A petition from concerned residents followed by a lengthy debate by councillors are common responses to controversial development proposals in the Blue Mountains.
But they were the last things the Meehan family of Glenbrook expected after lodging an application to build a single-storey weatherboard garage in their backyard.
A petition signed by 31 people and three individual submissions listing concerns from building size and potential noise to pedestrian safety prompted councillors to order a detailed report by senior planning staff.
The report found the application for 6-8 Prince Street not only complied with every council regulation and relevant development control objective, it would “not have any unreasonable adverse impacts” on the character of the neighbourhood or adjoining properties.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of granting development consent at the August 20 council meeting, but not before 20 minutes of heated input by four public speakers and further discussion between councillors and senior staff.
After the meeting Mr Meehan told the Gazette while the outcome was a huge relief, it was a “shame” the matter even went to a councillors’ vote.
“I was 98 per cent confident, but our thoughts are that it shouldn’t have gone this far,” he said.
The garage will provide vehicular access to Lemaires Lane where there are four similar double garages, it will be set back four metres (more than the others) and will replace a garage that was accessed from the Prince Street side of the 2094 square metre property.
During debate, Mann Street resident and an in-law of the applicants David Lunny said “in my experience I’ve never heard of a single storey garage development application going to a council meeting”.
“The (development assessment) officer’s recommendations couldn’t be stronger,” Mr Lunny said.
“One of the primary objectors in the property to the west won’t be able to see the garage.”
The petition’s author, neighbour Mr Finn Pursell, said the proposal would “destroy the beauty and character” of Lemaires Lane “dramatically altering the lanescape and leaving a void for decades to come.
“The dimensions of the garage leaves no doubt that it is intended to house the owners’ loader truck, which has no place in a small lane.”
Mr Meehan said the garage will only be used for his family’s cars and the proposal would enhance the streetscape and pedestrian safety on the Prince Street side, while blending in with other laneway garages.
“I’m not sure where the (31) signatures have come from, but I’ve had a lot of local neighbours upset about that petition,” Mr Meehan said.
Frances Russell-Matthews, a neighbouring property owner in Bennett Street, spoke about her concerns about pedestrian safety.
“While there are other garages in Lemaires Lane, I think it sets a very dangerous precedent to go on with development in these lanes which were familiarly known as dunny lanes . . . never meant for large traffic.”
Ms Russell-Matthews requested the laneway be made one-way and footpaths be installed should the development application be approved.
Clr Chris Van der Kley said he couldn’t see any problem with the proposal but said the one-way traffic flow idea “might have merit” and could be considered by the Local Traffic Committee.
“It’s a simple garage,” he said.
Five trees will be removed to make way for the garage and its approaches, but the report noted that one was already dead, another was in a major state of decline and two others were planted by the applicants.
At least five replacement trees must be provided by the applicant as a condition of consent.