12 Nov 2012

Chows to face public over super-brothel plan

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Published: Business Day – stuff.co.nz 12 November 2012

HIGH-RISE SEX CLUB: A drawing of the 15-storey super brothel Chow Group plans for opposite SkyCity in Auckland.

Aucklanders will get to have their say on “sex in the city” plans for a 15-storey super-brothel in the next few days.

Earlier this year, Wellington brothers John and Michael Chow sought consent to build the Penthouse Club in the centre of Auckland, after the former Palace Hotel – which they had originally intended to convert into a brothel – was demolished on the site in November 2010 after being damaged while under their care.

Last week Auckland Council senior planner Jennifer Valentine recommended the building on the corner of Federal and Victoria streets, opposite SkyCity, go ahead, subject to any “contrary or additional information” being received at public hearings, which start at 9.30am today.

Auckland Council received 220 public submissions against the proposal, and one offering conditional support. In the next three days about 20 submitters are expected to voice their opinions at the hearings in Auckland Town Hall.

The Chow brothers’ lawyer, Russell Bartlett, will present their case first and may call witnesses, which may take all day.

Submitters will then have a chance to address the four independent commissioners – chairman David Kirkpatrick, Rebecca Skidmore, Justine Bray and Bill Smith – who have been appointed to make the decision.

The Chows will then be given a chance to reply.

Only the commissioners can ask questions and cross-examinations are not permitted.

“Those submitting can suggest questions for the hearing panel to ask council staff or the applicant but they cannot ask questions directly to the staff or applicant; and there is no obligation on the hearing panel to have their questions asked,” a council spokesman said.

Ms Valentine will not speak at the hearing, but will be present to answer the commissioners’ questions.

The commissioners are expected to make their decision within 15 days of the hearing.

In her report issued last week, Ms Valentine found the super-brothel was permitted under the Auckland Council district plan.

She therefore could not give consideration to “the appropriateness of location of the brothel activity, moral or religious objectives, nor potential increases in illegal activities such as crime and drug use”.

Consent was required for several other things including the construction of a new building, provision of hotel accommodation and signs, she said.

Ms Valentine said environmental effects of the new building would be “acceptable”.

Plans for the Penthouse Club show that at ground level there would be a restaurant and bar with a mezzanine- level brothel. Level one and two are listed as “entertainment”.

Level three would be a 13-room brothel, levels four to eight a hotel, level nine and 10 offices and levels 11 and 12 a bar and rooftop bar.


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