heritage architecture with the same concern that they treat the requirements of the business.

However, we need to recognise that the site is zoned Port 2. This is a zone intended to cater for industrial activities and their associated needs. It's worth remembering that the discretion to approve residences within this zone appears to be in order to allow industrial premises to include a caretaker's flat, which this is not. And while large-scale residential activity on this site will only have minor effects on other users in this zone (unlike the proposal for 41 Wharf St) the irritations created by its neighbours will need to be mitigated (though the white noise of mechanical ventilation seems to be a counter-productive suggestion to me).

I hope the planning committee and the applicant can agree to include measures in this development that will mitigate the adverse effects of being in an industrial zone.

Waterfront building development

Hear we go again. The council knocking a good development of a lovely old building. If they don't want Mr Lund to development this lovely old building they should do it themselves. Where the money would come from who knows? Or do they want it to just fall down in a few years time.

This building has been sitting empty for several years. No one else, certainly not our council, has wanted to develop it. Good on Mr Lund.

The DCC must let this development go ahead and now! [abridged]

What is up with Dunedin?

The locals that don't want change appear to be having an adverse affect on the city growing again.

An old building that needs to be developed and we get local businesses complaining. nimby's

I cannot see the problem that companies such as Kaans have with developing the area?

They indeed should be moving elsewhere and let the wharf develop.

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