Last drinks for Bourbon DA. Photo: supplied.

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BY JOHN MOYLE

Kings Cross people power has had a win as developer Sam Arnaout withdraws his DA for 18-28 Darlinghurst Road.

The object of the DA was to demolish all the buildings within the boundary to develop 83 apartments with mixed use shops and a bar at street level.

The plan would have seen the area under the wreckers’ ball and builders’ hammers for three to four years, by which time locals say a large part of the heritage and businesses in the vicinity would be devastated.

“The City of Sydney received a request from applicant on 19 April 2018 to withdraw the development application for the Kings Cross site (D/2017/1705).” Christopher Corradi, Area Planning Manager, City of Sydney, said via email to City Hub.

The powerful local response, not seen since the Green Bans of the seventies, saw residents lodge 540 objections with City of Sydney and Rohan Glasgow’s change.org petition attracting 12,344 signatures and still rising.

A rally attracted over 300 people and included Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, and five non-Clover aligned City of Sydney councillors.

“To me it’s a signal that the developer has heeded to concerns of the community and has a pretty good idea that the design put forward was not going to be acceptable by the community, and there will be an amended proposal coming forward at some point,” Councillor Professor Kerryn Phelps, City of Sydney said.

Claiming that since 2015 he had spent over $1.5 million on research and heritage reports, Sam Arnaout issued his mea culpa to Domain on April 20 saying “I don’t want this to be what I am remembered for.”

“The outcome this time shows the power of the community when they come together to speak with one voice,” Councillor Christine Forster, City of Sydney said.
“”We don’t expect this to be the end of the matter, but as a Councillor I will remain vigilant to ensure community is kept well informed as to any new Development Applications for this site.”

The City Hub broke this story on December 20, 2017 and has made numerous requests to the offices of Iris Capital to interview Mr Arnaout, which either went unanswered or he was unavailable.

But now Sam tells Domain “This place is my life (despite living in Australia’s most expensive apartment in Circular Quay’s Toaster building) I’m here every weekend and I love this place,” and is suddenly willing to meet the press.

City Hub finally got a sit down with Sam at the Bourbon, to hear his side of the argument.

“We set out to lodge a DA that we felt Council was working with us on, and ultimately the community brush back meant toast for the DA,” Sam Arnaout, CEO, Iris Capital said.

“The developer plays victim but this is all his own fault,” Andrew Woodhouse, president, Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Society said.
“In this case the developer refused to attend our rally or community meetings despite being invited.”

The issue of Sam’s lack of communication or consultation with the community is a contentious one, as Sue Handley and Gavin Harris, organisers of the community meeting at Reg Murphy Hall on January 2, claim they tried in vain to attract his attendance.

“I emailed his office and ended up speaking to a couple of his people,” Gavin Harris, community organiser said.
“He was away and we needed to have the meeting before the deadline for comments on the DA.
“We thought that Thursday 25th of January was the last chance because we needed time for people to lodge their objections.
“I followed up by contacting them the day before and they said that no one would attend.
It was a meeting that was never to be.

“In January we were contacted by the community liaison, and I was overseas,” Sam Arnaout said.
“They basically said that they couldn’t delay the meeting and it would proceed without us.
“That was the decision that the community made.”

Andrew Woodhouse and I also issued an invitation for Sam to speak at the rally we organised a month later on February 24th, but also received no response.

Now Sam finds himself adrift in a neighbourhood he does not know and does not understand and is looking to Council to bridge the gulf.

“The idea now is to get Council to organise some sort of consultation with the community and work out how as Council, the land owner and the community can go forward,” Sam Arnaout said.

Good luck with that.

“If you think through the process of what Council does, it is to be assessing each DA independently and taking onboard people’s input, and not being swayed by any one side, so they can’t display favouritism in any way, and if they agreed to consultation sessions I don’t see how they could remain independent,” Councillor, Angela Vithouklas, City of Sydney said.

The one thing Sam needs to know about the Kings Cross and Potts Point community is that it is made up of many different views, and whoever he ends up speaking to may not represent more than their own membership.

It won’t be a community group that decides the action to be taken, but widespread community action.

“We represent the public interest, while he represents himself,” Andrew Woodhouse said.

The first battle has been won, despite many in the community doubting the outcome.

It is now time mobilise the entire community to ensure that we win the war.

“It is only through raising their voices that the community will have an input into the issues that affect their lives,” Cr Prof Phelps said.