The ACT Supreme Court. Photo: Graham Tidy
Developers behind plans for an overhaul of church land in Narrabundah are facing a change-of-use charge of more than $2 million.
An ACT Supreme Court judgment handed down on February 12 refused an appeal by the Macedonian Orthodox Church Inc regarding the change of use charge calculated by the ACT Planning and Land Authority.
The debate over the controversial charge, also known as the lease variation charge, is the latest legal development for the project, which was first outlined more than a decade ago.
The church outlined its intentions to deconcessionalise its lease on the Narrabundah block in 2011, which would allow the land to be subdivided.
Plans for the land - which fronts Goyder Street, Leahy Close and Hindmarsh Drive - included the establishment of the church's Australian quarters. The ''church block'' would host a bishop's residence, community hall and parking space as well as a bell tower and baptismal pool.
The remaining block was pitched for a multi-unit residential complex.
The beleaguered project first met opposition in 2006 when Narrabundah residents began threatening legal action over the proposal.
A development application was initially approved, but the ACT Administrative Appeals Tribunal overturned the decision after pressure from residents in 2008. A further appeal by the church led to a decision the following year that the original approval stand.
The church paid $300,000 to deconcessionalise the lease, allowing the subdivision of land, in April 2011.
Six months later, it was informed of the $2,058,750 change of use charge calculated by ACTPLA.
The church sought a review of the determination of the charge in the ACT Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Over the course of the proceedings it was agreed that the ''before value'' of the land was $2,795,000 and the ''after value'' was $5,540,000. Using those figures, the change-of-use charge was calculated at $2,058,750.
The tribunal rejected an appeal by the church that the cost of the church works on the church block was to be deducted from the ''after value'' of the land, and confirmed the cost.
The church appealed that decision, claiming there were several errors in the tribunal's conclusions, but ACT Supreme Court Justice John Burns refused it and ordered the church to pay the costs of the appeal.
Numerous attempts were made to contact the Macedonian Orthodox Church and its legal representatives, but no response has been received.