STATUTORY proceedings are now being used to resolve Mornington Peninsula Shire’s embarrassing position of wanting to build an $800,000 skatepark on land it has leased to Mt Martha Tennis Club.
The tennis club has refused to relinquish the land, so the shire is now taking steps to force changes to the lease which does not expire until December 2023.
A report to Monday night’s meeting recommended council begin the legal proceedings to require the club to give up its hold on the land.
The eventual building of a skatepark on what used to be a parade ground near Mt Martha House has been a priority for retiring councillor Anne Shaw.
Her retirement and that of her ward colleague Andrew Dixon means that the Briars ward will have at least two new representatives after next month’s municipal elections.
In June, Cr Dixon said the club’s refusal to give up the land was “the most selfish behaviour we’ve witnessed by a community group since the council term began in 2012”.
Later that same month he said council was considering revoking the club’s lease although council officers then admitted the lease could only be revoked “by agreement”.
The decision to force an amendment to the lease comes on the eve of the council’s caretaker period, a time bans council any major decisions until after the election.
The shire has spent $85,000 on consultants to develop the skatepark, now estimated to cost up to $825,000.
In report to council property and strategy manager Yasmin Woods said the design of the skatepark was site specific and approved by Heritage Victoria in 2015, three years after being endorsed by council.
Ms Woods said the leased land included an area where the club wanted to build another tennis court but advice from Heritage Victoria “is that the proposal would not be endorsed by the approval authority”.
No explanation was given to why Heritage Victoria would approve a skatepark but not a tennis court.
Ms Woods said the tennis club “is openly opposed to the location of the skatepark”.
“Senior council officers have engaged in negotiations with [the club] to surrender the subject land, however a mutually agreeable solution has not been reached,” Ms Woods stated.
Ms Woods said the shire contributed $1.03 million in its 2015/2016 capital works program towards the club’s new pavilion overlooking the tennis courts and $324,000 for tennis courts in Watson Rd.
The process of regaining control of the skatepark site through compulsorily acquisition requires an amendment to the Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme (which requires ministerial consent), which then becomes subject to the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986 (Vic).
Ms Woods said it was not possible to estimate how much compensation the shire would have to pay the club under the act.