Tweed Shire Council has knocked back a bid by billionaire developer Bob Ell for almost $9 million in road contribution fees for his Cobaki subdivision to be dropped in lieu of roadworks in Queensland.
Tweed mayor Barry Longland said he ‘thought it was a joke at first’ that the developer was ‘asking us for credit for work they’ll do in Queensland’.
But the owner of the Leda development group wasted no time in lodging an appeal to the Land and Environment Court against the decision by Council seeking $8.7 million in fees due for the Cobaki housing estate’s first 917 residential lots.
A hearing has already set for January 14.
The state government approved the subdivision for the township of around 5,500 homes at Cobaki, just across the border, in 2010 while the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) ticked off Leda Manorstead’s first stages in May last year.
The development, on the Tweed Shire side of the border, will initially only have entry from Boyd Street in Tugun on the Gold Coast and a condition of consent was for the developer to upgrade the intersection of Boyd Street with the Gold Coast Highway at a cost of around $4 million.
Leda was also to extend and widen Boyd Street to four lanes and build a roundabout at Inland Drive, all up a total cost of around $9.5 million.
But now Leda wants Council to drop the $8.7 million in Tweed Road Contribution Plan (TRCP) levies by discounting the roadworks and crediting the balance for future fees.
In a letter to Council from its lawyers, Leda said the Boyd Street works would provide access and additional capacity to the Gold Coast from the Tweed Shire ‘well in excess of the demand generated by the Cobaki development’.
The extra capacity, Leda argued, would also provide a benefit to other new housing developments in Tweed Shire south of Cobaki, such as The Rise and at Bilambil Heights, which are currently on hold ‘due to this very traffic-capacity issue’.
The letter warned Council it would take it to court if it did not accept the request.
But staff then sought its own legal advice, and concluded ‘there are a few compelling reasons to support the request to delete the TRCP contributions’.
In their report, staff said deeds of agreement existed between the developer, Gold Coast City Council, Tweed Shire Council and the Queensland Department of Main Roads dealing with the road infrastructure required on each side of the border.
‘These deeds remain current, and clearly set down obligations of the road authorities and the proponent with respect to the provision of road infrastructure,’ staff said.
In response to Leda’s claim that ‘the Queensland location of the works is irrelevant’ when considering those works as part of the contributions, staff said there was no ministerial approval to include them in the fee plan.
Staff said the TRCP can only apportion costs to NSW developments and the Boyd Street works would also significantly benefit the Gold Coast by improving access to places such as John Flynn Hospital, Gold Coast Airport, the desalination plant at Tugun and other housing development and community and sporting facilities there.
‘The TRCP is unable to further apportion costs on these developments, and it is a reflection of the deeds that Leda has voluntarily undertaken that they will bear the full costs of these works without the Queensland authorities paying their share.’
Cr Carolyn Byrne was the only one to back the developer’s bid in the 6–1 vote.
The relationship between Leda and Tweed Council has been testy at the best of times, with the developer producing and making great play of ‘secret dossiers’ last year that were critical of staff, environmentalists and others who Leda claims were being obstructive to their plans.