Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Back to the Drawing Board

We seem be to going around in circles at the Farmlet at the moment, which I imagine must be a bit frustrating for you who take the time to read this. Unfortunately that's the sorry tale that is to be told, so unless I choose to say nothing at all, it's what you get ;-)

As a bit of a test I called up the Council yesterday to challenge them about the need for 50m of RG2 roadway connected to the intersection. Council's policies (I should point out that they are new policies only accepted by Council back in May) state that the old RG1 standard of single lane gravel road is now non-existent, except for right-of-way situations serving only an average of 16 vehicle movements per day. The result of the conversation was as useful as I'd expected. I was told that for each allotment the average was 8 movements per day, how people would use 8 vehicle movements per day I don't know, some people obviously drive way to much! Even if we dropped the kids off and picked them up from school that's only 4 movements per day, and living in the country if you drive out to drop the kids off then you keep on going if you need to. As there were two allotments up our lane (and it seems we have to pay for both of them) this equates to 16 movements in total, and the RG1 standard was only applicable for less than 16.

I tossed and turned last night rather than sleeping, and then realised just after midnight that the Council offers a 2 movement discount to encourage development. Silly me for missing that in our conversation.

First thing this morning I called up a business that does road building to get a ballpark figure on how much the roadworks were going to cost. At the end of it we arrived at about fifteen thousand dollars to do the upgrade (yes, $15,000) all of which should have been levied on the guy doing the subdivision. Strangely, all of which was levied on the guy doing the subdivision, and was passed on to us in the purchase price. Hence our extreme reluctance to spend more money on it. But I'm getting the distinct impression that Council aren't overly concerned about spending our money for us.

I called the Council guy back again after finding out this sum, but was directed to voicemail. I'm figuring that the calling number display alerts them to the fact that it's me so they avoid taking the call now. I left a message outlining the reason for the call, particularly to discuss the fact that he hadn't taken into account our supposed discount, and indicating that I would like a call back to discuss the issue.

After much discussion with DW we came up with a last resort plan. I don't expect the response from Council to be positive. It hasn't been to date, and even the most positive things have carried with them heavy burdens in the way of additional conditions, typically to make up for all the stuff they forgot in previous versions. There's a special brand of ineptitude being cultivated up there.

So our cunning plan is to ditch the shed development consent and to build the shed under the new NSW exempt development rules. The certifier was pretty certain that Council's idea of legal access to the block was flawed and that the current state of the access shouldn't hinder building under those rules.

This eliminates all of the conditions that have been applied to the shed, including the road upgrade. We then fall back to the conditions on the original house consent which included the stock grids and the BAR/BAL intersection. I'm guesstimating that more than half of the cost of the works would be tied up in the 50m of roadway, so for roughly $7,000 we should be able to upgrade the intersection. Another $6,000 for putting in the stock grids, and we arrive at a total of $14,000 of work.

Sure, that looks pretty close to the other number, give or take a thousand.

Did I neglect to mention that in addition to the road upgrade we also needed to fence off the road reserve? I've estimated that at $5,000 odd dollars for materials, so the total for upgrading the road and fencing would be (conservatively) around $20,000. This way it stops at $14,000.

An additional benefit would be the scrapping of the new condition that was applied to the house consent (which is a dubiously legal condition at best, so I've been informed), which required that we do the roadworks before pouring the footings on the house. Under this new plan (which is a lot like the old one) we can do most of the house before having to worry about roadworks.

So I keyed a letter off to our certifier to request clarification on all of our understandings and intuitions, and now await a reply from both people. Whilst I wait I'm left to ponder the situation. Perhaps there is something we haven't achieved that we should have, and so we are being sent in circles until that achievement is made? The universe, by way of a friend, was kind enough to supply us with building materials, tools and other goodies on the weekend, so it's still looking after us, there's little doubt about that. There must be other processes in motion, things happening behind the scenes that need to catch up and arrive at a particular point for us to move onward.

So, depending on the answer to my email and phone calls, we might not be proceeding with locating the shed in the spot that we've picked out and done work to clear up. Not such a bad thing perhaps, though I've now got to go back to the drawing board and pick another spot (more than 15m from any boundaries IIRC). Tricky on our hilly country, but as you might have guessed, I don't mind a challenge, though I'd prefer it if it wasn't the same challenge over and over and over again...


Andrew and Heather said...

It's hard to believe that Councils are supposed to serve the needs of ratepayers. I don't know what the situation is in NSW, but when the council wanted us to pay for an access road (costing tens of thousands) we took our case to the Ombudsman. He stepped in and the Council agreed to fund the whole project. Mind you, our road gave access to the state forest so we had an argument based on the fact that we should not have to pay for public access to forest. Good luck with the battle Geoff.

Geoff said...

Thanks Andrew, I hadn't thought of the Ombudsman! I've been so busy dreading having to go as far as the lands court that I never gave that option a thought.

It's not access to anywhere public, but the conditions, and the way they've approached it, seems so awful that we just might have a chance!!