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Submissions open on former community centre

Pile of newspapers wrapped in string.

Friday 31 January 2020

Community members are invited to make a submission on a proposal to dispose of the former Chewton Community Centre at 205 (formerly 201) Main Road Chewton.

The former Wesleyan Church building is in a poor state of repair with rising damp and termite damage. It has been closed to the public since 2010 due to safety risks. The cost for Council to restore and maintain the building as a public facility would be significant.

On 15 August 2017 Council resolved to sell the former Wesleyan Church at 201 Main Road Chewton, and start the process of sub-dividing the associated land to create separate allotments for the Chewton Community Centre (church) and the former Sunday school building (now Chewton Senior Citizens Centre) to enable the sale.

The resolution was passed following public notice of Council’s intent to sell the property in accordance with Sections 189 and 223 of the Local Government Act 1989 (LGA).

The subdivision process is almost complete and the building will soon be ready for sale. However, due to the passage of time, it is deemed best practice for Council to provide new public notice to notify the community of its intention to sell the building.

Council already owns or manages around 240 buildings and it is difficult to justify restoration of the building in the current economic environment when there are a range of other community buildings available for public use in the area.

Nearby facilities available for community use include: Chewton Senior Citizen’s Centre located adjacent to the Community Centre, Chewton Town Hall and Wesley Hill Hall. Elphinstone Hall, Castlemaine Town Hall, the Ray Bradfield Rooms, St Mary’s Hall and other facilities are located in Castlemaine less than five kilometres away.

The proposed sale of the asset meets six of the eight decision criteria within Council’s Land Disposal Policy, and would be in line with the mandated requirements of the Local Government Act and best practice guidelines for the sale, exchange and transfer of land.

The sale of an asset must be conducted in an open and transparent way, and provide the best result for Council and the community. Proceeds would be used to fund priorities identified in the Long Term Financial Plan and Annual Budget.

The community is now invited to make a submission on Council’s intention to sell the former Chewton Community Centre as resolved at the Ordinary Council Meeting in December 2019. Public notice was provided in the Midland Express on Tuesday 28 January.

The sale of the building could breathe new life into the former church site and provide revenue for Council to fund priorities identified in its annual and long term strategic plans. Alternate options include retain the building, demolish the building, renovate the building, gift the building or allow more time for the community to come up with a strategy to justify expenditure on the asset.

Submissions should be addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, Mount Alexander Shire Council, PO Box 185, Castlemaine VIC 3450, or email info@mountalexander.vic.gov.au titled Chewton Community Centre by 5.00pm on Wednesday 26 February 2020.

Submitters who wish to speak in support of their submission will be heard at an Ordinary Meeting of Council to be held at a date to be determined.

The Chewton Community Centre is located in the township zone and is subject to three planning controls including a heritage overlay, a bushfire management overlay, and a design and development overlay.

Previous submissions raised issues such as poor management of the building, investment in the Chewton community, a lack of similar sized buildings in Chewton, concerns the building will be demolished, loss of heritage and questions of the cost of repairs.

The public notice and more information is available on the Have Your Say section of Council’s website. For more information contact Lynne Williamson, Property Portfolio Coordinator on 5471 1700.

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