The long saga to find a suitable site for sports fields in the north of Byron Shire has come to an end with yesterday’s (Wednesday February 26) announcement by Byron Shire Council that it had bought a parcel of land at Shara Boulevard in Ocean Shores.
The seven-hectare block, on the corner of Shara Boulevard and Brunswick Valley Way, was bought by Council for $318,000 (excluding GST) and Council says it has potential for two playing fields, an amenities block, car parking, community play spaces and park furniture.
The purchase is considered a bargain given that the land’s asking price when it first went on the market was almost $2 million.
Ironically, Lot 5 Shara Boulevard was sold by the widow of the late Queensland-based developer Chum Vidgen, who died in 2012 aged 73 and was often at odds during the 1990s with Council and environmentalists over his developments.
The site had a longtime approval for a service station and another, smaller, site of 1.7 hectares just across the road, also owned by the Vigdens and up for sale, has approval for a motel and restaurant.
Mr Vidgen developed the Ocean Shores Shopping Village as well as many housing projects in the shire. Eight years ago he sold land he owned at Yelgun to the consortium behind the Splendour in the Grass festival-site development.
Mayor Simon Richardson said the newly acquired site was in early 2013 considered as part of a review of potential playing field sites for the north of the Shire.
‘With an initial asking price on the land at $1.95 million, it was out of our reach. But as the market changed, the block has come within Council’s budget and it’s a significant financial purchase for our residents,’ Cr Richardson said.
‘Plus the site is well positioned centrally and will service a number of local townships including Ocean Shores, Billinudgel, South Golden Beach, New Brighton and Brunswick Heads.’
Council is currently waiting on land rezoning confirmation from the state government as part of the Local Environment Plan (LEP) process and plans to consult with community groups over the next few weeks to lock-in design ideas.
A Council spokesperson said that following the design completion, Council will lodge a development application and aim to start construction within a year on the first field, car parking, amenities block and lighting.
The spokesperson said Council had around $2 million in available funding from Section 94 developer contributions for the Ocean Shores/South Golden Beach sports fields programs.
The site already has sewer and water connections, road infrastructure and much fill material available to help with initial levelling works, which the spokesperson said amounted to savings in significant construction costs.
Cr Richardson said that as the the site was a corner block and had two street frontages, it also offered ‘great access for transport along with the added advantage of cycleways right to the entrance’.
The Shara Boulevard site has direct access to Brunswick Valley Way (the main access feeder road) which is linked to the nearby Yelgun interchange on/off ramps of the Pacific Highway as well as Billinudgel, Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads.
The Council spokesperson said that as a result of the land purchase, Council would no longer pursue other potential sites for sport fields at Billinudgel.
‘Council is committed to sports fields in the north of Byron Shire and today was a very exciting announcement,’ Cr Richardson said.
‘We will continue to talk to sporting and community groups and find ways to deliver health and social outcomes for our residents.
‘Today’s announcement is testament to the commitment of the last group of councillors, a testament to the risk-taking can-do altitude of the current council and staff, and a testament to the passion and advocacy of the community of Ocean Shores and surrounds,’ he said.
The history in the campaign to establish sports fields in the north of the shire is chequered, with a nearby block of land known as Lot 107 Shara Boulevard the subject of much political argy-bargy over the years before it was finally scotched.
The then Greens-majority Council staunchly opposed moves to rezone the bushland there, which some saw as a natural buffer for the highly populated areas surrounding it.
Other sites at Billinudgel were also considered but their flood-prone nature and other impediments appeared to rule them out.