Loss of views and privacy have emerged as key concerns in yesterday's hearing on the application to redevelop Tauranga's Melrose Retirement Village on Waihi Rd.
The application has drawn objections from neighbours of the $100 million project including some residents living in Tekoah Place who were threatened with losing panoramic views.
Council-appointed independent commissioner Jenny Hudson heard the application led by Vanessa Hamm, the lawyer acting for Melrose owner Oceania Healthcare. Oceania has applied to build four apartment blocks holding 209 apartments, construct a new care bed wing for 60 people, and add nine new villas. Construction was planned to be staged over five to seven years to minimise the impact on the village's current residents.
Ms Hamm said the key issue was the amenity effects of the proposal on the surrounding residential environment.
She argued there was a clear need for more and improved retirement and aged-care facilities to meet the growth in Tauranga's ageing population.
Ms Hamm said the combined view of Oceania's expert consultants was that there were no unacceptable adverse effects.
"Oceania acknowledges that views from private properties on Tekoah Place will be impacted and, in some cases, lost as a result of the proposal."
She argued that the views were not protected by the council's District Plan. They existed largely because of the under-developed and single-storey nature of the village site.
"Other factors offered by the proposal will result in benefits to the surrounding neighbourhood. These include the large degree of open space on the site, the much larger setbacks from boundaries ... and the generous landscaping proposal."
Ms Hamm said that apart from height limits being exceeded, the proposal complied with and was well within bulk and location controls in the District Plan.
Ms Hudson questioned architect Terrence Barnes about the balcony railings of the apartments from the perspective of the privacy of neighbouring residents.
She said there did not appear to be much visual obstruction.
Mr Barnes said they faced the dilemma of balancing the maximising of views and sun penetration with the maximising of privacy.
They could use materials that focused on views as well as privacy screening for neighbours.
Ms Hudson said that what she wanted to understand, particularly for Tekoah Place, was the relationship between the built form and the fact that the apartment buildings were very long. Also at stake was what difference would there be for the outcome of the village and residents if building heights fully complied with the District Plan's 9m height limit.
Mr Barnes said they tried to mitigate the effects where possible but the apartment blocks were also designed for the movement of residents to the communal areas of the village.
The areas that penetrated the height limits were highest in the roofs of the buildings. The roofs were more akin to a domestic-scale roofing profile.
Ms Hudson asked about dropping the ground levels of the apartment block closest to Tekoah Place to reduce the impact on residents' views.
The architect Mr Barnes said removing the building could improve the view shaft but they had shown that the next building over on the site would have a similar if not identical impact. Quizzed on whether the apartment building could be separated into smaller blocks to create spaces in between, he said the design was for ease of access back to the village's communal areas.
He said separation would create difficulties getting to the communal areas, involving getting to the ground level and walking between buildings. An unfriendly environment meant Oceania would not attract residents to the village, so there was an element of self regulation.