On 9 August 2012 the Coffs Harbour City Council voted “not to quarantine the City Hill site for an Entertainment Centre and Art Gallery”.
As part of its deliberations at that meeting Council also considered a plan to subdivide and dispose of lower City Hill and to also approach the federal Government to remove the covenant covering this section of the property.
By the Editor
The agenda for this meeting makes it clear senior executives of Council had been looking at this for some time prior and that part of City Hill, at least, was being eyed off to help fund Future Major Civic Infrastructure (FMCI) such as a new Art Gallery, Museum, Entertainment Centre and also possible new Council Chambers in and around the CBD.
City Hill was defined as not being in the CBD.
The recommendations were based on a report prepared for Council by Savills Project Management which was delivered in March 2012.
Interestingly at the same meeting it was moved that 23-31 Gordon Street, the proposed site of the Cultural Centre and new Council Chambers, be disposed of. The motion to do this was moved by then Councillor Denise Knight shortly before she was elected Mayor in September 2012.
The Coffs Coast Outlook reported on the move to sell 23-31 Gordon Street seven years ago here on 21 September 2018.
We did not report on the plan to subdivide and dispose of lower City Hill then though.
Further recent research of Council minutes brought this to our attention. Although a commentator on the above story, Prarire Rose, was obviously ‘onto it’.
The following is sourced directly from the agenda of that 9 August 2012 council meeting;
“b) Lower Section of City Hill
The adoption of the recommendation to sell the lower section of City Hill is based on the assumption that it will not be required for the provision of FMCI (Future Major Civic Infrastructure). If this is the case then it is surplus to Council’s needs, and being outside the CBD will not be affected by the outcome of the CBD Master Plan. Funds generated may assist with the future provision of FMCI in the CBD.
For the lower section of City Hill to be sold, the following would be required:
1. A new Council resolution to overturn Council’s resolution of October 2010 (referred to earlier in this report).
2. Finalisation of the subdivision that splits the lower section from the hill section. Subdivision approval was obtained in October 2010, but has not been acted upon due to the above resolution of Council.
3. Negotiate with the Commonwealth for removal of the Covenant that affects part of the property. From previous discussions with the Commonwealth on this issue, it is likely that funds from the area affected by the Covenant would be quarantined for use on cultural facilities in the CBD.
4. A decision on how to best market the land in accordance with probity guidelines.” (From page 40 of the minutes).
So what does this all mean?
It means that for at least seven years, probably longer, Council had wanted to use at least part of City Hill to help underwrite Future Major Civic Infrastructure such as the proposed Gordon Street Cultural Centre and new Council Chambers.
It also means Council wanted to use at least some of City Hill for purposes other than what was originally negotiated with the federal Government.
Also, does it not possibly suggest that Council may have seen that if lower City Hill could be subdivided then at some later time so might the rest of it be subdivided too? And what might this mean for those who want City Hill ring fenced because of their belief it is a ‘unique ecosystem’?
It also clearly shows, however, Council was planning for new Council Chambers at least seven years ago.
Most of this information would probably not be known by most Coffs Harbour ratepayers even though it is available through publicly available sources like Council minute archives.
Interestingly the report also lays bare the situation Council was in financially in 2012;
“Council is well aware of its current financial position which is unsustainable into the future. Staff have been preparing long term financial plans to address this major issue. Without substantial grant funding from the State or Federal Government (or both), Council currently cannot afford to build, maintain and operate these facilities*. That does not mean that Council should not plan now for their future provision.”
This in turn refers to the 2012 estimates of the following potential major civic infrastructure;
“The following cost estimates are only a guide and are based on freestanding construction on a level serviced greenfield site owned by Council. They do not include fit out, furniture or equipment.
1. Council Administration: “Civic Style” Green Building 7,650 m2 building yielding about 6,000 m2 of nett space plus 100 basement car parking spaces – $39 million.
2. Library: 2,500 m2 building yielding about 2,000 m2 of nett space plus 60 basement car parking spaces – $12.5 million 2,500 m2 building yielding about 2,000 m2 of nett space plus 60 at grade car spaces – $8.8 million.
3. Art Gallery: 2,200 m2 building yielding about 1,800 m2 of nett space plus 50 basement car parking spaces – $11 million 2,200 m2 building yielding about 1,800 m2 of nett space plus 50 at grade car spaces – $7.8 million.
4. Entertainment Centre 5,000 m2 Centre with 100 space basement car park – $29 million 5,000 m2 Centre with 100 space at grade car park – $25.5 million. (our emphasis added above).”
Current Councillors Townley, Amos, Swan and Adendorff were not Councillors in August 2012.
*(Editors note; Councillor Rhodes said at the recent July 25 2019 adjourned Council meeting that he has been informed that no Government funding is available for any Council building that includes administrative chambers).
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