RATEPAYERS can expect to pay ongoing legal fees as Tweed Shire Council continues to defend at least five decisions in the Land and Environment Court.
After spending more than $1million already on appeals this year, the council is reporting $168,972 has been spent on legal services from July 1 to September 30, including fees associated with the LEC.
Councillor Warren Polgase said he was worried that unless the council listened to the advice of the planning department and legal team, it would most likely end up spending another $1 million defending its actions in the LEC.
"The way we're going we're going to hit $1million again,” Cr Polglase said.
"The concern I've had is the council planning staff are getting so frustrated and really don't know what direction council's going in.
"We have an excellent planning staff but with the elected body knocking these things down all the time, they just don't know where to go.”
One decision the council is defending is the rejection of the RSL'S extension to an aged care facility in Banora Point, despite staff recommendation to approve the project.
Cr Polgase said he was disappointed the councillors were ignoring staff.
"That was up for approval, then they went away for better outcomes and that ticked every box and they ticked all the parking issues but it was rejected because a handful of 20 or 30 people are upset,” he said.
Cr James Owen agreed that staff should be taken more seriously in order to avoid lengthy court battles.
"I'm very concerned about the number of issues that are being sent to the LEC,” Cr Owen said.
"It's all good to defend moral values but when wehave solid legal advice that this will go to the LEC and we will lose I think this is a negligent use of ratepayers' money.”
But Cr Ron Cooper said councillors were elected to listen to the people and act in their best interests.
"Planners go by the laws that are in place and we're going by what's fair by the community,” he said.
Cr Cooper said he rejected the RSL application because of the people who had contacted him directly about their concerns.
"From a moral position, we felt obliged to make sure we went as far as we could to support their right,” he said.
"As councillors, if we're contacted and asked for help that's what we do.”
Current Land and Environment Court cases:
- 21-lot community title subdivision at 42 North Arm Rd, Murwillumbah
- Tringa St subdivision
- Aged care development at Banora Point
- Water extraction S.96 amended application for truck size at Urliup Rd
- Alleged unauthorised vegetation removal at Soorley St