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“This asset is offered for sale by Private Treaty,” Dougherty Property’s website. “Expressions of Interest close 4pm June 27, 2019.” Image: courtesy Dougherty Property

Former Grafton VIC sale subject of negotiations

Geoff Helisma |

The sale of the former visitor information centre (VIC) located on the highway at South Grafton is proving to be a difficult sell.

After three failed attempts and a change of real estate agents, the property is now the subject of negotiations between Clarence Valley Council and an undisclosed prospective buyer.

At last week’s June 25 CVC meeting, councillors voted 6 – 3 to “not accept” a current offer to purchase the property and adopted a ‘version’ of the council officer’s recommendation to “provide a counter offer to the potential purchaser … [and] amend the reserve price if the counter offer is not accepted”.

The details of the counter offer and potential amended reserve price are contained within a confidential ‘Offer for Purchase’ document.

Councillor Toms (seconded Novak) attempted to move a motion to reject the offer and do no more; however, Cr Lysaught (seconded Williamson) quickly moved a successful amendment that was virtually the same as the officer’s recommendation.

Councillor Toms argued that “we [should be] acting on behalf of our ratepayers” and said, in her opinion, the confidential price amounted to selling the VIC at a “fire sale”.

She also argued against authorising CVC to make a counter offer.

“If we have a property to sell, [the price] should be here for our community to see,” she said, “so these people [prospective purchasers] know what we are looking for and that what they offered is not enough.

“If this person genuinely wants to buy it they will come back with a counter offer.”

“I’d love to use percentages, but that would give away the low offer; and I’m not happy with the counter offer in the confidential papers … it’s still too low,” she said.

She lamented the state of the building, which she said is “falling apart, grubby and unloved”.

She said that the community and businesses had “provided the building with [their] blood sweat and tears”.

Councillor Lysaught said he hoped the deal is completed and “not brought back” to council.

“It’s common sense to me; if we have an asset not being used, then we need to come to a point where [the sale of] this facility is done and dusted”.

Councillor Baker said it was “important” to him to “reconsider our position”.

He said the value was set by a registered valuer and that “over eight months we have exposed ourselves to the market, which has spoken softy and told us they don’t agree with the valuation”.

“We can say: to not accept less than [than the valuer’s estimate], or we might get the cash by looking at what the market will pay,” he said.

In her right of reply, Cr Toms said: “We can … try harder to do better for our ratepayers; so I hope councillors will reconsider and come up with another away to get more money for our ratepayers and the people who built

[the VIC]

, took care of it and paid for it over the years.

“We should really try harder to get a better deal.”

The VIC failed to attract a bid at an auction in April, 2018.

An offer to purchase the building, then on the market for $1.2million (plus GST), in that same month was declined.

In October 2018, CVC accepted an undisclosed offer; however, the prospective buyer did no proceed with the purchase.

When “the agency agreement with McKimms Real Estate expired, [CVC] advertised for a new agent and Ford & Dougherty Property was selected to market the property”, the report to council stated.

Councillors Lysuaght, Williamson, Kingsley, Simmons and Ellem supported making the counter offer to the prospective buyer; councillors Toms, Clancy and Novak voted against the successful motion.