Six months after announcing its decision to sell the former Marketplace Shopping Centre (also known as Kibbleplex), Gosford Council has still not disclosed details of the building’s future to the community.
The building, located in Henry Parry Dve and currently vacant except for the roof and one storey used for free commuter car parking, was purchased by Gosford Council in 2011 to be redeveloped into a community hub and regional library. In July 2015, Council’s chief executive officer, Mr Paul Anderson said: “For almost two years we have been trying to work out what to do with the building and how we would finance and structurally alter that building to enable us to potentially look at a library and a university presence.” Council resolved to sell the building and find another location for a regional library, smart work hub and university presence.
Between July and December, Coast Community News made multiple requests to Mr Anderson and Gosford mayor, Cr Lawrie McKinna for more information about the sale of Kibbleplex following community concern. Each time the answer was that they would make the details of the sale public when the contract was signed or that they could not divulge information because of the commercially-sensitive nature of the transaction.
In October, Cr Vicky Scott gained support for a motion for Mr Anderson to present a detailed report to an open council meeting by the end of November outlining: purchase price of Kibbleplex and the way Gosford Council paid for the property; why the property wasn’t put out to tender, or for expressions of interest; why there was no public consultation; whether the property has been sold; who the purchaser is; what is the purchase price; and what is the intended use of the money realised. In response to the motion, a report was attached to the minutes of the ordinary meeting of Gosford Council from November 24, 2015.
However, key facts in the report have been “redacted” or blacked out so they are still not on the public record. The report states the purchase was subsidised by a $7 million grant from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (DITRD). A condition of the grant was that the two upper levels provide 400 community parts for five years. This commitment expires on February 29, 2016. The report said that “a strong expression of interest was received which progressed to offered terms being made for the property. “In light of these terms, council obtained independent expert opinions and made signifi cant enquiries to ensure any recommended decision was in the community’s best interests.”
Gosford council commissioned a valuation report but key points including the current market value of the property were redacted. The parts of the report that were not redacted stated the valuation refl ected council’s current development incentives which permitted excesses of 30 per cent above existing height limits and fl oor space ratios. Based on the valuation report, council formed fi ve opinions, four and a half of which have been redacted.
The only part of the five actions Council decided upon that was made available to the community was: “Council should deal with the interested party, retaining the ability to go to market, if its objectives were not achieved”. Council sought independent legal advice and was told the tendering requirements of the Local Government Act didn’t apply to the sale of Kibbleplex referring to Section 55(3). Council then formed the opinion it was free to deal with the property outside the Local Government Act tendering provisions. The next paragraph, which states: “Prior to dealing with the offer and noting the valuer’s opinion…” has been redacted. Council then negotiated an agreed price, which has been blacked out. In response to the question: “why was there no public consultation regarding the sale?”, Mr Anderson’s report said ongoing consultation and feedback was provided between 2011 and 2015 and none of the information in this section of the report was redacted.
The report said: “A sale of the property is yet to complete but Council exchanged contracts to sell in October” but the amount paid as a deposit has also been blacked out. “It is very likely the sale will proceed with settlement on March 1, 2016,” the report said. “This date allows council to deliver vacant possession of the property as per the purchaser’s requirements,” it said.
The name of the purchaser and the purchase price have been deleted from the report. According to the report, council intends to use money raised from the sale of Kibbleplex for the preparation of a CBD parking strategy, relocating the Smart Work Hub, funding towards the delivery of a new library, 50 plus centre and education facilities at the Broadwater Hotel site in Mann St. “The significant funds released from the sale of Kibbleplex can contribute towards a variety of economic, community, educational and other opportunities. “These were not deliverable within the Kibbleplex building where these funds have been invested to date.”
Meeting minutes, Nov 24, 2015 Gosford Council ordinary meeting minutes 2015/19 page 399