Bizarre twist in visitor information centre saga
REZONING land simply to extract a better sale price for your property might sound strange at the best of times, but when the owner is the council, it's time to call the lawyers.
The long saga of the former Visitor Information Centre at South Grafton looks set to take a contentious turn as Clarence Valley Council investigates the legalities of processing its own rezoning application.
Unsatisfied with the previous offers received on the Spring St building, council sought an updated valuation based on it being rezoned B5 Business Development.
The site is currently zoned as SP3 tourist and staff note that while it was appropriate at the time of it being a VIC, current zoning "may restrict future development".
The majority of the area surrounding Lot 2 is zoned B5 Business Development.
The property has been on the market since 2018 when it was first passed in at auction and the sale has been vociferously opposed by many in the community, including the Grafton Chamber of Commerce.
At the Corporate Governance and Works committee meeting on Tuesday councillors resolved to decline a current offer on the site, seek legal advice on processing a rezoning application and depending on the advice, rezone the land to B5.
The course of action was recommended by staff because of the situation council would find themselves in as both the applicant and the decision maker.
"Due to council being the landowner with property for disposal and also the authority processing a rezoning application, it is recommended legal advice be obtained about the most appropriate means of preparing and assessing a rezoning application," the papers stated.
Mayor Jim Simmons said it was just a continuation of an attempt by council to "get a better price for the property".
Cr Peter Ellem said the cost of rezoning was "quite modest" in comparison to the better selling price they could get for the land and building.
"So it makes good economic sense to do that and I think we would like to see some closure on this issue," Mr Ellem said.
"This is probably the best way to do it rather than accepting a low offer for the building."
While no councillors asked any questions about the proposal, Cr Karen Toms did say she had some so would withhold her vote until next week's full council meeting.
Cr Arthur Lysaught, Peter Ellem, Jim Simmons and Jason Kingsley voted for the motion and Cr Toms against.