What does "at this point in time" mean? Clr McGinlay, in talking to the issue of Council's having called Expressions of Interest to lease the Batemans Bay Community Centre and move community groups to alternate venues, said: "One of the concerns that I heard when I was at the [public] meeting referred to by Councillor Mayne was fear that leasing was just the start to a future proposal to sell the center. I note that the general manager in one of her answers said "at this point in time were only looking at leasing the centre" which leaves that potential to sell it on the table at some future time". The General Manager had said "My understanding is, and Mr Greenway can correct me if I am incorrect, but as we are talking about leasing only, that the fact that it is Operational land as opposed to Community land makes no difference to a potential long term lease. It would if it was for sale but AT THIS POINT IN TIME all we have sought are expressions of interest for leasing". Opening today's discussion around the Council intention to pursue leasing (and sale) enquiries from unnamed external agents Councillor Mayne asked: "Why were unsolicited groups simply not told that it was simply not for lease?" "That goes to the heart of this" Clr Innes showed little interest in backing down from the Council staff position of proceeding with calling for expressions of interest in leasing when she said "It is unfortunate that members of our community are upset about this but it is part of having open and transparent communications and dialogue with our communities". The General Manager advised "There are certain delegations to staff but I considered that this was an issue that the Council should consider as the governing body. So circumstances change and having had some requests for leasing, and some for sale, but in this case leasing that we thought it appropriate, that I thought appropriate, that this is in fact an issue for Council, as a governing body, should make that determination." During the issue Clr Maureen Nathan had attempted one of her standard and predictable "Dorothy Dix" questions that would have "highlighted" the efforts made by staff to find alternate venues for the users of the Community Centre. Her preamble appeared to attempt to discredit any feedback from the community that the venues on offer were not best for purpose. Rambling on she was cut short and asked to rephrase question and keep it succinct and relevant to the answers given by staff to Clr Mayne's Question on Notice. Of benefit, however, Clr Nathan managed to identify, intentionally or otherwise, that one of the revelations made by staff was that other Council facilities being offered as alternates were underutilised. This raises the question of the financial performance of the other venues. The Batemans Bay Community Centre runs at a profit with income from venue hire covering overheads. The same might not apply to the other venues on offer managed by Council and as such the economic rationalist might move to redirect Batemans Bay Community Centre users to these venues to maximise their operations while also benefiting in the lease, at market rates, of the Community Centre. What was revealed by the General Manager was that there had been unsolicited enquiries for both lease AND SALE of the Community Centre. This clearly brought alarm bells for Councillor Mayne who suggested that such solicitations might be forthcoming by way of the fact that the zoning of the land the building is on as B4 Mixed use: Zone B4 Mixed Use
1 Objectives of zone • To provide a mixture of compatible land uses. • To integrate suitable business, office, residential, retail and other development in accessible locations so as to maximise public transport patronage and encourage walking and cycling. • To reinforce the role and function of Batemans Bay as the major regional centre in Eurobodalla. It is not known who the solicitations came from for the leasing or purchase of the Batemans Bay Community Centre however it could be from any of the following sources: Permitted with consent
Amusement centres; Boarding houses; Centre-based child care facilities; Commercial premises; Community facilities; Educational establishments; Entertainment facilities; Function centres; Hostels; Hotel or motel accommodation; Information and education facilities; Medical centres; Oyster aquaculture; Passenger transport facilities; Public administration buildings; Recreation facilities (indoor); Registered clubs; Respite day care centres; Restricted premises; Roads; Seniors housing; Service stations; Shop top housing; Tank-based aquaculture; Tourist and visitor accommodation; Councillor Mayne was clear in his question "Does the zoning create this issue - if it was zoned otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion". Directly adjacent to the Community Centre is the Batemans Bay Heritage Museum who have just been granted a 20 year lease on their building. The question could be asked "Why doesn't Council consider selling that building as well?" The answer is that the NSW Police donated the old Batemans Bay Police Station to the community so that it could be relocated to its current site UNDER the condition it NOT BE SOLD. While both community owned buildings in Museum Place are on land zoned as B4 the Community Centre is classified as Operational while the Museum and adjacent Water Gardens are classified as Community. This may be a relic of an earlier response by Council to meet the leasing request offered by a local employment agency made . During Public Forum Councillors heard two presentations. The first delivered by Henk Roubos on behalf of Dr Sue Mackenzie of Perfex and the second delivered by Coral Anderson. Most disappointingly Councillor James Thomson stood up and left the Zoom presentation by Ms Anderson without any apology and only returned when she had finished.This does not sit well in light of the revelations he also selectively blocks incoming emails to his official email address from members of the public and from The Beagle. A Code of Conduct complaint is currently in process on this issue. During this morning's discussions around the leasing and sale of the Community Centre McGinlay said that council received over 30 submissions on the matter in total saying "this is very unusual for Questions on Notice rather than a report so there is obviously a high degree of interest within the community, and I'd just like to note that". "One of the concerns that I heard when I was at the meeting referred to by Councillor Mayne was fear that leasing was just the start to a future proposal to sell the center. I note that the general manager in one of her answers said "at this point in time were only looking at leasing the centre" which leaves that potential to sell it on the table at some future time". Councillor Mayne suggested that the revelation of Expressions of Interest being sought had caught the community by surprise. Of this the Mayor responded "That's a fairly subjective type of description. I think there are those in the community, that as I said have been aware that this potentially is something we have been investigating for a very long time" Hilariously during the discussion Clr Lindsay Brown butted in on a supposed point of order from what Councilor Mayne suggested came "from the cheap seats". Appearing hurt Clr Brown sought an apology. For those unfamiliar with the expression "cheap seats" it is a metaphor for a person's point of view when they are not directly involved in a situation, but wish to comment on it anyway. In the case today, the butt-in from Clr Brown was a reasonable point of order challenge, however, all too often his comments made during council meetings are from the "cheap seats" and most often directed at Clr Mayne. The next step in this debacle will be when Council staff bring a report back to the councillors on the Expressions of Interest. This will be an agenda item, and as such will see further public submissions and presentations, especially if staff recommend leasing the building. Ideally for the community the issue should come to Council in a fortnight after Councillor Mayne foreshadowed a motion to reclassify the Community Centre land back to Community and to offer the community a long term assurance (as has been done with the museum) that the Centre will remain in the community's hands for community use as was intended. An old trick, practiced by Council however, and most often by previous General Managers, is to delay public momentum so expect that Council will delay this for as long as possible. This could work to the community's advantage with more time to mount a protest against any leasing sending a clear signal to any prospective lessees that their presence will not be welcome. The message also being delivered at present that the Batemans Bay based councillors appear to be absent is also gaining momentum and the next phase of the campaign to "Save the Community Centre" will see the presence of new candidates standing behind the community to oust any councillor who choses to support the lease or sale.