Uproar in council over rebate policy
A GOLD Coast City Council commitment to proceed with its February decision to increase developers' infrastructure charges (water and sewerage works) by between 20 and 40 per cent could see housing costs jump by as much as $14,000. This is the opinion of the Urban Development Institute of Australia Gold Coast Tweed branch senior-vice president Jeff McDermid. Mr McDermid said last Friday's decision was a dreadful day for the Gold Coast housing market. The new policies might provide council with millions of dollars of revenue but the cost would come from the pockets of those who could least afford it. "Under the new infrastructure policy which uses town planning density figures rather than eventual yield, developers will be contributing to open space, community facilities, water and sewerage on the stated density of the development up front, regardless of what is built in reality. "Council will now imple- ment the increased charges in one hit instead of phasing in the charges, so developers would have no choice but to pass on costs," he said. Council's debate on the contentious infrastructure charges issue went on last week for well over an hour, and before a packed to overflowing public gallery of placard-carrying citizens. This was "people power" in one of the largest protests seen at a council meeting, buoyed up by media reports quoting Cr Eddy Sarroff. He had warned ratepayers that they could pick up the tab for any shortfall caused by refunds to developers caught up in the time lapses of their application approval going back some years, and the increased charges today. The gallery also heard that statements indicating developer refunds could amount to $9 million were wrong. The detailed report on developer contributions compiled by Gold Coast Water director Shaun Cox estimates the refunds (legally required) would be in the order of $3.5 million. During the debate Cr Sarroff (applauded constantly by the gallery) said the new infrastructure charges had been nearly three years in the making. "The committee, which included developer representation, had approved a policy that provides the developer to pay a fair share of the infrastructure. "At the end of the day there could be now a shortfall of $9 million and it is outrageous that refunds should be made," he said. At one stage in this argument, Cr Ted Shepherd (to boos from the crowd) slated Cr Sarroff for his media statements about ratepayers footing the bill for developers' contributions and claims of political interference over the issue. "Cr Sarroff's false claims have made a laughing stock of council, and I for one am sick of these statements which are so wrong," he said. But Cr Sarroff, the gallery's "flavour of the month", said he stood by his claims.