Monday 26 January 2009

Developers still push for land rezonings despite downturn

Land rezonings may no longer be licences to print money, but submissions in Wicklow show all is not lost for major developers.

In Kilcoole, Larry Keegan's Kimpton Vale – which hit the headlines in 2006 when it illegally demolished a 19th-century convent in Terenure. Dublin – sought to have nearly 38 acres of land rezoned for residential development in the new development plan for the area. The Wicklow county manager found that the lands were not required for residential rezoning and recommended no change to their agricultural zoning. The lands will instead "be considered in the next development plan if necessary during the period 2014-2020".

Kimpton Vale made a loss of just under €200,000 for the year ended 30 June 2007, down from a profit of nearly €620,000 the previous year. It had stocks, which are stated at the lower of cost and net realisable value, of more than €10.7m at that date, down from more than €17.2m the previous year, and shareholders' funds showed a deficit of more than €2.7m. Company directors Larry and Mairéad Keegan were paid over €2.1m during the year, including pension entitlements, down from more than €6.5m the previous year.

Auditors Dermot Brennan & Associates placed an "emphasis of matter" in Kimpton Vale's accounts, pointing out it was reliant on the continued support of the directors. The auditors did not qualify their opinion.

Keegan was a shareholder in a company called Torose Construction, which has since gone into liquidation, which made a settlement of just under €7m in 2002 with the Revenue for underpayment of VAT and corporation tax.

Meanwhile, the owners of Druids Glen golf club asked for 20 acres between Woodstock business park and Kilcoole industrial estate to be zoned for residential development and a "community hospice care" facility. The manager said this "would lead to an excessive spread of the settlement on its southern radial route".

In Newtownmount­kenn­edy, where developers purchased sizable tracts of land from 2004 to 2006, a new local area plan (LAP) has also been adopted. During submissions, the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government maintained that too much land was to be zoned for employment and that those lands should be located away from the interchange and in locations closer to the town.

"Zoning at such a scale and at an interchange location would primarily serve a wider metropolitan market whereas employment zoning should be orientated towards providing for local needs," it said.

The manager said the zoning of the land was "to ensure sufficient land is released to provide for high levels of employment in the town".

The National Roads Authority said it was "disturbed" that the town's growth proposals were dependent on private cars and the national road network. It said the draft LAP did not fulfil regional planning guidelines. The manager did not agree with the NRA and recommended no change.

Norpark, owned by William Burke, developer Hugh McGill, Lydia Lynch and Tim Rowe, requested that a site of 0.6 hectares be rezoned for a healthcare campus including a nursing home. However, the manager said the land was zoned for a tourism and leisure complex for which permission had already been granted.

The local GAA club wants its 5.7-acre site rezoned for employment and retail purposes. The manager replied that the proposed rezoning was not recommended.

David Agar's Profile Properties sought an increase in the 50 acres of land designated for employment purposes. Agar, who is developing a business park near Grange Castle in Dublin that he says could be worth up to €1bn, claimed the "subject lands are insufficient to allow for the development of a commercially viable business park". He added that the provision of 'active open space' given its distance to the town centre and residential areas was unsuitable. The manager did not accept Agar's argument.

Town Park Estates sought to have nearly 3.5 acres of land zoned for a retail centre. The company had nearly €11m in its profit and loss account at the end of 2007 and is ultimately owned by the Wood family of developers. The manager replied that the zoning was only for a small neighbourhood centre.

A company called Kinaeda, which does not appear to be registered in the island of Ireland or in Britain, asking for residential rezoning on one site it owns and increased density on another. "No further residential zoning is required... and the excessive zoning of land may lead to population targets being exceeded, to the overall detriment of the settlement," the manager replied.

Sunday Tribune

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