Furious Curtin community members are rallying against their local residents association, demanding it stop using "disgraceful" delaying tactics and let an approved development go ahead.
It follows revelations the Curtin Residents Association, represented by its executive at ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal proceedings, is seeking to have the government's 2018 approval of a five-storey mixed residential and commercial building at 41 Curtin Place "set aside".
The former owner of Curtin's Urban Cellars, Paul Cains, said local businesses had already been hurt by the site's extended closure, and it was time for residents to embrace the new development.
Mr Cains and his wife, Michelle Cains, had been offered a shop in the new building by developer JGS Property, he said. The Cains vacated the "non-compliant" site in Curtin Place in December 2017.
"As a Curtin resident and a possible tenant, I think it's disgraceful," Mr Cains said.
"The thing that drives me crazy about it is that it seems to be this one person, [or a handful of people], who have the power to hold up an entire network."
Association president Chris Johnson's wife, Ann Parkinson, said in a Facebook post that waning business in the area was perhaps "because these few shops are run by poor business people".
"Many of these shop owners do not advertise; their shops are often closed during business hours; newer, smarter, more up-to-date shops of a similar nature (think barber) are springing up in nearby centres," she said, insisting this was her personal view and not that of the association.
"It is notable that many shops in the Curtin shopping centre are doing well, are always busy, and service there is exemplary."
Ivy Flowers and Gifts owner Renee Coleman said she was deeply upset by the comments, which have since been deleted.
Association president Mr Johnson said it was the developer's premature closing of 41 Curtin Place that resulted in losses to local businesses of up to 60 per cent.
The owners of the building, the Haridemos family, had been granted an extension to submit a revised development application to planning authorities some 18 months after their initial one was rejected. By then, the shops had already been closed for more than six months.
"We do believe that we are accurate in representing members' views. We keep going because of encouragement by a significant sub-community to do what we can to have a better outcome than the current proposal," Mr Johnson said.
"When we decided to appeal we understood that the whole [tribunal] process would require only six weeks. That has turned out to be an underestimate."
The residents association's motion, if it succeeds, would likely result in the long fenced-off site remaining so for months or years to come.
The tribunal could revert the approval back to the planning authority for a new decision, which was unlikely, or the developer would have to choose between submitting a new proposal and abandoning the project.
Mr Cains said business owners, including himself, had not been approached by the residents association about the development's desirability, or whether they should contest its approval in court.
Several others said the same, while the now Byron Bay-based owner of Curtin's Yame Nails, Fiore Costa, described the association as a "dictator" ruling over the suburb.
"[The association's executive] just think that they own the place. They just think, 'It's my town', and they're going to stop [the development]," Mr Costa said.
Other residents, including association members, said they had little-to-no consultation with its executive about tribunal proceedings, or the development's desirability.
After The Canberra Times posed questions to the association about the extent of its consultation with residents on Wednesday, a business owner said she saw one member handing out newsletters in Curtin square.
"There has been over three years of consultations between the Government, CRA and residents of Curtin," Mr Johnson said.
"Our general meetings and conversations with people in the square have included a very small number of people who disagree with the association's actions.
"It is always good to hear from them, but the views of a very small number should not hold a veto over the association taking any action at all."
The association has had two annual general meetings since it was founded in mid-2016, in which its executive was elected. This is in accordance with the requirements of associations incorporated in the ACT.