Cultural and Civic Space in limbo
IT was standing room only at council chambers with close to 100 people spilling out into the foyer to hear the outcome of the vote on the next stage of the Cultural and Civic Space.
Coffs Harbour City Councillors were considering a recommendation to progress the $76.5m project in the CBD to detailed design and construction stage.
But it took several amendments and three hours of discussions to finally put the original recommendation to the vote; but this decision is now in limbo with a rescission motion lodged at the end of the meeting.
The Gordon Street project has been the subject of significant public interest in recent weeks with one councillor warning costs could blowout to as much as $100m and others expressing concern at the lack of matching State and Federal funds.
With one of the greatest criticisms of the project being the lack of a community owned performing arts space John Rafferty, CEO of the C.ex Group revealed his plans in this regard.
He addressed councillors in favour of the project saying it would provide an opportunity to activate the city centre.
"I see it as the first step in activating the city centre precinct and providing future development possibilities."
In relation to his revelation of plans to build an entertainment centre in the CBD Cr Sally Townley asked Mr Rafferty to clarify what stage this was at.
"It's with the State government at the moment and there's some confidentiality around that so I can't say much more than that," Mr Rafferty said.
Also speaking in support of progressing the project was Caitlin Zugajev.
"This visionary project will result in an enhanced experience for generations to come. This investment is worth it. Give us a gathering space to be proud of - it will help to retain young people in Coffs Harbour," Ms Zugajev said.
Ann Leonard addressed the meeting and urged councillors not to proceed but acknowledging the obvious need for a new library and gallery.
"But this current proposal has morphed into something we didn't expect with council offices taking up 50 per cent of the design and no performing arts space."
Councillors Rhoades, Amos and Arkan all raised alternative motions which looked at various options to address some of the major concerns but after lengthy debate the original motion to proceed with detailed design and construction was put to the vote.
Mayor Denise Knight urged her fellow councillors to be brave when deciding how to vote.
"I found a quote from past mayor and current councillor Keith Rhoades from the newspaper in 1992 about the stadium where he said 'if we don't proceed now we won't have this facility in twenty years if we don't grab the opportunity' so the same applies now.
"Where has our courage gone?
"Now it's up to us to make a decision - we are not here to pause and take deep breaths. We need to put our big boy pants on and make a decision," Cr Knight said.
Councillors Michael Adendorff, Denise Knight, George Cecato and Sally Townley voted to proceed with Councillors Paul Amos, Tegan Swan, John Arkan and Keith Rhoades voting against it.
With the vote tied it fell to Mayor Denise Knight who gladly cast her deciding vote to proceed.
With cheers and applause it seemed like it was a done deal but soon after the meeting a recission motion was lodged meaning the matter will be deferred to the next council meeting.