Development fee dispute

REDUCING fees paid to Council for new developments will not act as a catalyst for more-affordable housing, but will impede further development on the Tweed, a Council manager believes.

Council's director of engineering, Patrick Knight, said the Government's decision to cap developer contributions to $20,000 per dwelling instead of the current maximum of $23,072 to build a home in some rural areas, will limits Council's ability to cope with unprecedented population growth.

“The State Government's objective in imposing the $20,000 cap is to increase the development of land for housing and enable housing to be more affordable,” Mr Knight said.

“It is believed that a reduction in contributions will lead to less infra- structure, less land and ultimately less affordable housing.”

But following the review of developer contributions paid to all NSW councils, the Minister for Planning Kristine Keneally believes Tweed Shire Council is asking too much of developers.

And instead of levying fees to pay for things to benefit the new development, the contributions pay for services for the whole community.

“Council did not adequately justify why it needed to take contributions for infrastructure such as library books, street trees, cemeteries, a council administration building and the works depot,” Ms Keneally said.

“Council must undertake a review of its contributions plan by the end of 2009, including the removal of additional community infrastructure such as library books and street trees, a reduction in plan administration charges and to provide a justification for continued levying to repay loans for cemeteries, a council administration building and the works depot.”

The changes which will only effect developments approved after July 17 and include an exemption for the long-awaited Seaside City development at Kingscliff South were a Land and Environment Court decision will allow Council to ask for $62,950 in fees for each new dwelling.

Mr Knight has defended Council's development levies, saying they are needed to cope with growth.

“The Department of Planning has designated Tweed as a growth area with an increase in population by 40,000 people over the next 20 years,” Mr Knight said.

“Developer contributions are principally used to create the arterial road network to service additional traffic created by development, and they also provide for essential community infrastructure such as trunk drainage, cycleways, sporting facilities, libraries, community facilities, street trees and cemeteries.

“These are all items that are essential to building a new community.

“Section 94 (developer) contributions go towards providing the infrastructure that is required to service populations in new growth areas. It is not used to service the existing community or to prop up Council budgets.”

A report on the contribution cap will be considered by council at its July 21 meeting.

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