Costly legal wrangle unnecessary
RATEPAYERS are set to be slugged with a bill for tens of thousands after the Southern Downs Regional Council lost a lengthy legal battle over a new housing development for Warwick.
A plan by developer and former Killarney resident Bruce Flint for 44 community title dwellings at the corner of Wallace and Carmody streets in west Warwick had been the subject of a legal wrangle since August 2008.
The saga ended on Friday when the Planning and Environment Court ruled in Mr Flint’s favour on two key conditions originally imposed on him by the council.
Mr Flint claims the protracted process has cost him around $100,000 in lawyers’ and consultants’ fees, and while Mayor Ron Bellingham was yesterday unable at this stage to state an exact figure for council’s costs, he conceded it would be “significant”.
It is understood the cost to ratepayers will be less than Mr Flint’s due to council largely using its officers during the legal moves, but it could be as high as $50,000.
The council engaged Brisbane law firm Connor O’Meara, while the Main Roads Department, a co-respondent in the action, was able to draw on the services of the Queensland Crown Solicitor.
Mr Flint’s lawyer, Cliff Wirz of IPA Planning Lawyers in Brisbane, said the main bones of contention were a council demand that Mr Flint widen Wallace Street – part of the New England Highway – and provide stormwater drainage directly to Wallace Street.
Mr Wirz described the conditions as “unreasonable”.
“Wallace Street is the highway and does not even come under the council’s jurisdiction,” he said.
“Not even Main Roads required a widening of Wallace Street, but in the end what we have agreed to is that Mr Flint will make a contribution of $15,000 for footpath works and roadworks at the intersection with Carmody Street.
“With the drainage issue, there will be a detention basin constructed on the site which will drain to Carmody Street and the council in the end was satisfied with this.”
Mr Flint was yesterday feeling a mixture of relief and disappointment at the decision handed down by Judge Rackemann on Friday.
“It’s great to have finally received an approval that is final, reasonable and relevant,” he said.
“The initial conditions imposed by the council were at over $1 million, making the development uneconomical.”
“We spent over $100,000 engaging a team of town planners and traffic and hydraulic engineers.
“In my opinion, this was an unnecessary expense.
“I tried to talk to council officers and was snubbed from a meeting, which led me to go down this path of appeal through the legal system.
“This has led the ratepayer to incur unnecessary cost which will ultimately increase rates.”
The Wallace/Carmody street development will be marketed under the Country Town Homes brand, with Mr Flint saying the dwellings would be similar to his upcoming plan for semi-detached, villa-style homes and townhouses at Coe Street in Warwick.
The Daily News reported on the council’s approval of the 27-dwelling eco-friendly ‘Eco on Coe’ village on February 3.
Mayor Ron Bellingham said he would have preferred if Mr Flint had “sat down with council officers to discuss his concerns” rather than launching a full-scale appeal.
“There is a process of negotiated decision-making but it was at the initiative of this applicant that the matter proceeded the way it did,” Cr Bellingham said.
“Council spends what it needs to in order to defend its decisions.”