Conflict over fees leaves beds empty
By BELINDA SCOTT
STEVE PROFKE has a $2.5 million nursing home building sitting empty because Coffs Harbour City Council will not give him an occupancy certificate.
Residents are ready to move in to the 37 new beds but the council will not give him an occupancy certificate before he agrees to pay $121,000 worth of developer contributions.
Mr Profke said if the council had processed his March 6, 2003, development application in the five weeks he was advised it would take, he would have had to pay only the $19,547 in developer contributions applicable in April, 2003, and would have saved $100,000 and he had been given no opportunity to take advantage of a moratorium.
The council originally billed him $172,000 under new contribution rates which came in on May 1, 2003.
Coffs Harbour City Council general manager Mark Ferguson said the 12 weeks taken to process Mr Profke's application was not unreasonable for an application of this size and complexity.
The council had acknowledged Mr Profke had been disadvantaged, by reducing the contributions he was liable for from $172,000 to $121,000, and giving him the opportunity to pay half now and the remainder over a three-year period. He said Mr Profke was never eligible for the moratorium because he did not have an existing consent.
Mr Ferguson said although Mr Profke had not received personal advice about the changes, the new developer contributions were a public issue before Mr Profke lodged his development application (DA) and a public meeting on the topic was held in January, 2003.
Mr Profke said although his family company was a business, nursing homes provided a community service and were restricted on the fees they could charge by Government rules and regulations, so unlike normal developers who can raise the put price of their units, he could not recover the cost by adding it to residents' fees.
He said Coffs Harbour City Council was supposed to have a policy of encouraging the construction of more accommodation for aged people and building a larger nursing home created economies of scale in the use of resources like water.
Mr Profke said the extra $100,000 demanded by the council could have been spent on converting more oldstyle nursing home beds to new beds.
Mr Ferguson said developers had been subsidised by the community for many years through low council fees and nursing homes were heavy users of water.
He said Mr Profke had had the opportunity to cancel his project if he could not afford the developer fees.
Mr Profke said by the time he found out about the increased contributions, he had signed contracts committing his company to the multi-million dollar project.
Meanwhile, the new beds at the Coffs Harbour Nursing Centre remain unoccupied.