Land donation to Men's Shed blocked by council policy
GIVING away a block of land has proved anything but simple for successful former businessman Ray Grace and the community organisation he wants to benefit.
The former Nambour Mercedes dealer responded to the need for a Men's Shed identified by the Woombye Community Association with a simple and typically generous gesture.
He had a 0.8 hectare parcel of land - part of a larger parcel on Blackall Range Rd with an existing old pineapple packing shed - which he was happy to give to the Sunshine Valley Men's Shed.
First planning restrictions made it impossible for him to subdivide the parcel off as intended.
So instead a plan was hatched to give it to Sunshine Coast Council to act as custodian so that the group would have a permanent home.
Sunshine Valley Men's Shed treasurer Ron Campbell said the first offer they received from council after it took control of the site was only for a nine-year lease with a requirement that the facility be shared and that council be the final arbiter in any dispute.
"They negotiated a lot of the sharp edges off that lease,'' Mr Campbell said.
But it is still "not even close" to what was intended by their benefactor, a former Nambour Mercedes dealer with a long history of community service and philanthropy.
Council's latest offer to the Men's Shed is a 10 by 10 year lease with no requirement for it to share the facility.
A meeting of Men's Shed members today is expected to reject the lease. They may choose instead to walk away.
Mr Campbell said the lack of security of tenure had stalled their ability to apply from grants and until it signs a lease with council, the local authority won't release two grants worth a total of $6200.
He said the matter should be no more difficult to resolve than for council to provide a 99-year lease with a peppercorn rental and a requirement that the Men's Shed be insured.
Mr Grace said he initially faced planning difficulties in giving the land away but that he had reached an agreement where the land went to council.
"It was just for them to act as custodians for the Men's Shed. That's it,'' he said.
"Council is being unfair. The land was given to it on the specific basis that it be for the Men's Shed forever."
Nicklin MP Peter Wellington said the group had a right to be wary with precedents in Queensland where land has been given to councils for specific purposes only for it to be then sold.
Council yesterday questioned Mr Grace's intent saying that if the land was meant to be given in perpetuity, he could have given the land directly to the Men's Shed.
The assertion is at odds with the fact that attempts to do that had been restricted by planning policy that denied subdivision of the site to the group.
"As with all council-controlled land, for which community groups have access, tenure arrangements (leases) are entered into,'' a spokesman said.
"The arrangements are controlled by a council-approved policy. The purpose of the policy is to ensure that there are consistent and transparent decisions."