Writing about the French Revolution, Charles Dickens opened ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ with: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
Fast forward to the Redlands now – it is just the worst of times and the age of foolishness!
Redland City has devised novel ways to deal with public property, especially those bits loved and used by it’s citizens. These incorporate the worst and most foolish ideas possible.
With regard to the wonderful area of open space, beaches, mangroves and healthy, productive bay near Toondah Harbour, the Mayor simply gives it all away.
Not for profit, not to benefit the public, not to help the environment nor improve the quality of life – no the whole lot is given away to a developer for nothing. Although we do get an additional 20,000 cars for our streets, 400 permanent boats for our diminishing bay and many 10 storey, view blocking, bay filling units.
Get ready to collect your set of steak knives but wait, there’s more!
Cleveland CBD foolishness
In Cleveland, at the intersections of Middle, Wynyard and Shore Street West is a large car park. It’s a leafy, shady space that allows easy access to the Post Office, Banks and shopping centre.
It is very much used and appreciated by locals and requires only crossing a single street with a safe pedestrian island to directly access the CBD.
Having such a valuable resource obviously needs attention. So what does our not so clever city do: Sells it.
Yes, the parking area will be reduced by half, the numerous colourful, tall trees removed and a temporary, modular building with “iconic” tower will be built on the site. A real estate agency will occupy the bulk of the construction and other shops will fill the remainder.
But no give away here – well sort of no give away. This busy public facility was given to the Redland Investment Corporation; and then they sold it.
Now in normal cities, the sale of public land is discussed with it’s citizens. It’s often raised as an issue in election campaigns so the public have an idea of what is being planned. In many cases their views are sought.
Not here in the Redlands. Having learnt from the debacle that is Toondah, no public input was needed here nor, in fact, was anyone aware of what was happening until the sale was announced.
So to compensate for the loss of the parking spaces what is proposed?
Possibly, but only possibly, a few spaces may be added to those mainly vacant ones at the Performing Arts Centre. Yes, those wanting to visit the Post Office will be able to park about a kilometre away, negotiate a busy street by a roundabout and walk the full length of the Middle St. CBD. to get their stamps or post a parcel. And the shady, mature trees that will be removed?
No worries there either: they’ll be offset. Like Walker’s offsetting the hectares of Moreton Bay they will destroy by suggesting they might plant something in China’s Yellow Sea, the parking space trees will be offset by a financial contribution to the City. That should provide heaps of shade.
Oh, and, by the way, they’re not mature trees according to Councillor Peter Mitchell, they are “non-juvenile”. He also notes that the sale of the land “is for the benefit of the community”.
Now in normal property sales a valuation is obtained from a professional valuer, the property is placed on the open market and the best price is obtained by competitive offers to buy or for public tender or auction. However, not if you are Redland City.
What you do is get a Council officer to value the property, put it up for an “offmarket/competitive sales campaign” and, apparently, you get a “record sale price”.
And even though the sale is finalised, oddly enough, it really isn’t. According to Councillor Mitchell regarding the doomed trees: “the offsets for this development had not been finalised when you last enquired”.
And the iconic tower that will be a boon to the Cleveland skyline? Well get in early to have a look, as according to the developer “The proposed development is designed as an extended interim land use. It is acknowledged that the site will ultimately be suitable as a more substantial mixed use / residential development, with a height up to 23m (7 stories).” (sic)
Very sick indeed.
So much for openness and transparency and accountability and public benefit.
It would be wonderful to live in the best of times, an age of wisdom.
But it seems that in Redland City we are living in the worst of times, the age of foolishness.
If you enjoyed this post you might like the following post also by Brian Whitelaw: