Archive for January, 2010

Three Parks Retail Park and Second Town Centre

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

The bad news for the community of Wanaka is that the council appointed commissioners have given the green light for the big box second town centre, this is a real shame as it is a completely unimaginative solution to the growth needs of the Upper Clutha’s retail needs, it is the lowest common denominator of retail.

It is no surprise really, having worked closely with the council planning department, it has been apparent for the last four years that this is the direction they have committed all policy towards. In this sense the Plan Change Hearing just satisfied ‘due process’ rather than questioning was this the solution for Wanaka. This is demonstrated by the fact that the hearing had only two commissioners, one who works for the council planning department and another a layperson who is on the councils Wanaka Community Board. I have attended smaller Plan Change Hearings where there have been 5 or more commissioners, each independent and each bringing in their own expertise on infrastructure , planning , policy etc.

The good news is that apparently there are conditions placed on the consent, limiting size of development and conducting ‘health checks’ on the town centre. This is a new concept and how effective it is remains to be seen, I am skeptical as there is no current baseline information on the health of the town centre . There is lots of money to be made developing Greenfield sites, so it will be worth investing in consultants to work around whatever health checks there are.

My only hope is that both market conditions and market competitors will put this proposal at bay for some time, in the short term expect an over sized Mitre 10 or Mitre 10 Mega and a Nichols Graden Centre in this area. Hopefully there will be a change in retail trends over time that make this cookie cutter retail park solution unviable. Local developer Roger Gardiner spoke to a number of national corporate retailers prior to the plan change hearing and they noted that Wanaka was not on the radar yet, and even if it was they would want to be in the existing town centre even if it meant adapting to a smaller store. The other positive is that the council are implementing some of the town centre strategy that was developed in 2009; unfortunately the councils coffers have been severely diminished with the current economic conditions. However at least it is underway, and it pre-empts a ‘Main Street’ program on the existing town centre that would usually be implemented after the negative effects of Stand Alone Retail Parks.

Resource Consent Nightmares

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Never expect a Resource Consent Application to go smoothly even if you expect it to be a mere formality. A recent application demonstrated this.

A proposal in Queenstown required Resource Consent where on a sloping site we were excavating more material than allowed by the zone threshold. All the relevant information was submitted and approved by the council engineer, only to find that the planner had an issue with the location of the building. Although the design complied with the District Plan in regard to setbacks, the planner noted that recently it was council policy to take the setback from the inside of a right of way.

Nowhere in the District Plan was this demonstrated, so I asked to see the Council Policy Statement or Notice that surely all the planners must have received to implement this policy, but no there was no such thing. This is a problematic, if much effort, time and expense is invested in a design that satisfies the Rules of the District Plan but is then stopped by the Councils own in-house set of rules, I can see some massive bun fights are in the making. Fortunately our only infringement in the ’revised’ setback was the garage, which is a ‘controlled’ activity. This was a relatively easy addition to the resource consent to satisfy, or was it? Unfortunately no, the council saw the infringement as dangerous as the garage might cast a shadow upon the Right of Way that serves one adjoining neighbour. So more effort was required to prove that in summer there may be some shadow but in winter when frost or snow may build up, the garage did not cast a shadow. We got there in the end but the additional time and money involved was entirely unpredictable and unpleasant for my clients.