Bunbury CBD deal give council options

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

A decision on what a CBD property – known as the Souths Building – will be used for remains up in the air after Bunbury City Council voted in favour of buying the site.

Tempers flared during debate over the purchase on Tuesday night when the move was even labelled as “bordering on fraudulent” by Cr Betty McCleary who quickly withdrew the comment.

The cost of the sale is still being kept under wraps with Mayor Gary Brennan saying it will be released to the community as soon as an offer of acceptance is signed by the South family.

But the decision included the purchase being funded from the council’s Building Restoration and Maintenance Reserve, proceeds from a recent sale of a drainage reserve and the 2017-18 Budget closing surplus – indicating a price around the $2 million mark.

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While the debate was at times fiery with councillors Brendan Kelly, Karen Steele and McCleary voicing concerns on burdening the community with the supposed debt from the purchase, the decision to buy the building was a landslide eight to three vote.

Arguments in the “for” campaign included the “strategic importance” of the site into the future and the move being a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

Cr Todd Brown said it was conceivable the transaction would be the “catalyst” that drove the next phase of investment in the city, while Cr Tresslyn Smith said it was an opportunity not to be missed.

“We’ve got to be bold, we can walk and chew gum at the same time ... we’ve got to look to the future,” Cr Smith said.

Mr Brennan told the South Western Times the purchase provided one of the biggest – if not the biggest – single land holdings within the CBD at about 6000sq m.

“So that gives the current council, and possibly more likely future councils, a great deal of options in regard to what sort of developments could occur there,” Mr Brennan said.

He said the city’s new town planning scheme which encouraged infill development and plans for a Civic Cultural Precinct would be taken into consideration for the building’s future, but no decision had yet been made.

Mr Brennan said he was “sure” the council would look at an initial use for the building until plans for a Civic Cultural Precinct were locked in.

A commercial agent has advised a single-use would be the most attractive option.

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