By Jess Baker
The developer of a multi-million dollar housing subdivision in Warwick has accused Southern Downs Regional Council of illegal and unreasonable conduct after it resolved to sell land for unpaid rates.
Located off Yangan Road, the 58-lot Aleva Estate formerly known as St George Springs was acquired by Brisbane-based developer Terry Seirlis of UKL Innovative Developments in 2017.
At the time of purchase, Terry said homes within the estate were not connected to electricity, sewerage, and other basic services. So, he decided to hold off on selling them.
“I didn’t want to sell any homes to people if there was incomplete work, even though they did have titles,” he said.
In February 2021, Terry said SDRC resolved to reclaim and auction 38 properties at Aleva Estate to recover “alleged overdue rates and charges” for the period of time before “critical services” were provided.
“The subdivision was signed off and levied as if it was ready for occupation and fit for residential purpose in the absence of all works required by the council’s own regulations,” he said.
“UKL has made a written offer to pay all outstanding rates and charges from the date all works were completed and compliant but the company considers all fees prior to that point are unfair and not to mention unlawful.”
A SDRC spokeswoman confirmed the council resolved to sell land for unpaid rates at its ordinary meeting in February, but the details of which land is involved and whether any Aleva Estate blocks are involved is not yet public knowledge.
“It is quite often the case that the outstanding rates are paid and many of the properties don’t make it to auction, and it is for this reason that the information is not made public at the time,” she said.
Terry claimed that while he has been in frequent communication with SDRC since he acquired the project, he has “never really had a proper response” as to why and how SDRC issued the final titles without works being completed at the estate.
“The sale notification is another act of negligence, it’s unnecessary at best, bullying at worst, and the company’s hopes of an amicable resolution are fading,” he said.
“UKL has been open and conciliatory but the council has been unresponsive to the issues since 2018 and failed to appropriately attend to multiple phone calls, emails, letters and invitations.”
A SDRC spokeswoman said there is in fact a large volume of communication and correspondence on the matter.
“Not getting the answer you want is not the same as being unresponsive,” the spokeswoman said.
“It is only as a last resort that (the) council moves to sell land for unpaid rates and always after a comprehensive process to find an alternative solution.
“… It needs to be noted that rates have to be outstanding for at least three years before such action can commence.”
The council spokeswoman said UKL bought the properties at Aleva Estate after the titles had been created and rates had already been levied.
“Titles were obtained by the original developer prior to UKL Innovative Developments purchasing the properties,” she said.
“There were already rates owing on the land when UKL Innovative Developments purchased it. It is not (the) council’s role to obtain titles.”
The SDRC spokeswoman said communication with UKL includes an offer made to the company to review the council’s decision that the rates remain outstanding and it is therefore evident that there has been no lack of communication.
“(SDRC) always tries to negotiate an acceptable outcome for the settlement of rates in arrears,” she said.
“It is obvious that (the) council does not share UKL’s opinion that the rates referred to are either unfair or unlawful.”
Terry said that he is more than willing to pay his “fair share”, but he will not be “pushed around” by the council and will take the matter to court if need be.
“If they choose to pursue it, then I’ll defend it. I’ll be left with no choice,” he said.