Man pays $420 for permission to not build veranda

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014
Rob Scott
EVAN HARDING/FAIRFAX NZ
RIDICULOUS: Lumsden business owner Rob Scott is frustrated he had to apply for consent not to build a veranda outside the town’s old bank, which he is converting into a cafe.

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A rule in the Southland District Plan is ridiculous and defies common sense, a Lumsden business owner says.

Rob Scott bought the Lumsden bank to convert it into a cafe, but has become frustrated by a rule in the District Plan that has resulted in him paying $420 for permission not to build a veranda.

The Southland District Plan says any building used for a commercial activity must have a veranda that extends across the entire road frontage.

If a building owner wants to be exempt from the rule, the matter is dealt with as a discretionary activity, requiring public notification to allow the community view to be considered.

Scott's application for building consent for the alterations was noticed by the Southland District Council's town planning department, which asked him to get a resource consent because the building did not have a veranda.

However, he maintains it was an unnecessary cost for someone taking a risk by investing in a small rural town.

"I'd definitely like to see [the rule] changed. I can see the logic if you're adding a new building in a town where all the shops on the main street have verandas, but this building has been here for 60 years and never had one."

When he filed the application, he paid a processing fee of $675, but was told by council staff he would be partially refunded.

His final bill came to $420, he said.

A report to the Southland District Council resource management committee says the fee covers 3.5 hours of work, charged at $120 an hour.

In a letter to the committee, Mr Scott says he wanted a bigger refund.

"I approached the community board, and sent the letter through with my application, and all that needed to be done at the district council's end was read the letter and stamp the application. How this took the 3.5 hours claimed at a rate of $120 an hour is beyond me."

A report from resource management manager Simon Moran says the 3.5 hours was made up of 15 minutes for a customer service officer to process the application, half an hour for a manager to conduct the original assessment and assignment of the consent, discuss the consent with a processing planner, and check the final draft, and 2.75 hours for a planner to assess whether further information was required, liaise with staff to identify a way to grant the consent because there was limited information and no consideration of the plan requirements, and capture resource consent information in the database to enable reporting and consent tracking.

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At the resource management committee meeting, committee member Paul Duffy sympathised with Mr Scott's plight.

"I can see how it can be frustrating to pay $420 to be told you don't have to put a veranda on a building which never had one," he said.

All but one of the members voted against giving Mr Scott a further refund, concerned that it would set a precedent.

Mr Moran said it was an issue with the plan requirements, rather than the amount charged for processing resource consent applications.

Committee member John Douglas abstained from voting, and said the council should be encouraging economic development.

"I don't think an action such as this should trigger the need for resource consent."

- The Southland Times

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