Division over urban infill

Yass’ country town lifestyle is under threat from urban infill, according to an opponent who spoke at a Yass Valley Council meeting recently.

Dual occupancy housing is changing the streetscape and new houses don’t blend in well, resident Lilian Coulton told the last council meeting.

She was referring to a dual occupancy planned for Shaw Street.

“Yass is promoted as a friendly rural lifestyle,” Ms Coulton said. She was concerned a rash of dual occupancies would not integrate with the rural atmosphere of the town.

“The streetscape of Shaw Street has changed a bit because of infill… the [new houses] don’t blend in that well.”

She said according to council’s own vision for the Yass Valley, residents here should still be enjoying a country lifestyle in 2030.

“I don’t see a rural lifestyle if we start infilling by massive amounts.”

Developer Peter Walker also spoke to the council meeting about the development.

He said he was just following the rules set out by council.

“I believe we’ve answered all the questions according to the Yass LEP [local environment plan].”

He said development was needed in town and a residential area like Shaw Street was entitled to have two dwellings on one larger block.

Mayor Rowena Abbey told the Tribune community consultation during the drafting of the LEP called for a range of different-sized housing blocks.

“There is a need for it – not everybody wants to live in a big house with a big garden [and vice versa],” she said.

“Part of the new LEP will have zoning where it’s appropriate to have infill, or dual occupancy housing, and other parts won’t have that.”

She said medium density housing was what the community was asking for.

“Some people just want something newer and smaller, with not as much maintenance. They want to downsize.”

But council was also aware that allowing infill in too many areas would detract from the country town feel and “turn us into another Canberra”.

“It gives people opportunities and we’re all about giving people choices.”

Real Estate agent Michael Gray said Yass was under no threat of urban infill “because the new LEP has killed it”.

He believes the LEP’s 1000 square-metre minimum block size will promote townhouses and dual occupancies but not the subdivided separate-title cottage blocks that retirees wanted.

“We’ve got retired people screaming out for smaller blocks closer to the main street,” he said.

“If you want to see future development here … the only way to do it now is with a dual occupancy (where buyers need to purchase both homes on the block) or townhouses.”

But it would still have the same effect on urban infill.

“If you’ve got an 1800 square-metre block, you can’t [subdivide] into two 900 square-metre cottage blocks but you’re allowed to put a heap of townhouses on there,” he said. “I can see why people are complaining.

“My preference is, as somebody who wants to see Yass maintain its character, I’d rather see cottage style bocks… which are generally larger, with a single dwelling on them. But this is not permissible in many areas now because of the minimum block size.”

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