Council risks DIT legal challenge over restrictive zoning

DIT says Dublin City Council has devalued its land at Rathmines site

DIT’s Grangegorman campus: The institute said the zoning will devalue its lands and jeopardise funding for facilities. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

DIT’s Grangegorman campus: The institute said the zoning will devalue its lands and jeopardise funding for facilities. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Dublin City Council could face legal action over a decision to rezone a site in Rathmines owned by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), which will restrict its future development for houses and shops.

Councillors have changed the zoning of the DIT’s school of music in the centre of Rathmines from Z4 zoning, which allows a wide range of uses including residential, retail, hotel and educational, to Z15 which preserves the site largely for educational/ institutional use.

The DIT said the zoning, which comes into force this week under the new city development plan, will devalue its lands by up to 25 per cent and will jeopardise funding for facilities at its new Grangegorman campus.

More than 20,000 students will transfer to Grangegorman over the next four years from several DIT buildings the institute proposes to sell to fund facilities at the new campus.

The DIT said the more restrictive zoning applied to the Rathmines site will undermine the potential of a future sale of the lands.

Value reduced

“By reducing the options for what the land can be used for the councillors have effectively reduced its value by 25 per cent, according to the advice we have received,” Dr Paul Horan, head of campus planning for Grangegorman, said.

Based on recent transactions, the value of the site had been estimated in the region of €5 million.

The DIT will ask councillors to reverse their decision, but has not ruled out legal action if the request is unsuccessful.

“We are considering our options. We would prefer if the councillors reverted back to the previous zoning, but if not we will be looking at the precedent of actions previously taken.”

In 2012 the Commercial Court upheld a challenge by the Sisters of Charity to the imposition of restrictive zoning on their lands under the last city development plan. Fianna Fáil councillor David Costello said the council was foolish to leave itself open to a similar challenge.

Concern

“I am concerned that by making a decision that is politically popular instead of one that is sound, the council is exposing itself to legal challenge.”

Rathmines College of Further Education said it would move out of the neighbouring town hall building if it could secure the use of the DIT premises. But Mr Costello said its interests were not a valid reason to devalue the DIT’s lands.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them wanting to acquire the site, but I don’t think we can be involved in devaluing it just so they can afford to buy it.”

Labour councillor Mary Freehill said the College of Further Education had previously occupied the DIT building, and should be allowed to return. “We as an elected body are responsible with making sure services are provided to the people of Dublin and there is a shortage of educational spaces. This building was built over 100 year ago for educational purposes. God isn’t making any more land, it’s a very scare resource and we must use it in a proper manner.”

Dublin city manager Owen Keegan had advised the councillors against the Z15 zoning.