Council received an application for an office activity in the Suburban Residential Zone. This application was processed on a non-notified basis and was sent for review by Commissioner Greg Hill.
Resource consent was sought to operate a non-residential activity (a law firm office) in the Suburban Residential Zone from the existing dwelling at 59 Domain Road.
Site Plan of proposed Development at 59 Domain Road (Source: Application prepared by Stratum Consultants)
The existing dwelling will be internally converted to enable the activity with no external changes required to the dwelling itself. The office activity was proposed to operate between 8:30am to 5:00pm, Monday to Friday only and would be utilised by a maximum of four full-time equivalent staff; with an expected five to ten clients visiting the site per day.
Three visitor carparking spaces were to be provided at the front of the Site. An existing garage in the south eastern corner of the Site would be removed to enable the construction of four staff carparking spaces at the rear of the dwelling. A 1.0-metre-wide landscaping strip of a Griselinia hedge along the Domain Road boundary to screen the on-site parking of vehicles within the streetscape was proposed. Existing fences (0.9 metres high on the front boundary and approximately 1.8 metres on side boundaries) would be retained to allow for screening from neighbouring properties to the north, east, and south.
Commissioner Hill’s Assessment
Commissioner Hill’s decision does not go into detail around the adverse effects associated with the office being located within the Residential Zone because he agrees with Council’s Processing Planner and the applicant’s planner, that the adverse effects will be less than minor. If this is the case, you might wonder why the application has been declined.
The answer is that the Act requires the decision maker to make two distinct decisions after an application has been accepted for processing. The first of these is the notification decision. This decision is largely dependant on the scale of adverse effects associated with the proposal. The second decision is whether to grant consent or not. This decision is dependant on a much wider range of things, including the environmental effects of the proposal, but also how the proposal aligns with the objectives and policies of national and local planning documents.
This means that Council can decline a consent if it is inconsistent with the objectives and policies of our plan, irrespective of whether the environmental effects are less than minor. In this case, the application wasn’t notified because the effects were assessed as less than minor, however, the proposal was found to be inconsistent with the policies of the City Plan and was declined for this reason.
Since the issuing of this decision, Council has declined further applications for commercial activities in the Residential Zone.
With any application it is important to consider the objectives and policies of the plan closely. Even where effects of an activity may be less than minor it may not be a given that it is consistent with the City Plan. Compliance with the City Plan is an integral aspect of decision making, equally as important as environmental effects. It is therefore important to consider:
- How the objectives and policies are written.
- Whether they use terms that have definitions in the City Plan
- If the language used is directive, it indicates the Plan’s expectations (such as ‘avoid’ or ‘must’)
- When there are only a few policies that specifically speak to the proposed activity, consider how much weighting you are you giving to that policy verses a generic policy
- Policies should be read in the context of ‘higher’ provisions. Reflecting on the purpose of the zone, and the broader objectives can help us understand how a policy should be interpreted.
Read Commissioner Hill’s decision report