A Eurobodalla Shire councillor has told Region Media the sale of the former Batemans Bay Bowling Club site should be postponed until the new council is elected in September 2021.
Anthony Mayne, who is seeking re-election, also said council should have informed the community it is seeking expressions of interest (EOI) from developers for the sale or lease of the site before placing an advertisement in the Australian Financial Review last weekend.
Located on the Princes Highway opposite Bay Pavilions – Batemans Bay’s new aquatic, arts and leisure centre – council is marketing the land as ideal for tourist accommodation, conference facilities, restaurants, cafes and residential accommodation.
Mr Mayne said the advertisement took the community by surprise.
“The last time council engaged with the community on this matter was three years ago so I think it was beholden of council to give the community a heads-up,” he said.
In August 2017, councillors decided to endorse the construction of Bay Pavilions on the southern part of the Mackay Park precinct to allow the former bowling club site to be developed. In March 2018, they agreed to proceed with an EOI for the development of the site.
However, the site has been leased to Transport for NSW since 2018 for the construction of the new Batemans Bay Bridge. That lease is expected to expire in July 2022.
In addition, a caretaker period will begin four weeks ahead of the September election, which will prevent council from undertaking big decisions, such as approval of a controversial development, or expenditure or receipt of $150,000.
David Grace, a member of the Labor for Eurobodalla group, which is running for council, said this is all the more reason to postpone the EOI process.
“This is a council living on borrowed time, making decisions that will be difficult for the new council – which will be elected in just three months’ time – to review or change,” he said.
Mr Grace also said council should have consulted the community about its vision for the site.
“Council has not given us the information or the opportunity to make our views known,” he said. “Are council’s plans for the bowling club site the best option and in the best interests of our community? As the collective owners, we need to have our views heard, and be able to see and comment on any council analysis of the use of this site.”
A council spokesperson said now is considered a good time for the EOI given the Batemans Bay Bridge and Bay Pavilions are well underway.
“No decision has been made as to the use of any proceeds of a sale or lease. They are not required to fund the construction of the Bay Pavilions, which is fully funded.”
Council purchased the site in April 2016 for $2.7 million as a community asset.
The building was demolished in 2018 by Transport for NSW as part of its lease agreement.
A 2016 valuation revealed the site was worth more with the building demolished, and the report presented to the council then noted it was more cost-effective for ratepayers if Transport for NSW demolished the building, rather than council demolishing it at the end of the lease.
Council was aware of a number of companies interested in the site following an EOI process in the same year, and expects more in this round now the Batemans Bay Bridge is complete and the Bay Pavilions project is taking shape.
The current EOI is the first stage of a two-stage procurement process that will shortlist respondents who may then be invited to request for a tender process.