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

Mayor's mum could be evicted

AT LEAST seven residents, many of them elderly and including Ballina mayor Phillip Silver’s mother, may be evicted from the controversial Riverside Suites if Ballina Council rejects an application to convert the upmarket foreshore complex from tourist to residential accommodation.

The original development application specified 32 serviced apartments for tourist accommodation and allowed the possibility of converting a third of these into residential use in the future.

However, up to 18 long-term residents now live in the complex.

The Ballina council’s regulatory services general manager Rod Willis said the authority council would be forced to evict at least seven residents if councillors rejected the conversion application.

“The original consent does not allow for residential use of 18 apartments. If the council refuses the applications, we will go through a process of working out which apartments can and which can’t be used residentially,” he said. “In those cases people may have to vacate residential use and put them back to holiday use.”

He said the higher than approved number of residents put greater pressure on local amenities such as parking.

The application is one of two before the council after it was discovered the developers, Fawcett Park, effectively built an additional 11 units in the upmarket foreshore development without council approval.
The council learned of the extra apartments in 2005, after residents asked the council to permit dual use of all the flats for residential and tourist accommodation.

This led to an inspection by council officers and the discovery that 11 units had ‘dual keys’.
Mr Willis said this meant the units could be divided in two and accessed separately, effectively creating 11 extra apartments.

He said that when the complex was completed the council appointed a private certifier to inspect the development and ensure it met council guidelines.

“There were a range of things that appeared not to be in accordance with council consent,” he said.

“Some of these are quite significant and the council has been pursuing that.”

Mr Willis said the council had since lodged a complaint against the private certifier.

Councils can employ private certifiers to inspect buildings under recent changes to state building and development laws.

The Building Professionals Board, which oversees the private certifiers, investigated the council complaint and cleared one partner of the certification company of any wrongdoing. The remaining partner remains under investigation.

None of the dual key apartments are currently rented separately, but owners of those apartments are seeking approval to use them as single or dual units.

The Riverside Suites, formally badged as Ramada Riverside, became mired in controversy this year when it was revealed that Ballina mayor Phillip Silver and his mother both owned apartments in the complex while the body corporate was pushing to have all units reclassified as residential. Mrs Silver is one of the permanent residents now facing the threat of eviction.

Cr Silver declined to comment when contacted for this story but has previously said he and his mother bought their apartments in good faith.

In an increasingly acrimonious tit-for-tat, restaurateurs in the complex then complained that the high level of residential owners was hurting their businesses.

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