18 May 2013

Height limit three storeys, not two

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Written by: Bernard Orsman
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 18 May 2013

Height rule shock for half of city residents: Three-storey blocks, not just two, will be allowed – and you won’t get a say

Three-storey apartments are possible in the "mixed housing" zone in the city's new planning rulebook

Three-storey apartments are possible in the “mixed housing” zone in the city’s new planning rulebook

Half of suburban Auckland could be built up with three-storey apartments and residents will have no say when developers move into their street.

After nine weeks of telling Aucklanders the maximum height of “small-scale apartment buildings” in neighbourhoods was two storeys, the Auckland Council has admitted the height limit is three storeys.

Three-storey apartments are possible in the “mixed housing” zone in the city’s new planning rulebook. The zone covers 49 per cent of urban Auckland and most suburban streets have some degree of mixed housing.

The council has also told the Weekend Herald that developers can apply to exceed the four, five and six-storey height limits in the terraced housing and apartment zones, which make up 7 per cent of urban Auckland close to town centres in the draft Unitary Plan.

Last night, Penny Pirrit, head of regional and local planning, denied the council had not been upfront with Aucklanders over the maximum heights in the two zones, saying the figures given were what was permitted as of right and, like now, developers could apply to build higher.

“At the moment [in the mixed housing zone] the plan says as a permitted activity it is 8m but there is the opportunity to go to 10m,” she said.

Ms Pirrit said applications to increase the height to 10m were a non-notified restricted discretionary activity, which meant they would be decided by officers with no input from residents.

Applications would have to meet criteria, such as height in relation to boundary, whether the building would dominate next-door properties, shade a house or yard, breach light controls and be in keeping with neighbourhood character, she said.

If people did not like the proposed height of apartments in suburban areas, they could give the council feedback and it would be considered as part of the Unitary Plan process.

The mixed housing zone allows for one house per 300sq m. But if a developer or landowner has a site more than 1,200sq m and a 20m street frontage, there are no density rules and apartments can be built.

The rules do not apply to the single housing zone, which permits one house per 500sq m and covers 35 per cent of urban Auckland, or the single lot zone (9 per cent) covering large lots mostly on the city fringe.

The revelation comes days after Mayor Len Brown signalled a backdown on some aspects of the Unitary Plan in the face of a citywide revolt against intensification and apartments, especially their placement.

Information about the heights has been circulated at public meetings by a new lobby group, Auckland 2040, which is uniting community groups opposed to aspects of the plan.

It has called a public meeting at Takapuna Grammar School tomorrow and expects a large turnout.

North Shore councillor George Wood said it bordered on misleading to tell Aucklanders the limit was two storeys in the mixed housing zone when it was three. A published media guide also described the maximum height as two storeys. He was gobsmacked to find the detail buried in the detail on the Unitary Plan.

“The community deserve better trying to understand the overall parameters of this new rulebook.”

Maximum heights

(for “mixed housing” zone covering 49 per cent of urban Auckland)

What the council said:

• During the first nine weeks of public consultation: two storeys

• Yesterday: three storeys



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