OBJECTORS furious about the sale of a publically owned Railway Street block have vowed not to give up the fight despite council claiming “nothing can be done” to reverse the decision.
A rescission motion over the sale was lost in an extraordinary meeting of council at the end of last month, with just four councillors opposing the sell-off.
But councillor Allan Bennett, who voted against the sale, this week said the decision should have been left until after the election and questioned why it was “rushed through” before the caretaker period.
“There’s going to be at least three new councillors after the election and the make up of the new council could have had a very strong bearing on the end result,” he said. “I disagree with the way this has been pushed through so close to an election, particularly when two councillors who voted for the sale are not standing at the election.
“Why was the extraordinary meeting called so quickly? It’s raised some serious concerns in the community that this has been pushed through and people will speak out on September 8.”
Part-owner of Centrepoint Apartments Frank Sergi also spoke out against the decision and said he had taken his concerns to the Minister for Local Government.
“What was the reason they had to have a special meeting to have it pushed through before the caretaker period?” he said. “The block has been sitting empty for so many years, what was the urgency?”
Mr Sergi said he welcomed investment in the city but this development would severely impact struggling local businesses.
“This will probably wipe $5 million off local businesses in town in retail, office space and accommodation,” he said. “We have all these empty shops up the main street already and this is just going to add to the problem.”
He also said the sale had robbed ratepayers of the true worth of the property as it was being sold in a buyer’s market.
“Council sold that land for $250 a square metre, 12 years ago I bought the land for Centrepoint Apartments for $200 a square metre and it’s not in as good a position,” he said. “If they want to sell something they should have sold the farms they bought for residential development. They (council) deserve to fall on their sword for this.”
During Tuesday’s council meeting, Cr Bennett questioned whether the contract could be cancelled during the 90-day due diligence period but acting general manager Max Turner said contracts had already been exchanged and council could not back out of the sale now.
Cr Bennett said “all is not lost” and he would keep fighting the sale and asked the community to make their voices heard at the election.