By Tania Martin
Despite the elation over finally getting the land in Emerald-Beaconsfield Road, back locals have been left in the dark over its future.
In 2004 Cardinia Shire Council sold the land against residents’ wishes and funnelled the funds back into its growth corridor.
The Gazette believes the land, which was sold for $770,000 in 2004 could have cost council more than $1.3 million to repurchase.
Bell Real Estate’s Rosalie Day last week estimated the land prices in the area had jumped by more than 73 per cent.
If these figures are correct, the repurchase could have been in the vicinity of $1.3 million leaving a shortfall of more than $500,000.
But Cardinia Shire Council refuses to release the buy-back cost to the public.
Emerald’s John Dudley said the land should never have been sold.
“The ratepayer now has to bear the burden and the money could have been used for something else like a good start to the swimming pool,” he said.
Emerald residents last week said community consultation would be vital.
But the council has also refused to speculate on the future of the site or if extensive consultation will be undertaken.
All the shire has revealed is that more details would be available following the adoption of the council’s 2010-11 budget.
Emerald Village Committee’s Kevin Teasdale said it was fantastic to finally have the land back but the fight was far from over.
“We hope they (council) take the time to get it right,” he said.
Mr Teasdale said extensive community consultation was the key to getting it right this time.
“We need genuine consultation,” he said.
Emerald’s Kate Forster said the council needed to care about what the community had to say.
She said it was vital to have the land returned to the people because it was one of the few remaining sites available for community facilities.
Ms Forster said there were several issues the council needed to look at including retaining the view, encompassing the adjacent walking trail and preserving the revegetation works in the area.
Residents believe the plan to sell the land in 2004 had been rubber-stamped before a town meeting saw 59 out of 60 voting to retain the land.
EVC and Pepi’s Paddock sub-committee member Graeme Eadie has called for the council to assess the soil contamination on the land.
He said there needed to be an investigation into what the current levels of dieldrin residue were.
Mr Eadie said part of the land that was sold off to Chris and Marie’s Plant Farm also needed to be assessed to see what agricultural chemicals had accidentally reached the soil from the nursery activities.
But the council was unable to comment on the matter further.
One of the ideas proposed for the land includes a long-awaited swimming pool which seems to be the consensus in the town.
However, it could be months before residents get a real picture on the future of the land.
By Tania Martin