Outrage over front yard rules

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More Nelsonians will be forced to walk away from building their dream home if Nelson City Council doesn’t back down on its new front yard rules say an increasing number of opponents to the changes.

Last week Nelson Weekly reported on a Nelson couple that had to walk away from building their house on land they had purchased on Sanctuary Dr because the garage was too close to the footpath and the windows in their living area were too small to “passively survey the street”. The story was then picked up nationally and has attracted a strong wave of criticism from around the country, including from politicians, local home designers, builders and the general public.

One elderly Tahunanui lady has even offered to start a petition against the rules.

Keni-Duke Hetet, the man who designed the home in question says the council has been “ridiculous” in its handling of the situation. “Basically two lovely, hardworking people got screwed by this council.”

He says in his 12 years of dealing with the NCC it is the first time he has had a resource consent declined and its criticism of the design, including “the design and appearance of the dwelling would have an adverse effect on streetscape values” was odd considering he has designed six of the fourteen houses on the street.

“So they are basically saying the design sucks but I’ve done most of the others on the street as well. How could this one suck when the others didn’t?”

Now images have emerged showing how the rules are open to the opinions of council staff. One home on Emano St had its garage accepted for resource consent, despite it appearing to have the same issues as the proposed Sanctuary Dr home. “Now tell me, how can this garage get the consent and this design on Sanctuary Dr fail? Tell me? Because I have no idea,” says Keni.

Politicians have also weighed in to the debate over the rules. Nelson city councillor Eric Davy got in touch with the Weekly to say he backs his colleague Rachel Reese on her strong criticism of the rules. “These rules must be reversed as soon as practicable, a lenient approach to be taken for people wishing to build until that has been accomplished. The NCC might as well design and build a house that meets all the wants and then this can be copied for all new houses. That is how stupid things are getting. It is not up to the council to decide how I want my house to look or what plants I want have in my garden. That is my freedom of choice.”

Rachel says the response to last week’s story has been phenomenal and the industry is up in arms. “I’ve had consistent feedback, my phone has been ringing off the hook. People are appalled that the council is having that amount of influence over people’s building design.”

Glen Jarvie, sales manager for GJ Gardiner Homes says the rule change could have a massive impact on their business.

“We too have been struggling with the consequences of these decisions as a result of the setback ruling. It revokes a large portion of our standard plans, the most successful across New Zealand. This makes service costs [more] and reduces north living spaces. In essence whilst creating a streetscape value, it is then eroded by having less living space in the back yard.”

Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio says the council will take the concerns on board but there was an extensive consultation process with those in the industry.

“This was a plan that wasn’t prepared by staff, it was a plan that was prepared by councillors [Derek] Shaw, [Ali] Boswijk, [Mike] Cotton and [Rachel] Reese. They are the ones who prepared and put forward the plan, then there was public consultation on this and newsletters were sent to all professionals, including architects.”

He says if feedback continues to come in about the new rules problems they will look at alternatives.

The rule change is currently under appeal from Nelson man Mark Lile, Rachel says the council should not contest the appeal. “There are some really good things in the rule but I said over and over that these ones aren’t. The council has the chance to change this, I hope they listen to the public and do the right thing.”