Architect's threat: I'll build a gang pad
An architect locked in a resource consent battle threatened to build a large gang house, ringed by a two-metre security fence, when told residents would get the right to object to a townhouse development.
Read the developer's full letter
An unimpressed Wellington City Council is taking the threat - outlined in an "outrageous" letter - seriously, regardless of whether it was meant as a joke.
Council officials also fear the gang-house threat risks escalating tensions about developers in the suburb of Khandallah.
Architect Denis Fortune has designed a six-townhouse development at 9 Nicholson Rd. The council decided late last month that it would require a notified consent, meaning affected neighbours would be allowed to make submissions at a hearing.
In response, Mr Fortune, of Bulleyment-Fortune Architects, sent a letter to a council planner saying his clients were "extremely aggravated" by the decision. They would apply to build one massive house instead, of 8000 to 11,000 square feet, for a "well known motorcycle gang".
He argued the house would be within the rules of the district plan, therefore not requiring consent, and would be his clients' fallback position if the hearing process did not go their way - a process he described as a "charade".
The letter said: "We believe the council will have no option but to certify the dwelling, complete with all the trees cut down and a two-metre corrugated iron fence to the boundary. The dwelling will be our clients' fallback position as they have been approached by a well known motorcycle gang which requires a large house in this locality."
In May, the council introduced new rules governing infill housing, the process of subdividing existing properties and building new houses, amid fears such properties risked spoiling the city's character and neighbours' privacy.
Council spokesman Richard MacLean said senior staff were taking the contents of the letter very seriously.
"Even if it was intended as some sort of joke, when a letter starts talking about gang houses and links to gangs it's not actually funny. Some would say that's an outrageous thing to be putting in a letter."
Council staff were "not impressed" because the threat added "fuel to an already overheated situation in Khandallah", Mr MacLean said.
Mr Fortune said he had concocted the gang story and had "shot my mouth off" out of frustration with the council.
His clients, Wayne Dermondy and Ross Quidilla, had no knowledge of the letter, he said. "What I'm saying is that the bulk of a single dwelling will actually exceed the bulk of the application that is down there now. That can be built as of right. I guess I'm trying to show that the law's an ass."
He had reacted out of "exasperation" that the council had taken 70 days to decide to notify the project - 50 days longer than a standard application.
Neighbours of 9 Nicholson Rd, Brian and Christine McKenna, were extremely concerned when shown the letter by The Dominion Post and said it posed a direct threat to council staff and the neighbourhood.
"It's hard not to take it seriously coming from the source that it did," Mr McKenna said. "The guy is a professional and has put something down in writing. I do take seriously the threat to council and that the man would be prepared to make such a threat.
"I don't think anybody should be allowed to (use) those sorts of tactics."
Mr MacLean said the original development was always likely to be subjected to a notified consent.
The gang-house threat was far from the first time the council had received unsavoury comments about a development. "From time to time we do get veiled threats like this (but) the fact that Mr Fortune is expressing his frustration won't change our decision."
The Dominion Post