Just how many floors or storeys tall will a new building or development be? This seemingly simple question has, up until now, been somewhat ambiguous in Townsville City Council's Planning Scheme definitions so it is good to see the new Council is adopting a down-to-earth approach.
Townsville City Council has approved an amendment to the Planning Scheme to provide a clearer definition of what constitutes a building "storey".
The move is aimed at clearing up any misinterpretation of the scheme over basement levels.
Currently the scheme refers to "ground level" as opposed to "natural ground level" and this has led to differing views over the height of a basement ceiling.
Under the proposed amendment, a basement level will be classified as a storey if the ceiling protrudes more than one metre above the natural ground level.
Planning and Economic Development Committee chair Cr David Crisafulli said the amendment would remove any ambiguity over building heights, especially in residential areas where controls applied.
"The amendment will clear up for council, developers and the community when a basement level of a building is or isn't a storey," Cr Crisasfulli said.
"This has been a grey area for some time has led to some developers trying to get around the height limit by building up the ground level of the site with fill.
"By amending the definition to 'natural ground level' the council will be able to approve a development and say to the community with full certainty that a three storey building will be just that - a three storey building."
A full meeting of Council today approved a Planning and Economic Development Committee recommendation to proceed with the appropriate amendment to the Planning Scheme.
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What's in a storey?
So when the Council receives an application for a building at the proposed Townsville Ocean Terminal (TOT) canal estate - and let's face it, the plans indicate a determination to install 700 dwellings there, some of them in high-rise unit towers - what will be considered "natural ground level"? We know that the canal building sites will be reclaimed from the seabed at least two metres below the natural low water mark and will probably have an unnatural finished ground level about two metres above the high water mark. But if anyone wants to argue the toss - with Council, with the developers, with the state government - forget it. Our fabulous Premier, with future rough political weather in mind, removed the TOT project from all processes under the Integrated Planning Act (IPA) and denies any third party legal action against the proposal by also removing it from scrutiny under the Judicial Review Act. You can't take them to court even if you wanted to. Neither can Townsville City Council.
A good rule of thumb for building heights in tropical landscapes, eg Magnetic Island, is one I encountered in Bali years ago: No building taller than the palm trees.
That's all very well Sylvia but I imagine Bali has a legal fraternity - that well-known oxymoron, just like we do. And I bet there's a building there that's taller than the palm trees. You remember the Sea Temple plans for Radical Bay? Junipers wrote in their documentation that the buildings were "four storey". When you looked at the actual plans there were five storeys - or to be precise, there was a "ground level" and four sets of stairs to higher levels. "Storey" is possibly a word in Old Icelandic that means a whole number less than one. If you have a 'rule of thumb' there'll always be someone who gives it the finger.