Developer won't invest in Fraser Coast after $1m stoush

A DEVELOPER says he won't invest in the Fraser Coast again after a $1 million stoush with the Fraser Coast Regional Council.

After a two-year court battle Palm Lake Group was forced to pay the council more than $680,000 in infrastructure fees after a judge ruled its Eli Waters' property was unlawfully developed because the development approval had lapsed.

But the company says it tried to do its due diligence when buying the partially-built resort in 2010.

A legal technicality relating to a change in the State Planning Act meant the site was not zoned correctly under the changed planning laws.

Palm Lake Group CEO Manuel Lang said his company had asked for a town planning search from the council prior to buying the Palm Lake Resort.

"That search came back that everything was okay," he said. "A little bit later on we were issued with a notice from the council which said your development was invalid."

In 2014 the council took the group to court over the issue, and after the Planning and Environment Court determined the resort was not developed lawfully, the group went to the Court of Appeal which ruled in favour of the council.

A dispute also emerged about whether the homes at the resort should be treated as two-or three-bedroom homes.

The group fought to have the homes recognised as two-bedroom, lowering the charges to $22,000 each.

But the council successfully argued each of the 114 homes were three-bedroom rather than two, costing Palm Lake Group $28,000 in infrastructure charges for each home.

On February 12, the Palm Lake Group exhausted almost all legal avenues when a Court of Appeal application was dismissed.

The court battle has cost the Palm Lake Group more than $1 million after being forced to paying the council's legal costs as well as more in infrastructure charges.

The battle has given the Fraser Coast a bad taste in Mr Lang and the Palm Lake Group's mouth.

"It's going to be difficult for us to re-invest in that Fraser Coast council area," he said.

"Other councils are very happy and willing to get together and work out the best possible solution without the lawyers.

"The Fraser Coast council was not keen on it."

Palm Lake Group is preparing to open a 160-bed aged care facility in Bargara, near Bundaberg.

"We'd be hard-pressed to build one in Hervey Bay I can tell you," Mr Lang said.

Fraser Coast Regional Council CEO Lisa Desmond said the council always facilitated investment in the region, but also had a responsibility to ensure an "equitable contribution from developers and ratepayers towards the cost of infrastructure".

"Court action is always a last resort," she said.

"It was identified by council when Palm Lake Group purchased the property that the development had outstanding infrastructure charges.

"It was also subsequently identified that the development did not have the necessary approvals in place and part of the process was to legitimise the existing use."

Topics:  council developer fraser coast invest

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