The council should “initiate a compulsory purchase order” of the old Chivers factory site in Coolock, says a motion agreed by councillors at a meeting on Monday of their North Central Area committee.
The council should also explore the option of “dezoning”, the motion said.
Councillors had rezoned the land from industrial to residential in March 2018 – in the process increasing its value – following local- and national-level lobbying by developers Andrew and Maurice Gillick, of Platinum Land, who had promised affordable homes on the site.
No homes have yet been built, but earlier this month, the land was put up for sale again, for significantly more than it had been bought for.
At Monday’s meeting, independent Councillor John Lyons proposed the motion calling on the council to CPO the land.
“I think the state has a responsibility and an interest in ensuring that this doesn’t happen again and that in this instance we don’t allow it to proceed,” Lyons said.
“I think compulsory purchase order is one of the options that we should investigate and it’s the one I’m recommending here today,” he said.
It is up to council officials, rather than councillors, to embark upon the process of issuing a compulsory purchase order. Dublin City Council’s Press Office didn’t respond to queries sent Tuesday as to whether this was something the council would consider in this case, and on what grounds it could CPO sites.
At the meeting on Monday, some councillors questioned whether – if the CPO route was possible – the council would end up paying current market rate for the land anyway.
Deirdre Heney, a Fianna Fáil councillor, said she understood the sentiment behind the motion, but couldn’t support a motion around CPO-ing the land as the value of it is just colossal.
Donna Cooney, of the Green Party, said she too agreed with the sentiment of Lyons’ motion. “But I can see that a CPO would be difficult in this scenario because you’re giving them the value of what that land is as zoned for housing.”
Said Tom Brabazon, a Fianna Fáil councillor: “I think we need to be very careful not to be pushing the council down the road of making a decision that will cost the taxpayer an awful lot of money.”
“I have fear in me that if we don’t exercise our CPO powers within a reasonable or non-capricious way that the council could be held liable for major compensation of costs,” he said. “I would caution that.”
Lyons said he wanted to CPO the land at its past value, pre-rezoning. “I’m not talking about giving Platinum Land a payday.”
It was Sinn Féin’s Mícheál Mac Donncha who suggested an amendment to Lyons’ motion, that the council also explore the option of “dezoning” the site.
“Obviously, we can only make a call, we can’t make any decision on that,” he said.
The motion would have to go to the full council, he said. But “I would ask that that be added in to reflect the full view of the meeting today”.
In autumn 2017, plans shown to councillors when Platinum Land lobbied them to rezone the site from residential to industrial were for 350 affordable homes of heights up to five storeys. Once the site had been rezoned, the landowners also ran an open evening for local residents showing them the same plans.
Later that year, in December 2018, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy brought in new height guidelines that removed height caps and overruled the local development plan set by councillors.
In April 2019, Platinum Land put in a planning application under the new rules, with more homes and higher towers.
Some of the councillors who had voted for the rezoning based on the earlier plan said they felt duped.
They should get legal advice on whether it’s possible to rezone, said Heney, at the North Central area meeting.
Catherine Stocker, a Social Democrats councillor, said that rather than the council’s law agent, she would like councillors to get an independent legal opinion.
Earlier in the meeting, Stocker had said that councillors should be looking to rezone. “I think even if we do face legal challenges, it’s an important decision and it’s one we should take.”
Also, if it forces the government to move faster on a windfall tax, that would be positive, she said.
Some other councillors said that they wanted to hear from the council’s law agent and chief executive, before they backed any particular path. Others were more wary of relying on that advice.
Said Larry O’Toole, the Sinn Féin councillor, at the meeting: “With due respect, I think we’re putting a lot of faith in the law agent and the CEO.”
“I suggest and I put it to this meeting we should go for rezoning. That’s a power we have and we zone land and we can rezone land,” he said.
It’s up to council officials to initiate changes in land zonings, kicking off a process at the end of which councillors vote.
The council’s press office didn’t respond to queries sent Tuesday asking if council officials would consider it, and on what basis or criteria they can rezone land.
At the meeting, Naoise Ó Muirí, a Fine Gael councillor, said he would put all options on the table. “I’m raging, raging over this particular situation I have to say.”
Ó Muirí said he agreed with earlier comments from Stocker that they should follow it all the way to the courts and see where it goes. “We really have to stand up on it.”
He also said he would also support having a special area committee meeting about the issue, he said.
“Where we invite Platinum Land back in … and make, you know, bring them to account for their failure to deliver … any housing on that site,” he said.
Andrew Gillick, the managing director of Platinum Land, didn’t respond to queries sent Tuesday about this suggested invitation, or the proposals from councillors to look at CPO-ing or rezoning the land.