Cr Tim Drylie
At this month’s ordinary Council Meeting, Councillors will consider the proposed sale of The Rex building in Vincent Street, Daylesford. As many people are aware, The Hepburn Hub at The Rex project has had a complicated and vexed history. Decisions around it have caused a considerable amount of division and uncertainty in the community over several years. Also, the release date for the forthcoming Inspectorate Report into the previous Council’s handling of the project is still unknown. However, this Council has attempted to draw a line in the sand and provide certainty by resolving to engage in a sale process to sell the building and stop the project. Reasons for this include uncertainty of the final cost, our financial position and construction issues.
If the sale proceeds, we acknowledge that there are facilities that were part of the Hub project that are important to the community and these will not be forgotten. These include: the cinema, the building’s heritage, provision of additional public toilets, improved library and community spaces. Part of the motion passed at the November 2021 council meeting included working with Daylesford Cinema group for a community cinema space and that we review possible solutions for staff accommodation and community facilities that were to be included in the Hepburn Hub. These commitments remain important to Council and the community and will still be investigated and progressed by Council at locations other than The Rex.
As part of a report prepared ahead of our Council Meeting, which is available as part of the public agenda accessible via the Hepburn Shire website, a community survey was conducted to gauge levels of support for the sale in the community and to investigate other uses for the building should the sale not proceed. Overall, the survey found that 66% or respondents were unsupportive of the Council’s decision to sell The Rex. This can be compared to the 30% of respondents who were supportive of the decision and 4% of respondents who remained neutral or were unsure about the decision. Of those unsupportive of the sale many people said that The Rex is an important building/asset that should be kept for the community, that Council should complete the project and follow through with what was promised, and questioned why we would sell at a loss.
However, after investigating a range of alternative uses for the building where significant number of respondents were focussed on retaining The Rex as a community hub as per the original proposal, along with Council’s ability to deliver on other current and aspirational projects, the report concludes it is not anticipated that The Rex can be viably retained as a community asset despite the importance some members of the community attach to the building.
There are many ways the property could be sold, however the simplest approach for Council would be a straight sale process. However, a range of alternative options have been considered where conditions for future use may be applied to the sales process or the application of additional protections for the building onto the property title. I would like to acknowledge the significant community interest in this project and thank our community for the time invested in providing the feedback that will help Councillors decide whether to sell The Rex building on the 19th of July.
Cr Tim Drylie is an elected Councillor for Creswick Ward and is currently the Mayor of Hepburn Shire.