Wesley in stalemate over $20m land deal
WESLEY College's $20.5 million bid to buy land next to its St Kilda Road campus has become mired in a stalemate between the charity that owns the property and the school for the deaf occupying it.
The impasse shows no signs of breaking nearly 18 months after Deaf Children Australia agreed to sell the 5471-square-metre site, which holds a primary school and garden used by the Victorian College of the Deaf.
Under the conditions of the deal, the charity has two years to reach an agreement with the VCD to replace the facilities that would be lost and receive state government approval for the sale.
But principal Maureen Douglas said the VCD remained opposed to the deal for both practical and ethical reasons. "We have an objection in principle to the sale of crown land that's been set aside for a specific purpose, which is the education of deaf and hard of hearing students."
The 30,000 sq m property at 597 St Kilda Road has been owned by DCA (under various names) since 1865, with the charity pledging space and funding for the college to operate on site until 2023.
The charity is proposing to use the proceeds from the sale to build a new primary school elsewhere on the grounds and extend its sponsorship of the college for another 30 years.
While Ms Douglas said that an "open dialogue" was under way with the DCA, the college had not been presented with any firm plans despite the approaching deadline.
"What we need is a concrete proposal that meets the needs of our kids and we are yet to see that," Ms Douglas said.
Chief executive Damian Lacey said the DCA was facing an "urgent" $10 million restoration and redevelopment bill for a heritage-listed bluestone building on the property, which houses the headquarters of the charity and would be partially converted into a new community centre. "As a charity, and custodians and developers of that site since 1865, we intend to honour our commitment to the deaf community about respecting that site and that includes an ongoing commitment to deaf children on that site," he said.
The negotiations, which were supposed to finish by midyear, can be extended until March 2014 under the terms of the conditional sales contract.
Cameron Moroney, Wesley College's chief financial officer, said the process had been slow going but "consistently good" progress was being made.
"There's no stumbling block. There's a lot of players involved and at the end of the day it just takes time to get everyone reasonably onto the same page."
If the sale goes through, Wesley College has agreed to pay the $20.5 million purchase price over five years.
The state government holds ultimate authority over whether the deal can proceed.