At next week’s Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors will consider and most likely reject an offer to purchase the former tourism and information centre (VIC) located on the highway at South Grafton.
Staff have recommended to “decline the offer as set out in [the] confidential attachment”.
Each of the previous four offers has been discussed by councillors in confidential sessions.
The building, previously listed at $1.2million (plus GST), is currently on the market for $900,000 (plus GST).
The last time an offer was considered – at the June 2019 CVC meeting – councillors revealed during debate that a valuation of the building was higher than what the market was prepared to pay, or as Cr Andrew Baker put it: “…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.”
On the other hand, Cr Karen Toms said accepting the confidential offer would amount to selling the VIC at a “fire sale”.
She also regarded the amount councillors eventually supported – except crs Toms, Novak and Clancy – in making a counter offer to the unnamed potential purchaser as “still to low”.
Councillor Toms also lamented the state of the building, which she said is “falling apart, grubby and unloved”.
At next week’s CVC meeting, staff have also recommended that the council “seeks legal advice on processing a rezoning application [and] … dependant on the legal advice received, rezone the land to B5 Business Development”.
“The current offer … is subject to development approval,” staff write in the report to council.
“The land is currently zoned SP3 Tourist.
“The proposed use is not permissible under the LEP and, as such, development approval would not be granted.
“The majority of the area surrounding Lot 2 is zoned B5 Business Development.
“This area of South Grafton is a light commercial use area and, whilst the current zoning of SP3 Tourist was appropriate while the information centre was located on the land, it is now considered that the current zoning may restrict future development and restrict the area as a business precinct.
“A number of offers that do not meet the current market price and resolution of Council have been declined.
“Several enquiries for varying purposes have also been received; however, developments proposed are not permissible
“It is considered that the current zoning restricts development potential.
“Council has received an updated valuation based on the current market under the current zoning and zoning under B5 Business Development.”
Former Clarence River Tourism Association (CRTA) manager of 20 years, Bill Day, who has long been a vocal critic of CVC’s tourism policy and selling the building, recently asked CVC’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay (among several other questions): “Why has CVC allowed the VIC to become filthy and unsightly (including the pond) when this must impact on its potential value … .plus it is an eyesore at the front door to Grafton and the valley?”
Mr Lindsay, however, did not directly address the question and advised Mr Day that “any decision to acquire or dispose of council-owned property is a decision of Council and you can find the information you require in our business papers, which are on Council’s website.”
At next week’s CVC meeting staff will advise councillors that “the officer’s recommendation aims to return an appropriate market value for the community when the property is sold” and to “reduce council’s risk of holding vacant property”.