Houses 'will ruin rural lifestyle'

LIFESTYLE BLOCK: Do houses ruin the point of a lifestyle block?
LIFESTYLE BLOCK: Do houses ruin the point of a lifestyle block?

The rural delights of living in Palmerston North's Polson Hill Drive could be almost over if two houses are allowed to be built on a section planned for one, a resident has told a planning hearing in the city.

Homeowner Lisa Buys, who lives across the road from the proposed subdivision, made a plea to commissioner Mark St Clair at the hearing yesterday not to allow the development.

The outlook across the empty section was her main rural view.

If the development was allowed, she wanted assurance that any conditions, such as those restricting the height of the houses, would be strictly enforced, and would continue to apply to future owners.

Buys was objecting to an application by Jo and Richard Coxon to subdivide the 1.49-hectare property opposite her home into two building sections.

The area is in the rural zone, but development of building sections as small as 3500 square metres has been allowed under a "rural-residential overlay" that tempers the controls that apply to the bulk of the city's rural zone.

Buys was the only near neighbour who was opposed to the development, after one other objector withdrew in exchange for an undertaking only single storey houses would be allowed.

City council planning officer Emma-Jane Hayward and the Coxons' planning consultant Lisa Poynton are now recommending the condition should limit the height of houses to 6.5 metres above the road's centre line.

That would ensure the houses looked like single-storey homes from the road, but could possibly use the slope toward the back of the sections to create split-level houses.

Hayward said the condition would be more measurable and enforceable than the single-storey rule.

Poynton said granting consent would not cause any significant effects in terms of the rural residential character of the area.

Hayward also said the subdivision would not be out of scale or character for the area. "The quality and natural character of the rural environment . . . has already been modified as a lifestyle area. The proposal is considered to be complementary to the surrounding rural-residential use of land."

Buys said she had bought her section in Polson Hill Drive in 2002 with great care, and in the knowledge that the rules at the time meant only one house could be built opposite.

She kept bantams, enjoyed an organic lifestyle, and continued to enjoy the view across the road, down a steep slope to an area of bush.

But she had seen the rural appeal of the area progressively undermined by development and the influx of residents. "The cumulative effects influenced my decision not to agree to this."

She was concerned the creation of sections opposite would attract buyers who did not appreciate the remaining rural aspect of the area.

Buys said her enjoyment of her home had been undermined in particular by the use of a two-storey home next door as a boarding house.

That activity was despite her understanding that conditions on the use of that property restricted the use of buildings to family use only.

She said the fact her neighbours were allowed to rent out rooms undermined her confidence that any rules applying to the subdivision across the road would be adhered to.

However, Hayward said the home next door complied with District Plan rules.

Buys said she did not consider it fair she should be negatively affected by a subdivision that was not in the plans when she bought her property.

"I don't see why my place should be affected for the Coxons' financial gain."

St Clair is expected to consider the evidence in private and release a decision at a later date.

Manawatu Standard