A REQUEST to build a two-storey house on one of Griffith’s plushest streets has started a bitter war between neighbours and could send council back to the Land and Environment Court.
The likely court battle could cost council up to $100,000, which would be a massive blow to stringent cost-cutting measures it has initiated over the past 10 months.
The dispute was triggered when one couple applied to council to add a second storey to their Bertoldo Close home.
Despite receiving nine objection letters from neighbours, council approved the development on the condition that the applicant submitted a revised site plan adhering to setback regulations by July 24.
The revised plan was submitted in April but councillors have yet to publicly accept it, requesting the applicant meet with his neighbours to work out a compromise.
But as the development had already been approved and the conditional changes made, the applicant refused to attend the meeting and vowed to launch a court case on July 25 if the councillors have not accepted the revised document.
Councillor Allan Bennett, who is willing to sign off on the plans, said drawing out the process was giving the neighbours false hope and leaving council open to a court battle it couldn’t win.
“We have done all we can here – all we’re doing now is trying to be nice to everybody and it’s just not working,” Cr Bennett said.
Believing they still have a chance to have the decision overturned, some of the applicant’s neighbours have paid planners and architects to write further objection letters.
Neighbour Dave Gilbert has spoken out about the two-storey development’s impact on his energy-efficient home at several council meetings.
“We have spent a lot of time and money on our house and the planning laws are there to protect those who have already built in the area,” Mr Gilbert said.
“From my recollection a decision hasn’t been made here, this development hasn’t been refused or approved.”
Cr Dino Zappacosta, who has spoken against the development several times, put forward a motion at the last council meeting to delay the final signoff until the warring parties had come to an agreement.
He said councillors had asked for some of the neighbours’ objections to be addressed in the revised plan but council staff had failed to include those requests in the development conditions.
“I, as a councillor, have to be satisfied that I’ve taken everyone’s concerns on board before a development goes ahead,” Cr Zappacosta said.
“Legally, those who want to sign this off may be correct but, morally, I am not satisfied that everything has been done to resolve this issue amicably.”
The development will come before council again tomorrow night.
Councillors will only have two further opportunities before July 25 to accept the revised plan and prevent a court case.