Cultural divide prompts 'crisis' community meeting
COFFS is a city divided by the cost of arts and culture.
Ratepayers are now set to voice their concern over Coffs Harbour City Council's plans for the $78.6 million cultural and civic space development.
Former Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser will on Thursday night stage a community 'crisis' meeting at Norm Jordan Pavilion at 6pm airing public concerns over the plans.
Mr Fraser called on the council to reconsider its grandiose Gordon St development.
Instead he suggested council build a new art gallery at City Hill, extend the library into the current art gallery space and sell-off council owned properties to upgrade the current council chambers at a reasonable cost to ratepayers.
Just four months since retiring as the local member, after 29 years in politics, and Mr Fraser is back in the fray planning to chair this community meeting on Thursday night over the proposed Cultural and Civic Space.
"Council was divided over this development, councillors were split 4-all and normally in meeting situations basic procedure is that when the vote is tied the status-quo prevails," Mr Fraser said.
"You don't use the casting vote to support a proposed new development," he said in reference to Mayor Denise Knight's move last Thursday night, which will now be countered by a rescission motion at the next council meeting.
"The community now needs some honesty over the tender process and why the office space in the proposed cultural and civic space will be less than what there currently is in the council chambers. So many people are saying the community can't afford this development," Mr Fraser said.
"Interest rates will increase on the project, the concerns of cost blowouts are real, this makes no sense. The plan was developed by a small group of people and we are told there has been extensive public consultation.
"Well I'm a two finger typist, I didn't make a submission on council's website, many people didn't, and based on the calls from the community to act I'm calling this public meeting as council has an obligation and duty to the ratepayers.
Mr Fraser said this Thursday night's meeting, following last week's council vote, was aimed at seeking alternative plans to improve cultural and civic facilities in the city at less of a cost.
"I thought the original $35 million tag was dear, what could be organised is a selling off of the council-owned properties, and throwing the responsibility of streetscaping back onto developers as the council did with Gowings (after the Coffs Central redevelopment).
"This meeting isn't being staged as a stunt. People are pulling me up in the street and asking me to do something about it. Fraser they've said call a meeting so we can voice our concerns.
"I hope there's enough people there to send a message to the council to hey reconsider this development. Council has spent $2 million of our money on this already.
"I would hope there's enough pressure on council to then consider Cr Keith Rhoades' alternative, my option, the plan from Peter Wardman or the alternative put forward by Cr Paul Amos. Give the community a say and put a series of options on the table for discussion.
"Coffs Harbour does not need a Port Macquarie Glasshouse-type development - a massive spend the city can't afford. And the only difference would be that there wouldn't even be a performing space in ours."
Mr Fraser urged councillors to walk the main street and listen to community concerns over the size and cost of this pending development.