Ballina Mayor, Phillip Silver.
Ballina Mayor, Phillip Silver. The Sunshine Coast Daily/Jason Dougherty

Mayor under attack over Ramada unit

PHILLIP Silver thought the Ramada Riverside looked like a good investment when he bought a holiday unit there in 2003.

But now the Ballina Mayor has come under attack over his unit, with claims he has acted improperly by owning one of the controversial units while the building's body corporate is pushing to have all units zoned as residential.

Mr Silver yesterday dismissed the claims as a political witch-hunt aimed at undermining his mayoral campaign.

Leading the charge against Mr Silver is former Ballina councillor Marilyn Perkins, who accused the mayor of 'condoning the illegal use' of the Ramada, now known as Riverside Apartments, so failing in his obligations as a councillor'.

That 'illegal use' refers to permanent residents living in 18 of the building's 32 units, well beyond the 11 permitted under a vague agreement between the council and the building's developer. It is that vagueness which is at the heart of the issue over residential and tourist tenancy at Riverside Apartments.

The original development consent for the building failed to specify how many or which units were for permanent residents. Loosely referred-to 'associated documents' included an agreement between the developer and the council that 11 of the units would 'ideally' be available for permanent residents.

Mr Silver said he bought his unit in good faith. His mother also bought one and lived in it.

Mr Silver said he declared a pecuniary interest in the apartment block when he bought his unit five years ago and had been excluded from council decisions relating to it ever since.

“I am entitled to a private life,” he said. “I am speaking entirely as a private citizen and not as a councillor.

“The body corporate lodged the development application to change the occupancy from tourist to permanent residency at the request of the council. The body corporate's advice from the town planner was that there was not anything in the consent that prescribes the level of permanent versus casuals, but it does allow for both.

“My unit is used exclusively for casual bookings. My mother bought her unit in her own right, and she received no advice that there were any problems with her living there.”

Mr Silver said he had signed a declaration, along with other unit owners, to allow the lodgement of a development application to change the occupancy classification from tourism to residential.

Ballina Shire Council General Manager Paul Hickey said the council chose to let unit owners lodge a fresh DA to for the extra residential units when it learned more than the agreed 11 units were being lived in.

Asked if the council botched the original development consent, Mr Hickey said: 'In hindsight, the council could have been more specific' about the occupancy ratio.

That did not impress businesses depending on tourist trade from the building.

Jordan Stotter, of Ballina Booking Service, said it was a 'disgrace' that the issue was not yet resolved and warned he would take legal action for damage to his business if the body corporate's new development application was approved. Other traders are also threatening legal action.

“We think it stinks,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to make sure justice is served.”

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