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A synagogue in Sydney’s eastern suburbs faces an uncertain future as Meriton founder Harry Triguboff battles a local council over permission to build flats on the site.
The synagogue, part of The Harry Triguboff Centre, sits on land in Bondi owned by the billionaire property developer who wants it rezoned to medium density residential, which would permit an apartment building up to four storeys.
Billionaire property developer Harry Triguboff wants a Bondi synagogue site rezoned for residential buildings.Credit:Flavio Brancaleone
The synagogue sits on land zoned for educational establishments but is linked to Yeshiva College next door, which shut down last month after accusations it used government funding to pay unaccredited teachers and put students’ safety at risk.
Waverley Council rejected Triguboff’s rezoning proposal earlier this year, prompting him to lodge a review with the NSW Planning Department.
Triguboff also complained in a letter to Waverley mayor Paula Masselos that the council’s decision left him with “useless land and buildings”.
Triguboff told Masselos that he would be “more inclined” to agree to community uses for the synagogue site if the council rezoned the land.
Harry Triguboff complained in a letter to Waverley mayor Paula Masselos that the council’s refusal to rezone a synagogue site in Bondi left him with “useless land and buildings”.Credit:Peter Braig
“But without it, I am stuck with useless land and buildings which is unproductive and not good for anybody,” he said.
Triguboff said the synagogue site’s current zoning was meant for major public infrastructure and was “not fair or reasonable”.
“Why shouldn’t I have the opportunity to build units like next door and the entire street? Why should I be treated differently?” he said.
Triguboff is no stranger to planning disputes, waging a lengthy battle to build 1900 apartments at Little Bay that was rejected last year by a planning panel.
Planning documents submitted by Triguboff’s company say there are no immediate intentions to redevelop the Bondi synagogue site, but also note the current zoning prevents the “feasible replacement of buildings reaching the end of their useful life”.
Waverley Council has a policy of retaining all land zoned for social infrastructure such as education, religious and health facilities, a spokeswoman said.
“This has meant that despite increasing pressures for residential development, Council has largely been able to protect these facilities for the community,” she said.
She said the site housed a religious and educational facility that had served the Jewish community for more than 70 years as well as Our Big Kitchen, which distributes more than 250,000 meals each year.
“These sites have an enduring history and despite any current issues with their operations, Council is confident that this site will continue to provide a vital community service for the Jewish community in the future,” she said.
A Meriton spokesman declined to comment, but Triguboff’s letter to Masselos also said the school’s head Rabbi Dovid Slavin was having issues at the Yeshiva.
“He is the only person that could run that school but now the judge won’t let him do it and it all needs to be done together with the Synagogue,” Triguboff said.
Triguboff said the school’s students had been relocated to other schools “so the use of the Yeshiva is substantially reduced”.
“When I bought the site to help the Yeshiva, I also paid the price for units and I have fully funded this for 20 years but it is not working,” he said.
A NSW Education Standards Authority spokeswoman said the registration of Yeshiva College was officially cancelled on September 30, with students enrolling in nearby schools, homeschooling or distance education.
The College previously faced near collapse, with Triguboff stepping in as a significant contributor to the school after financial crisis threatened its viability.
It was also embroiled in a legal dispute with its neighbour, a retirement village, over alleged obstruction and interference of a shared driveway.
Slavin said Triguboff had backed the synagogue for many decades and continued to be the major supporter. He did not believe the synagogue would be forced to close its doors.
“There may be some changes to how things are done, but not what is done,” Slavin said.
Triguboff’s review request means a planning panel will decide whether the rezoning has merit before it is submitted to the Planning Department for a gateway determination.
“At this stage, the department does not have an assessment role for the proposal,” a Planning Department spokeswoman said.
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