Millionaire neighbour’s court win over Graya project
The millionaire owner of a palatial Brisbane home has won an urgent legal injunction to force his new neighbours to halt building work on their swimming pool and a potentially hazardous retaining wall next door to his home on one of the suburb's best streets.
Steven John Baxter, 48, the founder of digital signage company Mandoe Media, from Paddington, succeeded in obtaining the order against his neighbours who are trying to create a flat backyard on steeply sloping Reading St using massive retaining walls.
Planning and Environment Court Judge William Everson last Wednesday ordered well-known luxury builder Graya Construction (Graya) and homeowners Anthony Steven Preston, 42, and wife Kylie Anne Preston, from Bardon, to stop building their luxurious above-ground swimming pool, filling their steep sloping block with soil and filling retaining walls on their Reading St property for a week until the case returns to court.
Lawyer David Hood, for Mr Baxter, wrote to the Preston's and Graya five days before the court hearing telling them that Mr Baxter was seriously concerned about the safety and stability of the substantial retaining wall directly uphill from his $8 million home, and running along the southern boundary of the Preston's home.
Mr Hood alleged the wall "was hastily constructed" and he was seeking an engineering report to verify its structural integrity.
Mr Hood also alleged in the letter filed in court that a large earthmoving truck had "slid downhill in the mud" and struck Mr Baxter's fence on March 15, coming within metres of plummeting five metres into the lower storey of Mr Baxter's home.
Mr Hood asked for proof of insurance and a safety plan to protect Mr Baxter's home.
Mr Baxter has filed several photos in court of the Preston's excavation work taken from security cameras attached to his home.
The Prestons and Graya Construction, owned by Brisbane-born Rob, 31, from Paddington, were not in court for the hearing last Wednesday and they did not file any evidence in the case.
They are expected to appear in court when it returns next Wednesday.
Mr Baxter's barrister Andrew Skoien submitted to the court that the Preston's may have committed a development offence, by building the pool and several retaining walls, and the work on the 810 sqm block may be unlawful because it was done without Brisbane City Council approval.
Mr Skoien said that it was only after starting the work to level the steeply sloping rear yard and put in the pool that the Preston's sought "retrospective approval" with council for the work.
Mr and Mrs Preston filed a retrospective development application for the pool and yard work with council on March 16, but no approval has been given, court documents state.
The court heard that the Preston's have council approval limited to the partial demolition of the original pre-WWII home and its relocation and extension in a design by celebrity architect Joe Adsett, but did not have approval for extensive earthworks and retaining walls in their rear yard which faces east with uninterrupted views of the city skyline.
The retaining walls already built are alleged to be "higher" and "in different form" and location to those shown on the development approval, and the pool will be "out of keeping with the character" of the area, Mr Baxter's lawyers submitted.
The retaining wall at the rear of the block is alleged to be within 2.5m of the rear boundary, rather than 6.5m on the approved plans, town planner Peter Catchlove told the court.
Mr Hood told the court in his affidavit that he had written to Graya and the Preston's on April 16 asking them to stop work on the pool and garden as it appeared there was no council approval.
Mr Hood says he did not receive a reply to his letter, aside from an email from a project manager saying the letter had been forwarded on to Graya and the Preston family.
Mr Baxter's lawyer Heath Burton wrote to Graya and the Preston's the day before appearing in court telling them that the legal case would be filed if they did not immediately cease the allegedly unlawful filling and excavation works to raise the level of the backyard.
Mr Burton also tried to call Graya on the phone the day before the case but the call did not connect, court documents state.
Mr Baxter, a director of Mandoe Media, a cloud-based software company that allows businesses to create and display digital ads on signs, paid $5.35 million for his six-bedroom four-bathroom mansion in 2014, property records show.
The Preston's bought their home for $3 million in 2018 and mostly demolished it to build their dream home.
Graya Construction completed 12 jobs worth $21 million in the 2020-2021 financial year, court documents state.
Graya has built homes for Brisbane Broncos player Darius Boyd, former Wallabies captain Stephen Moore and model Erin McNaught and her rapper husband Example.
A second set of neighbours, who own the property behind on Wilden St, wrote a submission to the council earlier this month complaining about their loss of privacy and the extensive earthworks at the Preston home.
Originally published as Millionaire neighbour's court win over Graya project