A newly approved four-storey development in the Sylvania Heights shopping strip on Princes Highway is five metres higher than the standard.
Liberal councillor Tom Croucher said the variation to the LEP (local environmental plan) for a building height of 14 metres, rather than nine metres, would rejuvenate the ageing commercial area and provide much-needed new housing close to transport
However, Labor councillor Ray Plibersek said tall buildings on the edge of highway would create a corridor or canyon effect, and changes should not be made easily to standards that were years in the making.
The site is occupied by two single story shops, one a pool outlet with a display yard, and a two-storey building containing a shop and unit above.
They will be replaced by two buildings.
The building facing the highway will have five shops at street level and 16 apartments above, while a building at the rear will include three townhouses.
Council planning staff and IHAP (Independent Hearing Assessment Panel) supported the height variation, but, at the last council meeting, Labor councillors unsuccessfully tried to have the top storey shaved off.
Labor argued the development did not comply with the LEP and would have “unacceptable impacts on the amenity of adjacent properties due to its height”.
Other grounds were that it “would have an unacceptable impact on the public domain in terms of its bulk and scale” and it “represents an overdevelopment of the site that is not in the interest of the community”.
Cr Croucher defended the variation and said he would be happy for it to also apply to adjoining sites.
“One of the things we probably did not do in the last LEP was not to ‘up’ the height limit on small shopping strips like this one,” he said.
“I am not saying there should be a higher limit for all such strips, but a nine metre height limit in this highway location is just nonsense.
“We have achieved several things with this decision – provided housing in an an area close to schools and with two bus stops at the door, and it will bring in customers for the shops.
“This concept is exactly what’s needed to rejuvenate and make that shopping centre attractive and help to give those shops customers.”
Cr Plibersek said the planning rules were set after extensive community consultation and it was “unfair to make changes willy-nilly”.
This variation would set a precedent and allow “the possibility of a long stretch of an over-height corridor effect”. He acknowledged the developer made significant changes in response to residents' objections.