Council split on Butler Court sale

MITCHELL Shire councillors were divided at last week’s ordinary meeting over a proposed sale of land at Butler Court in Wallan.

The council-owned land at 7 Butler Court was proposed to be sold to enable the development of land at 6A Butler Court.

An officers’ report found the land had never been used for council or community purposes and did not have a designated council or community purpose in the Wallan Structure Plan, making it surplus to council requirements.

The proposal for the sale of the land included the building of an access road at the southern end of the court.

The proposal passed by five votes to three, with Mayor Rhonda Sanderson and councillors Annie Goble, Fiona Stevens, Bob Cornish and Nathan Clark supporting the motion, and councillors Christine Banks, Bill Chisholm and Louise Bannister opposing it. Cr Rob Eldridge did not attend the meeting.

Cr Goble said the land, valued at an estimated $245,000 in May 2019, would be used to improve access to the area.

“The sale of the land is not for any benefit to the developer, the sale of the land is to improve the access and egress from a development estate area where if this was not utilised as an exit/entrance or a road, then there would only be one exit/entrance,” she said.

“It makes the area safer and is certainly for community benefit.

“It is a decision that has been made to sell off what is a redundant piece of council land to vastly improve the access and egress from a housing estate. If people are in any way concerned they can look at the plans and realise that it is for the positive benefit of the community down there.”

Cr Chisholm spoke against the proposed sale, noting the objections of Wallan resident Mel Egan, who made the lone submission to the council report.

Ms Egan said the land should be sold on the open market to promote transparency and accountability from council.

“Community consultation is all important,” Cr Chisholm said.

“[With] this agreement between the developer and council, I think we’d get a far better outcome if the process was open and transparent and it went to a public auction or was handled through a real estate firm.

“I’d like to suggest this be brought back to council in another form.”

Cr Banks also cited concerns about council transparency in opposing the sale.

Council development and infrastructure director Mike McIntosh said the sale of the land followed standard procedure for local government.

“Whilst [the land] is zoned residential, there’s an approved development plan immediately to the south that requires this access that was considered by council and supported, so for any future use [of the land], we as a planning authority would be looking at a use that would enable that to be realised,” he said.

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