The City of Ballarat is yet to accept a dollar of rent from the North Ballarat Sports Club more than 15 months after staging a $5.5 million compulsory acquisition of the club’s land.
The council is locked in 11th hour negotiations with the Sports Club to secure a new lease, a process which has taken more than a year. The matter is due to go before council behind closed doors again on Wednesday.
The club has paid two months’ rent to Council with that money is being retained in Trust until a lease agreement has been signed.
In February 2017 council acquired the freehold land owned by the club, however this did not include a 970-square-metre plot of land which was covered by a separate Crown lease.
The club signed a 21-year Crown lease in 2014 to secure the small plot, which includes part of the main building and the Mars Stadium oval.
Following the acquisition the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning issued a license to council over the leased Crown Land, only for the license to be deemed invalid after a challenge from North Ballarat’s lawyers.
In a statement, DELWP land and built environment programs regional manager Grant Hull said “neither the Minister...nor DELWP has the power to revoke the Crown land lease currently in place with the North Ballarat Football Club”.
Despite attempting to issue the license, Mr Hull said the department had not offered any advice to council around the acquisition.
It is understood the club wishes to ensure it has access to the same spaces it owned prior to the 2017 acquisition as part of any new lease agreement.
The creation of a new oval within the North Ballarat precinct is also a high priority in the negotiations, due to the limits on North Ballarat’s use of Mars Stadium.
North Ballarat president John Nevett said “we’re not going to sign something that doesn't give us necessary protection to run our business”.
City of Ballarat councillor Jim Rinaldi, who has been involved in the lease negotiations, said the acquisition had been necessary to secure the area for the community prior to the first AFL fixture, but added “you can only go on the information you’re given, and if the information you’re given is flawed then the outcome will be flawed”.
City of Ballarat infrastructure and environment director Terry Demeo said council was “continuing to work with the club “to resolve outstanding issues around the lease agreement”.