Developer will have to pay full costs at 229-lot subdivision
A developer has lost a court appeal arising from a Ballina Shire subdivision.
Queensland-based developer Intrapac lodged a development application for Skennars Head subdivision Aureus in May, 2017.
The Northern Regional Planning Panel approved the creation of 229 new lots and other works, subject to conditions, in February, 2019.
The conditions of consent included a requirement for Intrapac to pay developer contributions in line with Ballina Shire Council's Roads Contributions Plan and Open Spaces and Community Facilities Contributions Plan.
The full contribution required worked out at more than $20,000 per lot, at $4,580,000.
Intrapac was required to build a new roundabout, embellish parks within the development and provide $15,000 worth of public art.
Intrapac lodged a modification application seeking to reduce the contributions by about $2.4 million and, in submissions before the court, increased the reduction sought to more than $2.6 million.
The council did not make a decision within a certain time period so the developer launched deemed refusal proceedings before the Land and Environment Court.
Intrapac argued the contributions required were "unreasonable" because the council would not offset them against "the value of the material public benefit of the carrying out of the works" in the open space.
But in a decision handed down on January 8, Acting Commissioner Philip Clay dismissed the appeal.
"The levying and payment of development contributions has been a fertile source of debate, conflict and litigation between developers and councils for many years," Commissioner Clay said.
"This case is but a further chapter in that lengthy tome."
The court heard the conditions of consent were "lawfully imposed" and it was agreed and the works required of Intrapac would "provide a public benefit in addition to serving the proposed subdivision".
The court heard it was simply not available to the council to offset contributions against the works required.
This was set out in the council's policies, Commissioner Clay said.
The court heard the council's contributions plans set out specified uses for developer contributions and the work required at the development, including the roundabout and park embellishments, were not listed within them.
Those works therefore could not be used to reduce the contributions, according to the council's policies.
"(Intrapac) has not established that the imposition of the contributions condition is or was unreasonable," Commissioner Clay said.
"It follows that the modification application must be refused."