Planning Disasters

Reporter: Jackie Quist

John Dwyer's holiday house is a stunner, its called "The Hamptons" and its been in his family for 50 years. Stunning views over Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay and three separate titles have seen "The Hamptons" value rise dramatically, and auctioneer Gerald Delaney was confident it would fetch a handsome price at auction. “Well we're getting up towards the $2.5 million and it wouldn't have surprised to see a higher figure than that”, Gerald said.

John and his family decided to sell the old house because it was costing a bomb in maintenance and land tax but at the 11th hour John discovered to his horror that a neighbour had lodged an application to heritage list "The Hamptons". “We've never had anybody speak to us about heritage before, so it came as a real shock to us, we weren't expecting it”, John said.

The consequences are that a future buyer may not be able to redevelop, alter or change the house, and agents say such uncertainty devalues a property by as much as a third. “A disgruntled neighbour could do it to anyone, its only a matter of a 50 cent stamp to put a nomination to heritage and you can certainly cause a hell of a lot of trouble for your neighbour”.

You might recall ANZAC village in Sydney's Liverpool -- 72 fibro ex-army houses are earmarked for heritage listing, leaving all the owners hamstrung. “There's nothing post war about them -- they aren't the original houses. The outsides are different, everything's changed, there's nothing original about them”, said owner, Narelle.

Jack Davis is a former councillor turned council watchdog and heads Victoria's Ratepayers Association. “The people are just so fed up with it, we get phone calls every day, I get emails every day”, Jack said.

Terry Hendercott was fed up and driven to extreme measures. His response to his council after a 4 year dispute over proposed renovations was, “The paint colour was the closest colour I could find to human faeces, which is what I felt about this entire situation”, he said.

As for the pig's snout – The mayor, Diane Thorley stated that the house was a sow's ear that could never be turned into a silk purse”, Terry added. Liz Hollingworth was driven to desperation when her neighbour built a brick wall 40 centimetres from her 100 year old Queenslander. They were so close Liz could touch the wall through the window she could barely open. “We did get advice to look at the plans but because I trusted my neighbours, I felt that they would do the right thing, they would do the neighbourly thing”, Liz said. And it goes on and on. Viesha Lewanda is locked in battle with Victoria's Hepburn Shire over the mud soap business she's runs from her garage. Viesha thought her home had been rezoned commercial, given the rates notice she recieved last year, and expanded her soap boutique. Now council intends to close her down.

Hepburn Shire CEO Victor Szwed says the word commercial on Veisha's rates was a mistake. “Viesha's known all along that she's in a residential zone and she s set up unlawfully. We've been trying to help her move on and set up somewhere else in a commercial zone, and we've had to now take enforcement action”, he said.

Certainly homeowners in Melbourne's bayside suburbs say life became very unfair when new heritage laws were passed and orders were slapped on all kinds of dwellings, including some homes built in the mid 1990's. One home's fountain installed 10 years ago; one half of a semi detached house was heritage listed but the other half wasn't.

As for John Dwyer, well he must wait months to find out whether the heritage listing will be accepted, and already the cost has been enormous. “It's become a giant headache for our family. In dollar terms and advertising legals that's probably about 25 grand at this stage”, John said.

“There's no action I could possibly take what he's doing. As I understand it is quite within the law and I think the fact that he can do it is very wrong. Something should be there to stop a situation like this happening”, John added.

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