NO SECRETS: Golf club denies residents kept in dark
THE Grafton District Golf Club has defended itself against claims plans to sell of land for a residential sub-division have been developed in secret to benefit a group of club members.
A resident objecting to the development, Kerry Hughes, said the golf club's general manager Trevor Townsend revealed some of the club's plans when answering a question during a site visit by Clarence Valley councillors prior to the council meeting on Tuesday.
The golf club has submitted a revised planning proposal to the council to have the land which were the former 10th and 11th holes on the course, rezoned to allow smaller block sizes, down from 4000sqm to 1500sqm.
In 2011 a rezoning to allow nine 4000sqm blocks was approved, with qualified support from nearby residents.\
Mrs Hughes said Mr Townsend's response to a question from Cr Peter Ellem on why the club wanted the smaller lot sizes was illuminating.
"Mr Townsend said the reason they needed smaller lots was because some older members thought they would find looking after the larger 4000sqm blocks too difficult," Mrs Hughes said.
She said this revelation made the secrecy around the club's plans make sense.
"The members have not been formally told about this sub-division," she said.
"Apparently there's a map on the golf club wall, which I have not seen, but members have not been formally written to and told the board has now decided it's a better option to go to 16 lots.
"There's all this secrecy about it and because of this secrecy, we're starting to think, hey there's something they're hiding here."
Mrs Hughes said the original rationale for closing the 10th and 11th holes was the insurance risk of golfers hitting balls out of bounds onto Bent St onto cars and houses.
She can't see how building up to 16 residential blocks on the edge of the golf course alleviates this risk.
"How are you going to manage their risk assessment and insurance when you have put all the lots on the block," she said.
Mrs Hughes suspects the club is seeking to maximise the number of lots on the development by stealth.
She said the initial proposal to the council in 2008 was for a 23-lot sub-division, which was then knocked back to nine one-acre lots.
"They didn't get their 23 lots, which was what they wanted," she said. "Then they got their nine lots but that's only a rezoning.
"They can configure the layout of the lots anyway they want.
"We thought that if they get this minimum lot size in of 1500sqm, what's to say they don't come back when they put their DA in but they now say to council we want all of it to be 1500sqm."
Mrs Hughes said while the Gateway ostensibly approved the latest development, which the council voted to have modified, a condition of consent was public consulation.
She said the council had assured residents they would be notified if there were any developments.
She said the only notification had come after the latest proposal had been sent to the Gateway and was coming back to the council.
"I'm sure if we had our say before it went to the Gateway, it wouldn't have gone to the Gateway."
Residents believe the development as outlined in the latest planning proposal will change the feel of the area.
"Instead of having one house opposite, we will have three," she said.
The club president, Trevor Townsend, said the only reason for the club to reduce the lot size was to maximise the return from the sale of the land.
"The golf club is looking to sell a parcel of land and it's not different to any developer in wanting to get the best return on it," he said.
He understood the concerns of the residents in wanting to have closure on this issue.
"It's been in the pipeline since 2003," Mr Townsend said. "But all the time we have followed the council guidelines and we will continue to do so.
"Once we get the letter of determination from the council, which I expect will be in the hands of (land surveyor) Andrew Fletcher today or next week, if we're happy with the letter from the council, I'm fairly confident we will have an amended plan back to the council for their February meeting."
Mr Townsend said while there had been interest from club members in buying the proposed blocks, there was no preferential treatment.
"It's hardly surprising people interested in playing golf would like to own property close to the golf course," he said. "But legally these blocks have to go to public auction and can't be sold directly to members."
He also said there was no secrecy in making these decisions.
"The club had two public meetings with members who agreed the board of directors were the best people to make decisions on the subdivision," Mr Townsend said.
"The level of information sent out to members has been to include information on where the sub-division plans are up to in the annual report.
"Also board members are always at the club and are willing to answer any questions members have."
Mr Townsend said people who had shown interest had been asking if there were smaller blocks than the 4000sqm blocks currently approved.
"As Cr Andrew Baker said at the meeting, 1500sqm blocks are now considered a big block," he said. "And from the comments we've received that's the opinion of a lot of people."
Mr Townsend said the sale of the blocks, which he estimates will sell for between $180,000 and $250,000, will put the club on a more professional footing.
"For the past seven years the club's board of directors have been running the club on a voluntary basis," he said.
"In the 12 years prior to taking that decision, the club had lost $450,000.
"Since then we have made a small profit each year."
He said the proceeds of the sale would enable the club to put in place a more professional management structure, including the appointment of a chief executive officer.