Call to reject retail development

Plans for a multimillion-dollar Green Island retail development should be rejected to help protect Dunedin's main street experience from a "death by a thousand cuts", a Dunedin City Council planner says.

Irmo Properties Ltd has applied for resource consent to refurbish the rundown Iron Roller Mills Building on Irmo St, Green Island, turning it into a new 4900sq m retail complex with 187 car parks.

A two-day resource consent hearing was scheduled to begin on Monday, but a report by council senior planner Doug Spittle - made public in advance - has recommended consent be declined.

That was despite the proposal winning support from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, which backed the reuse of the industrial heritage building.

Irmo Properties director Grant Chirnside said he was "naturally disappointed" by the recommendation, but stressed it was "just one input that goes into ultimately the hearing panel's decision".

Mr Spittle's report noted the development could be beneficial to nearby shops already in Green Island, by drawing customers to the area, and that extra traffic generated by the development could be mitigated.

However, the proposal for more retail space in an industrial zone would not comply with the council's district plan, and "presents a threat" to the vibrancy of Dunedin's central activity zone, he said.

The zone included George and Princes Sts and encompassed an area bordered by Albany, Police, Filleul and Cumberland Sts.

The city's outlying local activity zones - which centred on Northeast Valley, Mornington, South Dunedin, Roslyn, Mosgiel, Green Island and Caversham - could also be threatened, he concluded.

The city had, through market forces and council planning, so far managed to defend its traditional main street "as the heart of commercial activity in the city", he said.

However, "the analogy of 'a death by a thousand cuts' is relevant" when considering incremental changes outside district plan zoning, he warned.

"I consider there is a threshold at which the council must 'hold the line' to ensure that the district plan remains relevant and maintains the confidence of the community," he said.

Mr Chirnside said the conclusions contradicted the findings of the economic assessment commissioned by his company, which were detailed in the application for resource consent.

That assessment had concluded the retail development would have no impact on surrounding areas, including the nearby Green Island shopping zone.

"The planner obviously doesn't agree. That's his role I guess - to assess that and make a recommendation.

"There's a hearing next week and the planning report gets put into the mix along with submissions and evidence by our people. The hearings panel will no doubt weigh all that up and make a decision."

The proposed redevelopment was first reported by the Otago Daily Times in January, with some residents and business owners fearing a supermarket development that would divide the area's retail zone into two competing sections.

Mr Chirnside had moved to quell that opposition by suggesting a consent condition prohibiting a supermarket or other retail types.

That included liquor, fast food, tavern or restaurant, fuel, grocery and food, clothing, DVD and video rental, hairdressing and pharmacy retail.

Mr Chirnside's company had since obtained written approval for the development from Downer EDI Works and Gary Henderson, who were both neighbours to the Irmo St property.

A resource consent notice sent to affected parties prompted three submissions, including one in support from the NZHPT, a neutral submission from the New Zealand Transport Agency and one in opposition from the Green Island Business Association that argued allowing the out-of-zone retail development would undermine the district plan.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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