The decision by the NSW Government to lift a stop work order on the Ryde Civic Centre building is a tremendous win for the City of Ryde as it will allow work to start on building a new world-class community and civic hub.
The work between myself, a Labor Party Mayor, and Liberal Party Ministers from the NSW Government to have the stop work order lifted in a quick and timely manner was one of the best examples of bipartisanship I have experienced during my time in local government.
It is for this reason that the unexpected call from Member for Ryde, Victor Dominello, for a referendum asking people “what they would like to do with the civic centre” is such a terrible idea.
Firstly, residents have had their say multiple times on what they want to happen on the Ryde Civic Centre site.
They had their say in 2012, when they elected a Council to stop the Ryde Liberals building 2 x 24 storey residential towers on the site.
They had their say in 2017, when they elected this Council to kill the expensive design competition process which wasted $1 million of ratepayers’ money for nothing more than a proposal to build a 40 storey residential tower on the site.
They again had their say when 85% supported the current plans to redevelop the site.
And, residents then had their say when the two development applications for the site were lodged, and subsequently approved.
To suggest a referendum to gauge community sentiment, when our community has been involved in this process for a decade shows how out of touch Mr Dominello is on this issue.
To further support his call for a referendum, Mr Dominello suggests that the Ryde Civic Centre could be of local heritage significance.
This suggestion ignores the fact the building has been assessed for local heritage significance and that that has been dealt with through the conditions of consent. These conditions were approved by the NSW Government and the Sydney North Planning Panel.
Items of heritage significance will be saved from the demolition and incorporated into the new build.
To compound the issue, Mr Dominello has also made a number of false and misleading claims in his call for a referendum.
Despite what he claims, rates will not go up to fund this project. This was a clear requirement for Council to proceed with this project.
A refurbishment of the current Ryde Civic Centre and Civic Hall would also cost more than four times the $16 million figure quoted by Mr Dominello and would leave our City with a useless building and hall too small to service our growing community.
We now know that developers will do everything they can to once again try to build apartments on our land. It is interesting that Mr Dominello has decided he wants to delay this project with a referendum when he didn’t call for one when the Liberals wanted to build hundreds of apartments on the site.
His call for a referendum is, at its best, unnecessary. At its worst, it is a cynical attempt to delay this crucial project and leave the door open once again for developers. He needs to withdraw his claim for a referendum and support our community who overwhelmingly support Council’s plans to build world class public facilities on our doorstep.
How the above response appeared in the Weekly Times
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