Many ratepayers wonder why they pay so much to the Redland City Council.
Average residential rates in the Redlands are the highest in south east Queensland, according to a report in the Sunday Mail earlier this year.
But developers seem to do quite well in negotiations with the Redland City Council.
Shoreline was able to get a $4.4 million discount on the assessment fees for its proposal to develop a 4,000 dwelling town in Southern Redlands. That is a 96% reduction on the standard charges which would have been $4.6 million.
The project’s developers (Fiteni Homes and Fox and Bell) will only have to pay Council $175,520.
The Shoreline project proposes to re-zone a significant area of the southern Redlands rural and agricultural landscape into a new 4,000 dwelling township. The estimated value of the proposed new housing stock is about $2 billion.
Shoreline advertised its development proposal in October. The public can lodge comments with the Council up until Friday 28 November.
Assessment of Applications
Council’s Material Change of Use Fee Calculator can be used to find out the standard charge for assessing development proposals. Charges are influenced by factors including the type of assessment (code or impact) and the area of land.
Assessing a proposal for a huge project like Shoreline should be a complex task requiring expertise in town planning and many other disciplines. A large number of documents have to be reviewed and checked for compliance with planning regulations. The Council’s webpage for the Shoreline application shows that there are already about 200 documents lodged (see Redlands City Council PD online MCU013287).
Council’s efforts in assessing and dealing with this application are likely to extend well beyond the analysis of 200 documents. There will most likely be discussions and negotiations with the project proponents and with State Government departments.
If Council is doing its job properly, for a proposal of this scale it may need to conduct its own studies to ensure that the public interest is being safeguarded. This could include investigation into issues like road traffic and the need for major upgrades of road infrastructure.
Council gives Shoreline discount
Shoreline’s $4.4 million (96%) discount in assessment fees was approved under delegation. It seems reasonable to question why decisions of this magnitude are not made by the Council at General Meetings open to the public.
Council’s schedule of Fees and Charges for 2013-2014 includes (on page 23) this list of criteria for discretionary discounts in assessment fees:
- Level of assessment–including applicable zones and overlays
- Likelihood of submissions objecting to the proposal
- Intensity, scope and scale of proposed development
- Number of referral agencies and complexity of referral triggers
- Complexity of the technical requirements in support of the applications
- Anticipated workload
- Political and community interest sensitivity
- Total calculated fee according to schedule compared with fees for similar applications in Redland City
The following information was sourced from Council’s Register of Discretionary Discounts – Approved / Refused 2013/14
MCU013287 Planned Community “Shoreline” Southern Redland Bay (approximately 300ha)
Prescribed Fee: $4,617,962.50
Discount: $4,462,462.50 ( 96%)
26/06/2014 – Memo [name of officer withheld by Redlands2030] Summary – The proposed development involves a development application for a preliminary approval overriding the planning scheme for a master planned community at southern Redland Bay. The developers have indicated that they are seeking to lodge the development application on 30 June 2014. Under Council’s 2013/14 Fees and Charges Schedule, this type of application would require payment of an excessive application fee. The applicant has requested a fee reduction. It is recommended that a fee reduction be approved, and an application fee of $175,520 be required.
Background – The southern Redland Bay area had been included within an Investigation Area under the SEQ Regional Plan 2005-2026, however was removed from this designation and placed into the Rural Landscape and Rural Production Area in the SEQ Regional Plan 2009-2031. The land remains within an Investigation Zone within the current Redlands Planning Scheme 2006 (RPS). Upon placement within the Investigation Zone, Council conducted a number of studies into the orderly development of the area.
Shoreline’s Fee Reduction Agreement
The exact arrangements for Shoreline’s discounted assessment fees were detailed in a Fee Reduction Agreement executed by the Council CEO.
Post Update 7 December 2014
In a comment to this post and elsewhere, the Redland City Council stated on 2 December 2014 that:
A social media report suggesting that Redland City Council has granted a developer a 96 per cent fee “discount” is grossly misleading and ignores significant facts, including Council’s obligations under the Local Government Act.
The information regarding a fee discount published by Redlands2030 in the above post “Council gives Shoreline $4.4 million discount” is factual, accurate and correct having been sourced from Council’s own records.
In the post, Redlands2030 includes reference to the relevant part of Council’s Schedule of Fees and Charges which provides for discretionary discounts. All of the Council’s criteria for discounts were listed in full.
Redlands2030 does not suggest in this post that Shoreline should have been charged the full scheduled fee of $4.6 million.
Redlands2030 does however question whether the actual fee set by Council is appropriate and sufficient.
Council’s comment draws attention to councils’ rights and obligations under the Local Government Act 2009 in relation to charging fees. For example the Council states:
Council’s ability to charge fees is prescribed under Section 97 the Local Government Act 2009, which stipulates that the fees it charges must be for cost recovery only
Redlands2030 agrees that discussion about Council’s imposition of fees and charges should be informed by an understanding of applicable legislation including a careful reading of Section 97 Cost Recovery Fees in the Local Government Act 2009 (commencing on page 92).
Redlands2030 has sought further information from Council about the fees charged to Shoreline for this application and the basis for determining these fees.