Chief Minister Andrew Barr has strongly criticised a proposed Geocon development in Kingston, saying the plans do not protect what makes the suburb a "special place to live and visit".
In an email to the Kingston and Barton Residents Group, Mr Barr said he was pleased Geocon had engaged in consultation before a development application had been lodged but the proposal should be amended and the proponent should seek more community feedback.
"I consider the proposal released does not fit with the form and amenity of the surrounding neighbourhood," Mr Barr wrote in reply to an invitation to appear at a community meeting organised by the residents' group.
"The proposed height of the building could overshadow important communal areas, existing residences, and walking and cycling routes.
"While the government supports residential changes that increase local economic activity and support the viability of local business, this proposal goes too far and does not meet the equally important goal of protecting what makes Kingston a special place to live and visit."
The Sunday Canberra Times understands this is the first time Mr Barr has spoken out publicly against a Geocon development proposal. He last month said approvals should be halted for a Doma development at Mt Ainslie until further investigation took place into the site's Indigenous significance.
Community consultation on the Kingston project, which included plans for 106 apartments in an eight-storey building, started in June. Consultation has been extended until Friday.
Documents prepared by Purdon Planning said the 1981-square-metre site would have a primary frontage to Giles Street but would also be accessible through a rear laneway from Eyre Street.
Plans for the building, designed by architects Turco & Associates, had twice been presented to the National Capital Design Review Panel, the documents said.
Geocon's ambition was to build "consistently and sympathetically with the surrounding buildings in Kingston", Geocon managing director Nick Georgalis said last month.
"We'd like to renew and rejuvenate old Kingston with consideration of the rest of the area," Mr Georgalis said.
A spokesman for Geocon on Friday said the company was disappointed by Mr Barr's comments.
Kingston and Barton Residents Group president Rebecca Scouller said the current proposal would set a towering precedent for the suburb's group centre and future development sites.
"This proposal from Geocon puts a sledgehammer to the planning rules and, if approved, will have significant impacts on the residents of Howitt and Giles Streets and potentially impact the viability of many local businesses," Ms Scouller said.
"As the Kingston group centre moves towards its centenary, we want to see development that will contribute to Kingston's evolving story while also embracing its character and charm."
Ms Scouller said the residents' group welcomed Mr Barr's comments.
"If Geocon is approved to build close to four times the allowable plot ratio, what is the point of planning policy? It would also seem to give them an unfair commercial advantage to other developers by adopting an 'asking for forgiveness later' approach," Ms Scouller said.
Purdon Planning, which is acting on behalf of Geocon, this week pulled out of a meeting organised by the residents' group for Wednesday.
The planners wrote to the residents' group to express concerns over the meeting's format.
"It's important to us that we hear the many varied perspectives from a wide sample of members of the community," a representative from Purdon Planning wrote.
Ms Scouller said the residents' group was disappointed by the decision.
"In the spirit of engaging with the local community and businesses, it is disappointing that Purdon Planning does not consider it worth their time, or Geocon's, to address an audience of local residents and businesses," she said.
A spokesman for Geocon said the residents' group had offered a five-minute speaking slot for one person and then a question-and-answer session.
"They also indicated it wasn't considered as part of our community consultation. So yes, we declined," the spokesman said.