Seniors' housing expansion at Ballina approved after appeal
AN expansion of a seniors' housing village has been approved in the Land and Environment Court.
Palm Lake Pty Ltd had initially lodged a development application for an extra 156 dwellings at the North Creek Rd, Ballina site along with recreational facilities, car parking and other works, in June last year.
That original proposal was estimated to cost $38.7 million and went before the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel for consideration.
The panel was awaiting Ballina Shire Council's assessment of the DA, but the proponent brought "deemed refusal" proceedings against the council in the Land and Environment Court.
In a judgment handed down on Friday, Commissioner Danielle Dickson upheld the appeal, approving a scaled-down version of the development which included just 75 new homes.
The DA went on public exhibition from July to August 2018 and a number of concerns were raised.
This included potential flooding and drainage impacts on existing properties, consideration of climate change and extreme weather events, the strain on communal facilities used by the existing 156 dwellings at the site, car parking supply, traffic and pedestrian impacts of the expansion, the impact on nearby wetland and the area's flora and fauna and other issues.
Ms Dickson said the court had earlier heard from a number of Palm Lake residents and adjoining owners.
She said they had raised "the potential impact of the development on local birdlife and wildlife abundance in general, the capacity of the facilities and infrastructure of the existing seniors housing development to service the additional population".
They also highlighted "the potential for stormwater egress from the site to flow into adjoining land and waterways impacting flood levels and water quality" along with other amenity impacts.
Ms Dickson said she accepted the argument Palm Lake Works Pty Ltd's barrister Ian Hemmings that "if the control (requirement) is met, then a more onerous standard cannot be applied by the consent authority".
"That standard, in this case, is the provision of 'an entomological report prepared by a suitably qualified and experienced professional that addresses the risks to humans associated with mosquitoes and associated management measures'," Ms Dickson said.
She said Ballina Shire Council's barrister Jacinta Reid had not persuaded her "that the obligations to maintain the riparian zone ... and maintain bio-retention filters cannot reasonably be complied with".
"The proposed conditions of consent in this matter are extensive in response to the complexity and extent of works proposed," Ms Dickson said.
"A number of these conditions are ongoing conditions that will require attention of the operator of the proposed development into the future."
The conditions include the implementation and monitoring of a Vegetation Management Plan, compliance with the Bushfire Safety Authority, the ongoing management of service providers, personal care, nursing and housework and the provision of a bus for residents.
The council's director of planning environmental and health Matt Wood said it was "of note" that "the number of dwellings approved ... is different from the original proposal lodged with council".
A JRPP spokeswoman said in light of the court decision, the DA was "no longer under consideration by the Northern Regional Planning Panel".
Palm Lake Group CEO Manuel Lang said he had expected the original proposal to add 156 new homes to the 304 existing residences at the Palm Lake Resort Ballina.
He said the 18-month application and legal process cost the group "in the vicinity of $1.5 million".
Planning and environmental lawyer Aaron Gadiel, who represented the developer, said there had been "a greater need to take seniors housing and boarding houses to the Land and Environment Court on appeal" in the past 12 months.
"The good news is that the court has a proven ability to grapple with these issues - even when a very large number of complex issues are in dispute," Mr Gadiel said.
"In this case, Ballina Shire Council raised so many issues that a 113-page judgment was required.
"Nonetheless, the complexity of the matter did not prevent a development consent being granted."