Secret CBD sale unravels

A CONFIDENTIAL Council discussion to amend local planning protocols and net an extra $1 million from the sale of some prime CBD land is likely to come to nothing, according to Queanbeyan general manager Gary Chapman.

Council decided in a closed session meeting last November to sell the Morisset Street car park sitting behind Homebase and the Tourist Hotel to a Canberra developer proposing a multi-story building. The building would feature a mix of residential apartments and commercial space while retaining the existing number of free, public car parking on the lower levels of the building.

Then in a closed session meeting of Council in December, councillors reviewed an independent valuation of the site, but chose to offer the developer a higher sale price based on an intention to amend the Local Environment Plan (LEP) and raise the restriction on building heights in that area by 50 per cent, from 30 metres to 45 metres.

The Queanbeyan Age

came across the detailed minutes of the December meeting, including Council's asking price for the site, on its website last week. The documents were pulled down a short time later.

However general manager Gary Chapman told The Queanbeyan Age this week that no sale agreement had been reached on the site, and he didn't think one would.

"There are no agreements in place to sell the car park. There's no contract of sale, and it's unlikely to proceed in terms of any sale at this point in time," he said.

"What the Council decision was- we were approached by a developer, and if he delivered up what he was promising, we would give consideration to the possible sale of that land. Now he hasn't delivered, and we don't believe he will."

The Age

has confirmed Canberra man Robert Warren- son of prominent Canberra architect Robert 'Bob' Warren'- as the interested developer. Mr Warren wouldn't comment on his plans for the site this week, saying it was still too early in proceedings. However Mr Chapman said Council had concerns about how the building would be funded and a lack of early design indications.

Meanwhile, Council remains committed to developing the site for residential and commercial use despite three attempts to reach a deal in the last seven years.

Mr Chapman said extending the build height to 45 metres could make the site more attractive to developers, as long as it was done in a way than ensured a "win-win" for the developer and the Queanbeyan community.

"We're still keen to test the market," he said. "And any discussions we have with developers, our first point that we made is that they need to replace the car parking that's already there.

"It would need to be built into a development in addition to any other car parking needs of the developer, and it would continue to be free parking. So it's not as though the community is losing anything.

"But those car parks have valuable air space above them, and if we can get them still continuing as a public car park but use the air space, than that's a win-win for everybody," he said.

If Council followed through on extending the building height restrictions in the CBD, the subsequent LEP amendment would also require a period of community consultation.

"If Council did decide to vary that height restriction, then it goes through an LEP process that involves full community consultation, seeking of submissions and so on," Mr Chapman said.

Should the current sale process not result in a deal, Council will return to an 'expressions of interest' process for the site.

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