Yar­ragon will have say on school site

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - NEWS - by Yvette Brand

The Yar­ragon com­mu­nity will get its chance to have a say in fu­ture uses of the town’s for­mer school site.

Baw Baw Shire Coun­cil has been given six months to con­sider whether it wants to pur­chase the for­mer school site.

Coun­cil will now work with the Yar­ragon com­mu­nity to iden­tify pos­si­ble fu­ture uses of the site.

The for­mer school site in Rollo St is owned by the Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Depart­ment.

The Fast Track Govern­ment Land Ser­vice has pro­posed to re­zone the land from pub­lic use to gen­eral res­i­den­tial, with the in­ten­tion to sell the land.

At its meet­ing in May, coun­cil called for a six month stay on re­zon­ing and sale of the site.

Coun­cil wrote to two state govern­ment de­part­ments urg­ing them to de­lay the re­zon­ing and sale un­til coun­cil and the com­mu­nity iden­ti­fied fu­ture plans for the site.

Act­ing cor­po­rate and com­mu­nity ser­vices di­rec­tor Mal­colm Lewis said coun­cil was no­ti­fied last week it had been granted a six month ex­ten­sion for the First Right of Re­fusal (FROR) process to con­sider pur­chas­ing the site.

The six-month ex­ten­sion will ex­pire on Fe­bru­ary 23, 2018.

Mr Lewis said the Vic­to­rian School Build­ing Au­thor­ity sup­ported the ex­ten­sion to al­low coun­cil more time for com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion to de­ter­mine if there might be an ap­pro­pri­ate com­mu­nity use of the site.

“Coun­cil is pleased with the ex­ten­sion of time and in­tends to work closely with the Yar­ragon com­mu­nity,” he said.

Mr Lewis said coun­cil’s prop­erty man­age­ment and strate­gic plan­ning team would work to­gether on a game plan for com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion in the near fu­ture.

“We are work­ing re­ally closely with Yar­ragon com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives on this so we’ll de­tail more in due course,” he said.

Yar­ragon com­mu­nity ac­tion group mem­ber Brian O’Rourke wel­comed the de­ci­sion.

He said com­mu­nity mem­bers were keen to work with coun­cil and dis­cuss the op­tions avail­able for fu­ture uses.

“It’s won­der­ful news. We want the site to be some­thing that can be an as­set to the com­mu­nity,” he said.

He said through con­sul­ta­tion, coun­cil will give ev­ery­one a chance to have their say on the site.

Mr O’Rourke said a num­ber of peo­ple had al­ready put for­ward sub­mis­sions out­lin­ing their pro­pos­als.

He said there were a num­ber of ideas in­clud­ing a re­cre­ation re­serve with an out­door gym, sus­tain­abil­ity hub and an his­tor­i­cal cen­tre.

“We just want it to be a com­mu­nity cen­tre. Over the next few months peo­ple will be able to say what they want,” he said.

Coun­cil orig­i­nal dis­cussed its first right of re­fusal on the site dur­ing a con­fi­den­tial meet­ing in De­cem­ber 2015.

In­for­ma­tion about coun­cil’s dis­cus­sion was not re­leased un­til this year when the pro­posed re­zon­ing and sale were on the ta­ble.

In a let­ter to the state govern­ment in March last year, coun­cil said its pref­er­ence was for “coun­cil to pur­chase and con­trol the fu­ture use of the site, rather than the likely sce­nario of it be­ing sold for res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment.”

“Coun­cil is pre­pared to pay the ap­pli­ca­ble mar­ket rate as as­sessed by a cer­ti­fied val­uer and is not look­ing for or seek­ing a dis­counted rate.

“In short, coun­cil con­sid­ers this a key strate­gic site and does wish to ex­plore, if pos­si­ble, pur­chase di­rectly from the depart­ment,” the let­ter stated.

Com­mu­nity groups and mem­bers have been lob­by­ing coun­cil for a num­ber of years, since the school re­lo­cated to Loch St, so that the Rollo site could be used for com­mu­nity pur­poses.

Mayor Joe Gauci has pre­vi­ously said there had been a lot of in­ter­est in pro­posed uses for the site that were raised dur­ing con­fi­den­tial dis­cus­sions with the depart­ment.

“Ideas such as a car­a­van stopover point, a hot air bal­loon­ing mu­seum and ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre or other ed­u­ca­tion pur­poses were sug­gested, but would never take place with­out ex­ten­sive com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion.

“We want to re­as­sure the Yar­ragon com­mu­nity that we all have the same com­mon goal, to keep this much loved as­set avail­able for the com­mu­nity to use and not sold off to be re­zoned.”

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