Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Viagra wouldn't keep this extension up

Oh, this one will be another legacy of our local government, and something that will stick stronger than mud to a builder's gumboot.

The good ol dining mate's of Uncle Kev's at Villa are in the gutter, after stealing our public land and they still want the right to retain it.

I outlined the full debacle back in September, after which Councillors voted to not support the extension. This was, mind you, after it had been built.

The Cairns Post jumped in on the debate last week, with "Villa eating up walkway". Bronwyn Cummings reported that Villa Romana restaurant may have to demolish illegal building extension that spans 53sq meter of our public footpath.

A huge slap in the face to the Cairns Council, and those that originally allowed this obvious breach of local building guidelines, Natural Resources and Water Minister Craig Wallace has rejected the request for retrospective approval for extensions that engulf the pedestrian walkway on the corner of The Esplanade and Aplin Street.

Wallace says the area is road reserve was still needed for its original purpose. Doh!

Let's recap. A developer builds an illegal structure. It breaches several established consents and allowed boundaries. They then apply for the road area to be closed to accommodate this. Our Mayor and his Chief Executive are voted to endorse, negotiate and oversee this request. Would the average ratepayer like this type of local government management?

Councillor Gill said the owner had to be made responsible for the dodgy work.

“What they have done is taken most of the footpath,” Cr Gill said. Most of the footpath Margaret? They and your Council allowed this to happen. Where was the Council at the time of construction? What was in the plans that were presented to Council for approval?

Gill went on to say that they “should be made to meet council requirements.” Well I hope this will stand for a great deal of other Council approvals that are ignored, overridden or simply interpreted in a loose manner.

Villa are infamous for publishing famous faces who dine there, now they will need all the celebrity help they can garner.

Villa Romana owner George Papagelou said he was waiting for legal advice for him stealing the public footpath. George, it's not kosher what you've done mate. Full stop. You can't simply take land like that unless you're a Colonial settler with 200 muscats and a sack of potatoes.

I suggest that no lawyer will tell you what you've done is appropriate, legally correct, nor in the interest of the ratepayers that own the land.

You didn't ask for our footpath George. Surely our Council was aware what you were doing and would have sighted your building plans well in advance of the May completion? Surely a Council worker or a mayoral diner would have seen that the building extended out a wee bit too far? These things don't get constructed without some blind compliance. I don't doubt for a minute, you did this alone, yet had some assurance from someone in Council that you could get away with it. Who was it George?

I think a real audit about the way in which this extension came about would make for a nice mini series come the March local body elections.

It stinks more than a four day old Spaghetti Marinara pasta.

10 comments:

Bryan Law said...

Disclosure: I don't mind the early bird tarrif at Villa Romano, and once enjoyed a rack of lamb with mint sauce there that was to die for.

I've also used a private certifier to approve extensions on the house. You might call me paranoid, but I'm reluctant to give any Council officer a right of rejection or approval over me - 'cos I suspect the Mayor is capable of improperly exercising a prejudice against me at the drop of a hat.

As I understand it the private certifier is obliged to respect and reflect all building codes and planning requirements in assessing any proposal - and I would expect them to be liable for damages and costs if the exercise of their power is flawed through negligence and/or greed.

I expect that George Papagelou is taking legal advice about who ought pay to rectify the situation he's been left in. Who ought he sue? The certifier's insurance company? The Council?

When our application went to Council after private certification we enjoyed a nice visit from Council officers (and their digital camera) who came to check the proposal against the heritage overlay on the plan, and in conjunction with the existing streetscape.

I find it hard to believe that CCC didn't scope out the Villa Romano extensions. Whoever's responsible needs to be held accountable.

A proper audit will be very revealing of Council's operations, and voters will benefit from knowing about it before the march election.

Esplanade Trader said...

It's always surprised me why all the facts of this fiasco haven't been aired, either in the media nor now in the "alternative media".

As all the merchants on the Esplanade know, the extension of Villa Romano into the footpath was a deliberate attempt by George Papagelou to "block" the entrance to Casa de Meza, the restaurant located above Villa Romano (and by most, judged a far better restaurant in every respect). It has made finding the entrance to Casa de Meza even that more difficult, and negatively impacted their business with pedestrians thinking that both floors are the same restaurant, and not wanting to tiptoe on the millimeters of kerb that inhibits their passage.

It's cutthroat competition at its most venal. And not the only kind of vindictive act George has taken against those who cross him. Someday we can talk about the cutthroat "gelato war" being run by these same people, which has resulted in a glut of gelato shops, all making losses but none wanting to let the other "win".

Ya gotta love small hick town business!

Anonymous said...

Good grief!! The things we don't know bout Cairns.

Anonymous said...

What a load of crap Kiwi.
Here are the facts.
I saw the plans submitted for the outdoor dining permit approval. The encroaching wall was shown on these plans as a "wind break" ala plastic sheeting.
The building work was carried out behind a large covering shroud supervised by a private certifier who is licensed by the Labour State Government. Council do not have "building inspectors" anymore, this area of responsibility is now State Govt controlled and managed.
The building work was hidden from view and a casual observer would have thought it was part of the Trilogy development.
It was not.
The land encroached over is NOT RATEPAYER OWNED. It is owned by the Crown and administered by the Dept of Natural Resources and Water.
Council's role, under the Local Govt Act, is to manage and maintain the road reserve upon which the Villa Romano encroaches.
To that end, Council has bought the matter of encroachment to the attention of the owner's representative (NR&W) for them to deal with.
You are wrong to bag Councillors and council officers about this matter.
I trust you will read and understand the facts regarding this matter and be a better informed person from now on.

Another Esplanade Resturanteur said...

Mr. Anonymous is wrong about blaming Councillors and council officers. True, the land involved is crown land. However council has various written agreements to administer these crown lands - this includes the Esplanade park areas, lagoon, and other areas. This agreement requires council to ensure that these lands are used for the purpose intended and that DNRM rules on public land are followed (the reason why, despite the Mayor pushing for a restaurant site on the waterfront for one of his mates, DNRM has steadfastly refused to allow this kind of commercial activity on parkland).

It's always amazing to me how council officers of every management level can routinely drive past clear law violations day by day without any action.

And as for the comments about about George's battle with his competitors (Casa de Meza), this is exactly correct. The illegal addition wasn't designed for more Villa Romano seating, it was designed to bankrupt his competitor.

It should also be noted that I tried discussing this issue twice on John McKenzie's "Cyclone hour" (man this guy lives for bad news he can milk), but his minders refused to let me raise the question on the air. Apparently "Mr. Radio" is too corrupted by his free meals at Villa Romano with KB to give the issue a proper public airing.

Anonymous said...

To Esplanade Restaurateur ...
Council's role in this matter, (under the Local Government Act), was to issue an outdoor dining permit, because the road reserve, (footpath), was being used for a purpose other than conveyance of pedestrian traffic.
Having checked that there was adequate room for two way pedestrian traffic (incl. disabled), a permit for outdoor dining was issued.
All other works, carried out behind cover, and whilst the main Trilogy building was the main focus, was and still is, illegal.
Council are not condoning anything about this blatant land grab, as you and others are falsely asserting.
Be fair and do not let your political bias get in the way of the facts.

Mark said...

From a different perspective the question not considered is that the legal ownership of the Villa property is in fact a community titles scheme (ie a body corporate)?

So has anybody considered this in terms that any legal objections are not with Villa but the body corporate? Its the body corporate that applied for road closure?

I had assumed that Casa de Meze was part of the same community title and would have been able to block any action which would require a motion without dissent? Maybe the Trilogy strata structure should be clarified? Maybe i'm wrong and have to check all that :/

This is not supporting Villa where i believe the unlawful extensions should be removed.

Anonymous said...

Re Villa Romano and Council's inaction.
As far as I can see the buck stops with Council. They should have enough building inspectors to oversee the private certifiers, otherwise you get the situation Cairns is currently in and that is CORRUPTION. Yes, corruption and illegal structures!! Its happening all over the place. Clifton Beach Shopping Centre is a good example of everything wrong and very little right in terms of adherence to building codes. A set of townhouses off Unity street, Clifton Beach is another fine example of where a private certifier has done the wrong thing. Who is accountable and responsible for these disasters. For the Council to blame everyone else but themselves is typical and not acceptable. I do believe that these applicants all have to pay fees to CCC for building approvals and in the case of commercial facilities, I would think it would run into thousands as opposed to a few hundred $.
The unlawful extensions must be removed!!

Jude J "Troublemaker" said...

In New Zealand in recent months, a Developer had his plans put on hold by the Environment Court. His crime was to cut down the old Willows on the edge of Lake Hayes, a picturesque place not far from Queenstown. Willows are as symbolic of the area as Malaleuca's are of Palm Cove. The Court ruled that no development was to take place on any part of the site until the trees had been replanted and grown to the same height as the ones cut down.
The 2nd event was a supermarket built on Auckland's North Shore. A competitor went to the Planning and Environment Court and was successful on the grounds that "The Council improperly approved the development". This was over a year ago and to date the place is built and ready for use but unable to be occupied.
Number 3 was the Private Certifier who had his license revoked, even though he had $50m worth of business in progress. Apparently the Building Authority believed that compliance with the law was more important than the $50 worth of business.
Perhaps if the same standards had been applied here in Cairns then there would not be the continual blatant disregard of the Planning Schemes.
The Developer of the Housing Estate in Kewarra Beach would not have been able to proceed until the creeks and trees had been put back to the way they were. The Clifton Village Shopping Centre would never have openend and any Private Certifier not adhering to the Planning Schemes would no longer have a job.
Re Villa Romana, Council have been told it is up the them to make the decision on what happens next. When this comes up on aCouncil Meeting Agenda, I for one will be there.

Anonymous said...

Prepare for more of RESTAURANT WARS!