Developers are exploiting Section 96 laws to squeeze every last dollar out of Maitland housing developments at the cost of existing residents, a
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councillor said.

Additional lots are being shoehorned onto land already subdivided for sale using the Section 96 powers of amendment to avoid the scrutiny of a development application.

The Section 96 application is rubber stamped if no one objects.

“They [developers] just squeeze and squeeze and squeeze as much as they can out of these developments,” Cr Henry Meskauskas said.

“By coming back all the time they are disrupting peoples’ lifestyles and why they built there.”

On average, 11 Section 96 applications were lodged each month in 2010 for numerous property amendments, including the creation of new lots.

A handful of Maitland councillors made a stand this week against the practice and sought to make an example of a proposal at Largs.

But Cr Steve Procter changed his vote to avoid a challenge in the Land and Environment Court.

“We can’t win this,” he said.

“I am prepared to change my vote to save council the legal fees.”

Councillors Ray Fairweather, Paul Casey, Arch Humphery and Stephen Mudd remained unmoved by pleas from Cr Procter and Cr Philip Penfold to vote in favour of the application and avoid potential legal action.

“We only have two meetings to go and after four good years I think to deny this application would be crazy,” Cr Penfold said.

“We’re talking about spending thousands of dollars to defend this, so I urge you to please reconsider,” he said.

Cr Mudd said it was a matter of principle and protecting landowners. “[Cr Penfold] has been sitting here five seconds and to call someone loopy is insulting,” he said. “This is all about people buying property based on a piece of paper and having that changed on them.”

The changes would mean four additional lots on Paterson Road, Largs, by reducing the frontages from an average 18.6 metres to 12.75m.

The proposal came before council because of the objection from a neighbour who felt the smaller block sizes were at odds with the reason many people had bought there.

Cr Bob Geoghegan, who voted for the additional lots, said the stalemate was an issue of timing.

“I’m almost certain that if these lots had have been part of the original development it would not have been a problem,” he said.

“The trend is toward smaller lots as a matter of demand for affordable housing.”

General manager David Evans said it would have been dangerous to reject the application and make a stand on this particular case based on the opposition of one resident. “If you’re not happy with the policy then we need to revisit that,” he said.

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