A hotel owner who planned to transform his fringe CBD property into a $1.6 billion, 38 story high-rise has not paid rates to Rockhampton Regional Council for “a considerable amount of time” and claims he has to sell company property in Brisbane to pay the $200,000 bill.
James Chang appeared in Rockhampton District Court on June 9 where Rockhampton Regional Council had made an application to force the businessman and his company Chang Holding Pty Ltd to pay $209,740.56 the council is seeking for unpaid rates, unpaid water bills and legal fees for the Rockhampton Plaza Hotel on George St, which has been closed since 2014.
Judge Jeff Clarke said Chang had lodged a defence, but it did not meet any legally acceptable defences, so he struck it out.
Mr Chang told the court he had a lot of questions about the council’s rates, which Judge Clarke directed for Mr Chang to ask outside of court proceedings.
“We didn’t receive our council rates (notices),” Mr Chang claimed.
“We asked council many times we want to receive paper view.
“My son stays in the hotel as groundskeeper. That way we wouldn’t miss our council rates paper (work). Many times we miss council rate discount.”
Judge Clarke asked Mr Chang if he had sought legal advice in regards to the council’s application.
Mr Chang said he didn’t have the money to pay for a lawyer and then told the court he contacted a lawyer on June 8, the day before this matter was due in court, sending all the paperwork he had to a Brisbane lawyer.
“For a considerable period of time, the rates haven’t been paid on this property,” Judge Clarke said.
“Council does not have any obligation to give you the rates document in paper view because the original agreement was a bill pay view.”
Judge Clarke also told Mr Chang the council was not a bank and could not be expected to carry Mr Chang’s debt.
He said there had been a considerable delay in this case with a friend of Mr Chang telling the court in February Mr Chang intended to seek legal advice.
Rockhampton Regional Council’s lawyer told the court council’s stance was an adjournment of the matter would achieve little as Mr Chang did not have the funds to pay the debt.
“We do have the ability,” Mr Chang said.
Mr Chang informed the court he was waiting for other properties owned by his company located in Brisbane to sell which would give him the money to pay the debt.
Judge Clarke granted Mr Chang one more adjournment, telling him he would deliver a judgment at the next court mention on July 16.
In 1993 the hotel sold for $1.9 million and then for $1.5 million in 1988, before it was sold to current owners, Chang Holdings in 1996 for $3 million.
In April 2014, the Rockhampton Plaza Hotel International was temporarily closed so it could undergo a serious refurbishment program with plans to reopen around mid September to early October 2014.
The last review for the 3.5 star motel was in November 2015 where it was reported to be “very run-down”.
Chang Holdings shareholder and director James Chang told The Morning Bulletin in 2019 he had plans for a $1.6 billion, 38 story high-rise building which would include apartment hotels, a school, gymnasium, hotel management college, a five level (4,000 sqm each) shopping centre, a 1600 sqm rooftop restaurant and entertainment venues.
The hotel was planned to reopen in early March, following a $100,000 to $150,000 extensive refurbishment and repair process.
This partnership dissolved in March and Chang Holdings was reportedly looking for new lessees.