The Weston Creek Community Council has responded cautiously to news that the Raiders Weston Club wants to remove the concessional status of the Crown Lease for its prime Liardet Street site.
Chair Tom Anderson said the timing of the announcement before Christmas and the uncertainty it raised were causes for concern.
”We do have concerns because we don’t know what it means for the community and the club, and we would welcome some consultation to understand what they are going to do if and when they deconcessionalise,” he said.
”It is a key site and a very key club for a lot of people who go there regularly for social activity and dining, and also the community groups that meet there.”
Canberra District Rugby League for the Raiders Group has engaged Purdon Planning to conduct community consultation on the proposal, which would allow the club to take full control of the site.
The club has occupied the site since 2005 on a concessional lease basis, under which it pays an annual rent of $32,800 and the ACT Government retains control over use of the site, including subletting and sale.
Purdon says deconcessionalising the lease will mean the club won’t have to pay rent and allow it to commercialise elements of the site including subletting part of the existing building to organisations such as gyms and other non-club related activities permitted within the CZ6 Leisure and Accommodation Zoning.
It says the required DA will not include a proposal to change the land use or redevelop the site, but deconcessionalising will give the club more options in the future.
Purdon says the club needs to identify ways to reduce costs and find new revenue streams due to a fall in income after handing back some its poker machines to the ACT Government.
The club plans to use credits from the pokies handback – which can only be used for certain activities such as development applications, lease variations and concessional lease payouts – to pay out the concessional lease, based on the market value of the site.
Purdon will prepare a Social Impact Assessment, Statement Against Criteria and a Consultation Report, while the land will be valued by a qualified valuer.
The community will be able to comment further once the DA is lodged.
The planning authority will assess the DA and Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman must sign off on the decision.
Purdon will deliver a flyer to local residents and businesses, and contact the Community Council.
It will also host a consultation drop-in-session at the club on 14 December 2020. To register interest email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 13 December 2020.
Raiders Weston is the latest in a number of clubs to go down this road to capitalise on the increasing value of the land and broaden the scope of their operations.
Concessional leases are granted at less-than-market value to provide core community or social facilities, and moves to deconcessionalise have been controversial due to the potential windfall for clubs and loss to the community .
The Auditor-General intends to inquire into Crown lease variations as part of the 2020-21 audit program.