Council backs away from kindergarten land deal

Kindergarten

Playground for the St James Kindergarten located on Council owned land at 7 John Street, Cleveland

Land tenure for the St James Kindergarten playground in John Street Cleveland will be discussed at Redland City Council’s meeting on Wednesday 23 November.

It appears the Council is backtracking from its “in principle” decision on 27 January 2016 (Item 12.1 Mayoral Minute) to negotiate a “lease to purchase” deal with the Lutheran Church who operate the St James Kindergarten.

In late 2015, following community outrage, the Council promised to abandon plans for rezoning and development of various parks and open space areas including the small 656m2 parcel of open space land at 7 John Street.

The jigsaw puzzle

The jigsaw puzzle – the full plan is shown below

This land, owned freehold by the Council, has been used by the Lutheran Church as a kindergarten playground under a permit to occupy agreement for more than 25 years.

But a developer (Raftyard Pty Ltd) who owns land next to the kindergarten playground has continued to lobby Council (and councillors) to buy some of the playground land. The officers report states:

The adjoining property owner, Raftyard Pty Ltd has previously made application to Council to purchase part of this site (approximately half) to enable a more functional use of its adjoining site for their redevelopment.

People speak and the Council listens – for a while

7 John Street's current zoning in PD On-Line (click to enlarge)

7 John Street is zoned Open Space

This block of land was one of 16 parks and open space areas which the previous Council proposed to re-zone and sell off in 2015.

Presumably, Raftyard had been penciled in as the prospective buyer of this particular block.

But many in the community did not take kindly to having the St James Kindergarten crippled through loss of its playground.

Community support for the kindergarten to retain its playground was expressed through a petition supported by more than 600 people.

In January, a few weeks before the election caretaker period commenced, Mayor Karen Williams proposed the “lease to purchase” arrangement because security of tenure over the playground would allow the Lutheran Church to better plan and finance improvements for the kindergarten going forwards.

The Redland City Bulletin duly reported: Cleveland kindy to buy playground land from council.

Most people would have assumed that this was a done deal. But over many months, Council officers appear to have worked hard to come up with reasons why the Council should not make it easy for the Kindergarten to continue operating.

Reasons why not to be helpful

When Mayor Karen Williams proposed in January to let the Kindergarten have a “lease to purchase” deal, her mayoral minute said:

This recommendation complies with all legislative requirements including the Local Government Regulation 2012 and Council Policy POL 3071 – Leasing of Council Land and Facilities which both support leases to community not for profit organisations.

During discussion of the proposal, which can be viewed on the Council’s video recording of the meeting (item 12.1) she said the Church needs security of tenure so they can finance improvements to the kindergarten.

But it seems that some officers in the Council have forgotten that the community wants the kindy to have the playground.

The officers report (item 11.3.4) says it would be inappropriate to provide the Kindergarten with a long term “peppercorn” lease:

Whilst this option may be considered as complying with Council policy to lease land to Community/Sporting bodies at peppercorn rental the fact that the land is being
used in conjunction with a commercial enterprise negates this option.

This argument would have more credibility if some of the peppercorn renting sporting clubs were not sizable businesses selling alcohol, catering for functions and operating poker machines.

As for gifting the land to the Kindergarten, well the officers report says:

The gifting of land to the Church does not fulfil the criteria of an exception [to the Local Government Regulations] as it does not conform to sound contracting principles or that it would pass the public interest test.

John Street Park's zoning is the subject of this petition

Of course if the community wanted to let the Kindergarten have the land then this would pass the public interest test.

So instead of letting the Kindergarten buy the land, over time, the upshot is that these council officers propose that the Kindergarten be given a three year permit to occupy deal.

Such short term tenure would of course suit Raftyard, giving hope that they could continue lobbying Council offiers and councillors in the hope of finally completing this developers’ jigsaw puzzle, to the detriment of the Kindergarten.

At their meeting on Wednesday councillors should make sure that they explore every opportunity to give the Kindergarten reasonably priced long term tenure over this land which Council has already determined to keep zoned as Open Space.

Kindergarten

The jigsaw puzzle – 7 John Street being the missing piece

Redlands2030 – 21 November 2016

 

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email thereporter@redlands2030.net

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 thoughts on “Council backs away from kindergarten land deal

  1. Well Well Well didn’t take long to have Council officers try to get the deals through, I am wondering if it is the Council Development company putting pressure on staff to write a favourable report to give the Council Development company a reason to survive and some money in the kitty.. The community should be aware that Redland Sporting Club I assume is still paying $1 a year, The Sharks about the same, Capalaba Sporting Club, all paying about the same. A few years ago the council of the day recommended that club with pokies pay more yearly but if I recall Mayor Williams amended that decision when she was elected in 2012. The council were even mowing the fields around the club at ratepayers expense.
    What a sham the Council has become, the staff, you would think has an understanding that this land the Kindy uses is Zoned open space not Highrise opportunity. So if old mate who owns the land next door wants it, how will the community know if the price is market value as it wasn’t for open sale or Tender. The land on corner of Wynyard and Shore is in the same boat, someone wants it and buys it, was it a good price , who will ever know, maybe others out there who would have paid more.

  2. Regarding the charitable interest test, I don’t really see a problem, nor any justification for this matter to be raised again.. The church and Kindergarten are eligible to operate in association with a number of eligible tax exemptions that more than satisfy the community purpose requirement and negate commercial claims. Problem solved, but it would be nice to see a positive and proactive, advisory role being taken by our council rather than an adversarial dance that creates private opportunities representing a potential legal drain on limited resources and denies glaring community servicing problems and priorities. What is the essence of local government again?

    I also think it far more appropriate to make available public owned council land to a community interest on a lease or buy arrangement than to surrender it to commercial development interests without equivalent or better accommodations being made to service the normally community prioritized need for which these “gifted” assets and council dedicated lands were intended to be made available for. It obviously cannot be considered surplus with significant demand being made of the asset currently, and obvious community stakeholder impact negating attempt to classify or conveniently relegate the decision as code assessible.

    It might be timely to review local council constitutions to verify what interests are represented by local government with integrity again. I don’t remember any private or commercial stakeholder being entitled to exclusivity or preferment over community interests, especially one (childcare) where there is inadequate provision for existing needs, and state newspaper headlines recently screaming that 1 in 5 were not compliant, requiring greater care and investment of resources to address care provision and compliance issues and reduce extensive waiting lists . In the wake of RCC being expected to facilitate an additional 24,400 jobs, and 38,000 new residents, how will adequate childcare provisions to accommodate even greater population demands be achieved if we are eradicating already inadequate provisions and entertaining commercial options which exacerbate the problem unnecessarily? It makes no sense on any level.

    Last but not least, I find it extraordinary for Council to consider releasing community assets so irresponsibly in the wake of admitted infrastructure shortfalls, and the fact that The Draft City Plan contains population expectations in alignment with a need to INCREASE COMMUNITY PROVISIONING, not SURRENDER LIMITED ASSETS DENYING ANY POTENTIAL FOR THESE TO BE EXPANDED in alignment with increased population needs. What brilliant alternative is proposed to accommodate children and working parents in the future if RCC persists in consolidating Redlands as a dormitory residential corridor providing housing for commuters. Childcare qualified needs are inherent in that land use prescription. There is no availability for increased CBD (central business district) childcare provisions and the social implications of this degree of careless planning negligence is unfathomable to me.

    • It’s difficult to match the above comment so I’ll just say simply, did officers make this change up of their own accord or was someone looking over their shoulder and guiding the pencil?
      Councillors have a chance at the General Meeting to do what they were elected for…represent the people and the long term good of the community.