Coombs residents are concerned the Molonglo Valley will go the way of high-rise Gungahlin, with news a developer plans 212 apartments on a site originally earmarked for no more than 44.
Zapari bought the corner block in Coombs from the government in February for almost $3.4 million. The government sold it as a site for between 21 and 44 dwellings, according to a Suburban Land Agency flyer, but Zapari's application lodged in September outlines plans for 212, with parking for 345 cars.
Wright resident Ryan Hemsley has set up a "Save Molonglo" Facebook page and said the valley risked over-development of the kind seen in the high rises of Gungahlin Town Centre.
"I’m genuinely surprised of the scale of the proposed development," he said. "It’s unheard of anywhere else in the suburb, both in the height and the number of units they’re trying to build."
The block, on the corner of John Gorton Drive and Terry Connolly Street, is zoned RZ5, which allows up to 21.5 metres. While the plans published on the ACT planning website appear to show a building that is 23.2 metres high and eight storeys, including the ground floor, a Zapari spokeswoman said that was an error, with old elevations apparently uploaded.
The development "comprises a 7-storey building that is no higher than 21.5 metres as per the permissible rule", according to the application. Zapari sent new elevations showing two buildings, both at seven storeys, one slightly higher as the ground level rises.
Zapari has blamed a "typographical error" for confusion over the number of units allowed. A sales flyer from agent Colliers and the government's Suburban Land Agency for the February auction stipulates 21-44 units. Zapari's application says the site was sold with provision for between 49 and 97 dwellings. Asked about the discrepancy, the company said that was typographical error.
Nevertheless, Zapari will seek to change the crown lease to allow 212 one and two-bedroom apartments. The proposal, estimated to cost more than $52 million, will also include basement parking with access from Terry Connolly Street.
The rule for RZ5 zoning says at least 10 per cent of the site should be planting, but the application says it complies instead with the criteria, which requires “sufficient space for planting, particularly trees with deep root systems”. The new building will have a podium courtyard and rooftop garden, the podium accommodating “shrubs and tree plantings” and the rooftop including palms.
The development does not appear to meet sunlight rules, which say that in at least 70 per cent of apartments, the floor or an internal wall of a living area must have at least three hours of direct sun from 9am to 3pm on the winter solstice. The application says more than 60 per cent of apartments in the planning building “receive compliant or near compliant solar access while all apartments enjoy good access to natural light”.
Zapari managing director Nicholas Skepev said the number of units allowed when the government sold the site "appear to fall short of the intentions of the Territory Plan".
"John Gorton Drive is a major transport and arterial road, it was always the intention and appropriate to have high-density residential developments along John Gorton Drive," he said.
"The height limit of the proposed development is 21.5m, which is in line with the mandatory height controls and consistent with other developments in the area. Heights of up to seven stories are permitted under the applicable planning codes with a mandatory minimum of three stories.
"... In recent times, there have been numerous developments approved along John Gorton Drive with significant lease variation charges. However, it is important that the site is developed appropriately, to take advantage of the sites gateway location, proximity to public transport and community demands for high-quality developments with amenity."
Mr Hemsley, who says he has watched the area develop from a pine forest to what it is today, said the development was alarming for a number of reasons.
"What's most concerning about this is that you don't know what it's going to look like," Mr Hemsley said.
"... The fact that they are building something much bigger than what was meant to be on the site is just wrong. It seems highly inappropriate, the number of people they’re planning on cramming on to this block."