By EMMA CORNFORD
IT took less than five minutes on Wednesday night for a Clarence Valley-based investor to reach a bid of $3million for a property at Junction Hill.
In doing so, his company secured the land and set a record price for the Grafton area.
The 91-hectare (224-acre) property on the northern fringe of Junction Hill is believed to have belonged to members of the one family, the Schonbeins, since the 1880s when they migrated to the Valley from Germany.
The youngest child of the original immigrants, Fred Schonbein, was the last owner of the property. He died in May, aged 87. The proceeds from the sale of his estate will go to his nominated charity, an Australian cancer foundation.
Matt Dougherty, principal of listing agent LJ Hooker Grafton, said the the 'phenomenal' sale had exceeded all expectations.
"We expected it to be more in the $1million to $2million mark, rather than the $3million figure," he said.
Mr Dougherty said there were a number of bidders early in the auction, but once the figure hit $2million, it was down to a battle between the eventual buyer and a Sydney-based property developer.
"The bids were coming in thick and fast from them ... and they just countered back and forward, but it was all over reasonably quickly."
Although the immediate plans for the property are unknown, Mr Dougherty said he expected the property would be developed into a residential and commercial satellite suburb of Grafton including shops, houses and possibly facilities including a school.
"I think there could be another 500 houses there in time which would double the size and the population up there and that would certainly call for more facilities," he said.
"The land had been earmarked in the Clarence Valley Settlement Strategy of 1999 ... as ideally suited to a new commercial heart for Junction Hill, but that's obviously a fair while away."
Such a development would require the land to be rezoned from its current rural position of part agricultural/part urban investigation to a full residential zoning.
"(The site) isn't hindered by the flooding potential of Grafton and it has fantastic soil quality and the terrain is perfect with a gentle, slight slope," Mr Dougherty said.
"They should have built Grafton here in the first place (and) if they'd gone another 10km downstream in 1840 then maybe they would have."