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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Will Councillors be whitewashed over failed DCP determination

Follow up actions by the new term of mayor and councillors to today's presentation to Eurobodalla Council's Public Access will establish if they will choose to whitewash an issue brought to them or have the backbone and fibre to call for a full enquiry into what was described to day as "suss" and "disgusting". The Public Access session today saw the return of the McBride's who have raised the issue of apparent failures of Council planning staff to apply due diligence to a development application that has now resulted in stress, undue expense, a depreciation of value of their property and a needless neighbourhood dispute that will continue to sour for years to come. And all because a council staff member failed to carry out their duties. Since the outset it appears, as was the case at Coopers Island Road, ESC vs Walton and numerous other instances that senior Council staff move to protect staff who have failed by hunkering down, closing communication and creating nebulous reasons why they are innocent and the rest of the world is guilty. The presenters today to Public Forum sat heavily in the large leather chairs as they faced the microphone once again to address the councillors. "We front council again today to ask the question why have we not heard anything back from our last Public Access meeting where we registered our complaint? "We have not heard from any council staff and only from one councillor who actually phoned us and then met us at our property to see for himself what our issue was. If we ran our business like this and did not get back to a client complaint then we would not be in business. "It saddens me that we have not had a response. We now would like to know more answers. "We purchased our 6 acre block going on 4 years ago. We back onto Mogo State Forest, we have a wonderful bush outlook giving us peace and quiet once we built our forever home. We have planted more trees ready for when we move in. Our questions to council: Question 1. Why were we not notified of this DA application? As per council's DCP states - Setbacks - Dwellings MUST be setback a minimum of 12m from ALL boundaries. The Council's own Community Engagement Plan and Privacy requires notification if the proposed development would unreasonably overlook private open space areas or living areas of adjoining properties or, under a. Bulk and Scale - the design of the development would have a potential impact on the enjoyment of adjoining properties and of the streetscape by virtue of its scale build and height. or b. Siting - the development would have potential adverse impact on the adjoining properties due to the siting of the development and its proximity to the boundaries. "Based on the above we should have been notified. Question 2. Did the Development Assessment Office physically inspect the property prior to signing off on this DA. I would like this in writing from Council if she did or didn’t. Question 3. You may not know this but we received an email from a Senior Planner on the 22 July 2022 (3 days after the public access meeting) stating that the owners of the house are now reneging on our agreement and do not wish to build and maintain a large dirt mound. They wish to build a large 2m sound proof fence instead and they will not be moving their swimming pool. What does council think we should do about this dilemma? Question 4. Why was this build not put on hold The councillors were given photos and an additional screed of questions that will hopefully be answered. At the heart of the presentation was the disappointment, the failure, the disregard, the disinterest and the apparent disrespect of the McBrides by Council staff in their determination and processing of a development application that should not have been allowed. Councillors heard first hand of statements made by Council staff given in an attempt to declare the McBrides were in error such as saying the land was residential rather than rural and a building could be constructed 0.9m from the boundary, and, as the block was 5000m2 it was approved. This statement, made to them by a senior planner, is little more than a flagrant attempt to corrupt the truth in that the land is, by Council's own zoning R5 Rural residential and is 5030m2. Most disappointingly it appears that a council staff member has the temerity to justify their decision of a 4m offset to the boundary with facts that take seconds to discount in Council's own GIS system. The facts are that the Development Control Plan covering this DA has the word MUST as being an offset. Sadly today we heard from one Councillor who appeared, by her questioning, to have taken advice from the planners and delivered a statement that can only be described as "disappointing".

"So we have spoken to staff around this issue and the DCP clause has two columns. One of the columns is the acceptable solution which is 12m from all side boundaries (interject "must be"), yes, MUST be. The other column is performance criteria that says setbacks are consistent elsewhere in the vicinity. The staff said that they assessed the proposal against the performance criteria and not the acceptable criteria. Having been briefed already by the staff the Dorothy Dix question that was asked intended to exonerate the staff failure was "Do you believe there are other properties within the vicinity that have 4m setbacks". It was revealed that there was one. A 4m setback had been allowed, on request of a variation, for a house that was on a steep block where the setback was deemed not to impact on neighbours. Neighbours had been notified and had agreed to the request for variation. By implying that a single 4m variation that was duly sought now gave staff carte blanche to apply the same over the entire estate is little more than clutching at straws. Embarrassingly the councillor was brought back to reality when the McBrides expanded on not just that single Performance Criteria but the Performance Criteria of Siting that had not been complied with.

Anyone listening to the presentation today would have little doubt that Council have failed in their duty to apply due, and expected process, to a development application that has, as a result, needlessly emotionally and financially impacted on neighbours. Their presentation today was once again delivered to advise the councillors that staff, under their delegation, had failed and that the staff were continuing to fail in acknowledgement of their "stuffup" and subsequently allowing more "breaches" to occur such as the erection of a 2m high sound proof fence (that is of a material and style not allowed on Rural Residential properties under the DCP. In addition to the questions above and the many questions already asked in previous emails the McBrides offered a string more today. When it was revealed that the General Manager had not yet answered an email sent the McBrides were advised, by way of an excuse, that a response to their previous presentation had a deadline of 10 days and that today was the tenth day so they might expect a response from the General Manager later in the day. The email sent to the General Manager at the outset of the issue remains unanswered (well in excess of 10 days). When asked today by Councillor Anthony Mayne "What would you like as an immediate result from this Council?"

The response: "Accountability. Where does the buck stop when it comes to something like this? I want to put in place Council's processes to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else because it is really really stressing." "It's just wrong on so many levels". In the past the ineptitudes of Council staff have been covered up to preserve the "reputation" of Council. Council has, and continues to, use legal representation to counter any claims against it. For a comment to be made that if this issue was taken to the Land and Environment court they would lose to be made is an easy one for staff who have no skin in the game knowing their legal costs to fight a ratepayer is actually paid by the ratepayers. A recent case, when advised that they would lose, was pursued none the less with a cost (to date) of $20,500 in ratepayers dollars. And what of any consequences. What od public outcry? There is none and the Council executive like it just like that. Now we get to see the new councillors at work. It has been indicated that a Question on Notice will be raised to establish the facts around this issue and determine how it has come to this. There is little doubt that the General Manager will want such scrutiny on what can only be described as another low point in Council's failures at communication. If the Question on Notice does not arise we can only assume it has been blocked and that Councillors have been advised to keep its dirty laundry behind closed doors.

"There is something very suss here".


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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