Curtin business owners say they have been shattered by revelations the local residents association is seeking to "set aside" the approval of a development that would only bring life back into the suburb.
In a court document viewed by the Sunday Canberra Times, the Curtin Residents Association - represented by its executive at the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal - pleads with the judiciary to disregard the government's 2018 approval of a five-storey mixed residential and commercial building at 41 Curtin Place.
Failing that, the document says, the association would seek that further conditions be imposed on the development, including the detailed provision of an open communal space and three or more public toilets.
If the approval was rejected, developer JGS Property would have to submit a new development application or abandon the project altogether; a result that could see the long fenced-off site remain so for months or years.
The tribunal could otherwise revert the approval back to the planning authority for a new decision, although that was rarely done, a government spokesman said. A verdict is expected in mid-June.
"If this is going to happen, it is really and truly going to destroy my life. I will lose my house first of all. I won't have any other way [to live but to] pinch and steal from people," owner of Curtin Barber Shop and Ladies Hairdresser, Iradj Darrish said.
Mr Darrish previously reported a 50 to 60 per cent loss in business since the 55-year-old shops' closure. The owner of Ivy Flowers and Gifts, Renee Coleman, said a tribunal stalemate would force her to shut her doors in Curtin Place.
"If it's set aside, I'm gone. I'm basically finished. My decision on staying would be [based on] if something is approved," she said.
A member of the residents association's executive, Ian Elsum, said its first preference had always been a negotiated solution. He would not discuss the association's motion to set aside the approval, as he had advice the court document was "confidential".
"We do not want to engage in a public debate before the hearing on the basis of these confidential documents," he said.
JGS director of project and development management, Zelko Mandic, questioned why the association brought Curtin shops before the tribunal in the first place.
Its concerns about the bulk, scale and shade cast by the building had been addressed, and the design complied with the Curtin master plan.
"I find it even more bemusing and challenging to try and understand, from a human perspective, why someone might be driven to further extend an approval process and in doing so, impose greater hardship on business owners, deprive the Curtin residents of a useful, functional, attractive and enjoyable precinct," he said.
"I haven't got an answer other than to say, well, what [motivation] other than self-interest and personal gain could it be?"
Mr Mandic said JGS was ready to start work immediately on redeveloping the existing "non-compliant building" and there was interest from several retailers.
Mr Elsum described his comments about their motivation as: "offensive and, given that the association is a community organisation and not a developer, not credible".
Curtin resident and long-time member of the association, Richard Bush, said the wider membership had not been kept informed about the tribunal proceedings or properly consulted with about whether they should have gone ahead at all.
"I do feel like I'm in the dark about the whole process and I guess a lot of people are as well," he said.
"I think the residents association could have injected themselves into the [post-approval process that considers waste, pedestrian and vehicle management].
"That would have been a less formal and less legalistic way of [sharing our views]."
The development calls for 36 residential units, rather than the 50 initially proposed, and two basement car parks, rather than three.
The residents association's alternative tribunal conditions call for a detailed waste management plan and a three-metre height setback of the building's residences.