A piece of land adjacent to the Tilligerry RSL Sports Club sold to former Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie has members of the Tilligerry Community Association concerned about the potential loss of a valuable community asset.
The sale was confirmed by Mr MacKenzie who plans to have the land rezoned to develop a "much needed seniors housing estate that was close to amenities" on the peninsula.
Association spokesperson Fran Corner said the land had been utilised by community groups for decades to stage major festivities including Carols by Candlelight, New Year's Eve celebrations and Motorama. It was also used by the Tilligerry's cricket club.
"We are shocked by the sale of this land. Our major concern is not who purchased the land, but the potential loss of open space and the fact that the sale went through without consultation," she said.
"We are not sure why the RSL Sub-Branch would want to sell. If it was due to the rent, surely this could have been partly covered by the events held there."
The land in question measuring a little over 1-hectare was sold by its owner, RSL NSW, to Mr MacKenzie for an undisclosed sum.
Mr MacKenzie will need Port Stephens Council consent to rezone the land before lodging a development application for "approximately 30 seniors units".
A spokesperson for RSL NSW, which is a registered charity, confirmed with the Examiner on Tuesday that the organisation had been approached by a local man with an unsolicited offer to purchase the land
"The Board of RSL NSW determined the most appropriate course of action was to sell the land, based on that offer, and to use the proceeds to support its charitable purpose. The land was under a month-to-month lease to the Tilligerry RSL Sports Club."
Mr MacKenzie confirmed that he purchased the property "a little over two months ago from the RSL in Sydney".
"There is a shortage of seniors living on the peninsula. The location is ideal for seniors, close to medical facilities, supermarket, chemist, the RSL, bowling and golf clubs ... and this will be a secured environment with very little maintenance for residents," he said.
"I bought my first block of land in Tilligerry at age 16. I am 81 and still buying and selling property. I will continue to contribute to the area in both private and public life.
"The residents I have spoken to are in favour of more seniors housing in Tanilba Bay. Seniors need to live somewhere and many don't want to move from the area or buy 600-800 sqm homes.I know some people will be against me but I am not concerned what the do-gooders say."
Mr MacKenzie said that both the cricket and RSL clubs would continue to utilise the facilities while the rezoning and development applications went before the council.
A spokesperson for Tilligerry RSL ensured that the community events would continue to be staged elsewhere on the property if a building development was approved.
Tilligerry residents can expect to see more seniors apartments with confirmation this week from architect Warwick Lindsay that the former shopping plaza was being earmarked for over 50s living.
Mr Lindsay said that an initial meeting with residents had been positive. "The proponents are in the very early stages of looking at a development for the site."
Last September more than 80 residents congregated at the former Bi-Lo site in President Wilson Walk which had been left abandoned for more than decade. Residents had called on the council to ensure the safety of the building fearing it could be a health and fire hazard.
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