JCA – Environment Court Decision

Johnsonville residents are celebrating four major victories resulting from their Environment Court challenge against WCCs efforts to create a high-density housing zone in the middle of their suburb. These are: the concession about negative traffic and parking impacts, the removal of two areas from Medium Density Residential Area (MDRA) status, and the requirement for a design guide for Johnsonville development.

The Johnsonville Community Association (JCA ) waited nearly three years for the Environment Court to hear the case against the imposition of Medium Density Residential Area (MDRA) status on their suburb.

The first victory was achieved before the Environment Court hearing even began. WCC officials and JCA expert traffic planner Harriet Fraser agreed that traffic impacts from each new multi-unit development in Johnsonville should be treated as a restricted discretionary matter. This was a significant amendment, as the traffic research commissioned by JCA, and WCCs own “section 32” analysis, revealed that traffic and on-street parking could be severely challenged by the significant increase in car volumes that MDRA will cause. This change makes it necessary for high density development proposals to take into account the collective as well as one-off impacts on traffic and parking.

Areas near the Johnsonville town centre were chosen for intensification by council planners primarily because of pedestrian access. Unfortunately, 20% of the areas chosen by WCC planners to be included in the MDRA were either extremely difficult or highly dangerous to access by foot from the town centre. The Environment Court agreed with the JCA that the areas of Middleton Road and east of the motorway were quite unsuitable for the level of intensification a MDRA could impose on them.  They have been removed from the MDRA zone.

While the Johnsonville Community Association is relieved that the Environment Court has seen fit to remove these areas, the court case has cost some affected residents tens of thousands of dollars and left the Association in debt. All this cost to rectify what WCC officials could have clearly seen, had they simply walked the streets themselves, rather than relying on computer models that failed to convey the dangers and obstacles that the challenging geography and  pedestrian infrastructure presented, said Graeme Sawyer, the Vice-President of the Johnsonville Community Association

Perhaps the most significant “win” for the wider Johnsonville community came from the Environment Court’s ruling requiring the inclusion of a detailed and “Johnsonville Specific” residential design guide as an appendix to the District plan.

“Throughout the consultation process in 2008-9, WCC stressed the importance of a design guide to ensure redevelopment of Johnsonville was of high quality.  Even “independent” WCC commissioners selected by the previous Mayor to review the draft district plan in 2010 agreed that such “quality” redevelopment was at-risk without the adoption of an adequate, “Johnsonville Specific” design guide for multi-unit developments,” said Mr Sawyer. “Yet up until now there has been a lack of commitment to producing the design guide.”

Without this guide, developers could essentially build what they like, without adequate regard for their new construction fitting with the existing character and environment of the suburb. The importance of the guide cannot be understated; it helps to ensure Johnsonville is re-developed, with high-quality buildings and in an aesthetically positive way.

“Johnsonville is a very proud community, one that is determined that its values, amenity and character are enhanced as time goes on. Without the changes ordered by the Environment Court this week, the Johnsonville of the future would likely have been very different from the one that will now develop.  However, massive residential growth in the area will create a huge increase in demand for infrastructure in Johnsonville over coming years.”

“The Johnsonville Community Association is pleased that the Environment Court responded positively to its concerns, correcting several negative aspects of MDRA. The challenge now arises to ensure that the opportunity created by a new Johnsonville Specific Design guide is fully realised, and JCA looks forward to WCC consulting closely with  Johnsonville residents to fulfil that potential.”

“Meanwhile the JCA now needs to consolidate after several years of legal challenges against the  most negative aspects of MDRA. We hope that the concessions won through our court action will be acknowledged by tangible support from the community, now that we have demonstrated the significant value of the action taken,” said Mr Sawyer.

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Johnsonville Community Associations largest project to date was the 2009-2013 Environment Court challenge against WCCs efforts to intensify central Johnsonville (via the imposition of Medium Density Residential Area, or MDRA residential zoning status) so sacrificing many aspects of the suburbs amenities and community infrastructure in the process.

In July 2014 we celebrated four major victories resulting from their challenge. These were:

  1. Major concession for mitigating negative traffic and parking impacts of high-densidy development
  2. Removal of Middleton Rd, SH1 from MDRA (due mainly to poor pedestrian access)
  3. Removal of the area East of SH1 from MDRA, (due mainly to poor pedestrian access)
  4. Requirement for a “Johnsonville Specific” design guide to ensure higher quality housing development ensues.

JCA waited years for the Court to hear the case against the imposition of MDRA status on their suburb. While short of total victory’.

JCA Environment Court decision

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