New chapter in Roundhouse saga
Mayors have come and gone. Councillors have come and gone. General managers have come and gone.
What hasn’t gone away for Byron Council is the deadweight hanging from its corporate shoulders, the Roundhouse site at Ocean Shores.
After more than 20 years as a major and costly irritant, it continues today to be a thorn in the council’s side with the decision last Thursday, after community agitation, to defer a decision on pressing ahead with plans to subdivide the prime hilltop 1.39ha site.
That decision was welcomed by the Ocean Shores Community Association (OSCA) and the Ocean Shores Arts Expo, which want the site to be redeveloped as a regional art gallery and other community purposes. Both groups say local residents were not properly consulted by the council on the future of the site.
They have invited all councillors and residents to a public meeting on the issue at the Ocean Shores Country Club next Monday at 7pm.
OSCA life member, Frank Mills, said it was important the site be retained for community purposes, because there was no other acknowledged community land at Ocean Shores.
Mr Mills said the council’s decision last week offered some hope the site could be retained and he urged residents to attend Monday’s meeting and put their views forward.
Following a long legal battle, the Land and Environment Court in 1990 ordered the council to buy the property following a 1988 ‘community use’ rezoning of the site. That rezoning allowed the owners to serve notice on the council to purchase the site – a notion rejected by the council of the day and which led it to court.
In the end, the whole sorry saga cost the council – and ratepayers – around $4m, including legal fees. As well as court cases, the long-running and complex issue led to a damning local government inspectors’ report, criticism in State Parliament and referrals to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. In 1994, the then mayor, Cr Ian Kingston, used his own casting vote to survive a motion of no-confidence in his handling of the issue.
Two years later, the council put the site up for sale by tender but could not attract an offer near the reserve price.
In 1997, it voted to subdivide the site into 15 residential lots after considering medium density (units) and a retirement village options. That obviously never happened. Then in 2004, the council voted to subdivide the site into 11 lots which eventually led to last week’s staff recommendation to push on with the subdivision with an estimated return of more than $4 million for the 11 lots.
The final chapter is still to be written.