Yarragon will have say on school site
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.”