Vacant lot rate debts written off
The Shire of Coolgardie will write off over $500,000 worth of rates for vacant lots in the town, after councillors voted in favour of the plan at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Despite a lengthy debate, the Shire voted 4-3 to surrender 78 properties to the crown and auction off 12, while leaving the decision on a further 120 for a later date.
The decision was halted at last month’s meeting as councillors wanted to view the properties in question.
But the motion was still met with opposition, despite councillors conducting an inspection of the properties last Wednesday.
Deputy president Tracy Rathbone moved to stand down the decision until they received the town’s planning strategy, as the lots could be incorporated into the proposed “lifestyle blocks”.
“Once we give land away to the government it is going to be very difficult to get it back,” she said.
Ms Rathbone was cautious to approve the plan in case Coolgardie experienced a boom.
However councillor Norm Karafilis said the Shire should use the plan as a test for the remaining 120 lots.
“There hasn’t been any action on this land since the 1880s,” he said.
Councillor Betty Logan said more public consultation was needed before a decision was reached, but Councillor Kris Johnson disagreed saying the public had the last two months to make enquiries. Shire president Malcolm Cullen said they should not lose the opportunity to recover rate revenue while they had it.
Administrative services manager Rhonda Evens said the lots were worth $5000 to $6000 in auction, so they would have to sell them at twice that to make back their loss of rate revenue.
It was proposed that a consultancy service would be used to start the process of selling the properties.
The Shire began conducting title searches on the 220 vacant lots in 2010, with the owners identified and billed for rates backdated to 2005, however letters went unanswered.
Shire chief executive Paul Webb told the Kalgoorlie Miner the need for ongoing access to Commonwealth funding had forced the decision.
With many Federal grants assessed on the Shire’s rates base, Mr Webb said any oversupply of vacant blocks could distort the outcome for Coolgardie.