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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Old Bowling Club site: still no interest in this Gateway to the Bay

Above: Council advert found in Financial Review After buying the Old Batemans Bay Bowling Club in 2016 for $2.7 million with the community keen to see the club house and bowling greens turned into a community focused facility the community came to a disappointing realisation that they had had the wool pulled over their eyes. Soon after the purchase, that was agreed behind closed doors during a Confidential session of a council meeting that saw no mention of the purchase in either the agenda or the subsequent minutes, the building was purchased from the Catalina Country Club after another purchaser pulled out of the deal realising that the land was heavily constrained and restricted. It is known that there were strong comments made by Councillors of the day during their private debates in the lead up to buying the land in April 2016. The main objection was that it was considerably over priced. The question remains; "Why did Catherine Dale, General Manager of Eurobodalla Council, under delegated authority from Councillors, pay MORE than $1.2m above the Sept 2016 valuation?" It is clear that Council had no intention of continuing to keep the facility for "community recreation'" by their own admission with then Mayor Lindsay Brown saying on April 29th, 2016: “Purchasing this strategic site is a financially responsible investment into the future of Batemans Bay and the shire. There has been strong support for Council to purchase this site for some time and we have already heard a number of suggestions on what can be done with it...... an arts cultural cinema building, conference and event space, tourism accommodation, restaurant and cafes, seniors’ living" It is understood Councillors were privvy to the professional opinion that was offered at the time that the building was non-recoverable and needed to be bulldozed and, at best, the property was worth only $1.4 million for the land component. Eurobodalla Council purchased the Bowling Club site following behind-door discussions. It is understood that councillors at the time privately remarked that they had little option but to endorse the purchase. It is also understood that they were given very little information or time in which to make their decision and that it was not a unanimous decision to purchase the site. The Eurobodalla Council paid $2.7 million dollars for the old Bowling Club only to condemn the building soon after due to it having asbestos. The asbestos issue was negligible as the building had only just been independently assessed by another party offering to buy the building from Council to see it remodeled into an auditorium and community centre with a ten pin bowling alley that would compliment the existing Mini Golf attraction. The cost of demolition was absorbed by the RMS who leased the site for their Bridge construction administration buildings. The valuation of $1.55 million Unimproved Value is dated September 2016. Council paid $2.7m in July 2016. Council were asked in May 2016 "Were market valuations for the site obtained from suitably qualified, independent property valuers? If an independent valuation was obtained, was the price paid greater or less than the opinion of the valuer/s? If an independent valuation was not obtained, how did Council determine what price to pay for the site?" Council's Response: Valuations were obtained from registered valuers and the purchase is being undertaken in accordance with Council's Land Acquisition and Disposal Policy. Council advised they had secured valuations saying "these are commercial in confidence and cannot be released". The Beagle has not found one councillor who has sighted these claimed valuations. Clr Pollock made comment of the time saying "we had no choice" even though he did not vote to buy it (he was absent). The vote to buy the property was done in secret during a Council meeting on the 26th of April 2016. It is understood (though no minutes exist) that Clrs Brown, Innes, Swartz, Burnside voted for the purchase and voting against were Clrs Harding, Brice and Leslight. Mayor Brown used his casting vote. At the time Councillors Pollock and Leslight believed the property was worth $1.2 to $1.5 million (a NSW valuation later that year indicated UV of $1.5 million) The property was however purchased for $2.7m. The news of the purchase of the Bowling Club site from the Catalina Country Club came as good news to the club, as reflected in their 2015 -2016 Catalina Golf Club report: "The high point is our continued financial performance culminating in the sale of the bowling club. From October last year there was a steady flow of interest in this sale with one company provided exclusive rights for 120 days to investigate whether the site was suited to their purpose. During these negotiations a riparian corridor was highlighted as a contract killer. This corridor restricts development within 40 metres of the high water line and resulted in a 30 percent reduction in available land. The deal fell through. There were other offers and each was carefully considered but in the end the board was very pleased the successful bidder was the Eurobodalla Shire Council and this strategically placed asset would remain within our community’s portfolio." Council advised of the old Bowling Club site that: "The former Batemans Bay Bowling Club (BBBC) contained asbestos that was utilised as building materials and as part of the services infrastructure. During the demolition of the BBBC, asbestos impacted soils contamination was identified within the footprint of the former club house. The soil surface of the area has been cleared to be free from asbestos, a marker layer of geotextile fabric installed, and a 300mm capping layer of densely graded base (DGB) placed as a temporary management strategy." They also advised "A second area located in the southern end of the site was used to encapsulate soil that was sourced from the bowling club building. The surface of this area was also visually cleared of asbestos, a marker layer installed and a 300mm capping layer of DGB placed as a temporary management strategy. While the surface soil has been cleared, remediation of the underlying asbestos impacted soils has not been undertaken.

The asbestos found to date on the site is classified as non-friable asbestos material." An additional consideration for any development on the site is that Mackay Park, like the rest of the Batemans Bay town centre, is low lying and a recently completed coastal hazard study has found that the majority of the site is projected to be inundated by a 1% storm event within the period to 2100. For future development on the site to exceed the 1% event, floor levels should be at or above 2.74m Australian Height Datum (AHD). To exceed the 5% event for the 2100 planning period, floor levels should be at or above 2.61m AHD *

(* The current code is to be superseded following the completion of the Open Coast CMP in mid-late 2022. ) How deep would the footings/foundations need to be on the site?

ADCO has installed approximately 450 piles at the adjacent pool site, the deepest was 27.5 metres below ground, the shortest was 9.6 metres below ground, on average most piles were 18 metres below ground. This is consistent with the geotechnical work undertaken to inform the design. The investigation for the Pool complex revealed the presence of groundwater table at relatively shallow depths. The geo tech report stated: "If excavations more than 1.5m (approximately) are proposed, then lowering the water table will be required. Unit 2 sands are assessed to be pervious while the underlying silts are expected to be in a poorly draining category. Dewatering of the sand strata may best be achieved by external dewatering techniques, such as jetted dewatering wells". The report provided its findings for each bore hole and summarises by saying "The groundwater is likely to be hydraulically connected to the McLeods Creek/Clyde River system and is expected to be subject to tidal fluctuations. Given that the sands are pervious, rises in groundwater levels are also possible during extended periods of adverse weather." Further Reading: In May 2021 Eurobodalla Council announced that they were seeking Expressions of Interest submissions from "suitably qualified and experienced organisations or consortia to propose development outcomes for the former Batemans Bay Bowling Club site (referred to throughout the document as the Site) of Mackay Park, Batemans Bay." Council offered that they see this Project "as a catalyst for economic development within the Batemans Bay area and more broadly across the entire Eurobodalla Shire. In particular, the Project presents an opportunity to reinvigorate the Batemans Bay township by delivering major new infrastructure." Council advised any respondents to the EOI that they see the development of the Project on the Site as critical to achieve the following objectives:

· Create a high quality sustainable integrated development on the Site.

· Assist in strengthening the economic base of Batemans Bay and support long term job creation.

· Continue to enhance Batemans Bay’s reputation as a leading tourist destination on the South Coast of NSW. Council in their EIO documents said they have identified, through community engagement, the following as the preferred development outcomes for the Site:

· Conference and events facilities.

· Restaurants and cafes.

· Tourist and visitor accommodation.

· Residential accommodation.

They also said the objectives of the Project are to ensure the Project is delivered at ‘no cost’ or risk to Council over the life of the Project, and to maximise the public benefit and the financial outcome for Council in its dealings with the Site. Anyone viewing the EOI documents win May 2021 would have immediately noted that the building is suggested as having an 8m high podium, a 13m high tower and then another 10m of "Potential" floors bringing the landmark building to 30m. The site is currently constrained by the LEP at 8.5m meaning Council will have to amend its draft Building Height Code for Batemans Bay. Council invited Respondents to provide a detailed rationale should they wish to build above the ‘tower’ level saying "This rationale must be supported with an explanation as to how this will provide community benefits". One possible suggestion might be to have meeting rooms on one level and an exhibition venue on the top floor with a sprung timber floor that could be used for line dancing, Scottish Dancing and Tai Chi. Such an amendment will not phase Council planning staff though when they openly say in their EIO documentation that: The Site is currently zoned as RE2 (Private Recreation) under the Eurobodalla Local Environmental Plan 2012. In preparing and submitting a Response, Respondents should not consider this zoning as a constraint. That is because depending on Council’s assessment of the merits of the proposed development, Council will consider making a planning proposal to change the zoning to support the proposed option(s) provided in the Response. In a nutshell Council wants final say in the design of a building to be built and paid for by a third party and they want to appear as if they are doing it for public benefit while receiving a dividend for being the "land lord".

Transport for NSW, formerly Roads and Maritime Services, (RMS) occupied the Site for their site offices during the replacement of the existing Batemans Bay Bridge. The building of the temporary site offices were preceded by the demolition of the existing buildings on the site. The RMS lease for the site was for three years with a one year option to extend. The initial term expired on 31 July 2021. The RMS lease has been formally extended with a new expiry date of 31 July 2022. This ties in well with the timeline indicated in the EOI documents: Expressions of Interest close – 08 July 2021

Evaluation completed approximately July 2021

Shortlisted Respondents notified – approximately August 2021

Subsequent Process documents issued – approximately September 2021

Subsequent Process closes – approximately October 2021

Contract Awarded – approximately December 2021 But this has all come to nothing it seems with the Bay Post reporting (13th January 2022) that a Council spokesperson has confirmed there were no "suitable" responses to that process.

"No suitable responses were received to the 2021 EOI," they said.

"Council continues to seek suitable interest and will be undertaking a further process seeking interest.

"Interest in the site and its future use will be a matter of consideration and determination by the Council." With Lindsay Brown gone and Liz Innes a distant memory the only Councillor remaining who might know why the site was purchased for such a high price, in such a controversial fashion just happened to be on holiday at the time. There is little doubt that the issue of the old Bowling Club purchase and its future needs to have a Question on Notice tabled so that new councilors can be brought up to speed of exactly what happened, when why and how.

Above: EOI called that offer potential for 30m high tower block on old Batemans Bay Bowlo site.


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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