Council may sell George St properties

Owning property in George St is good business, but the Palmerston North city councillors have voted that it is not council business.

Two shops, at 52 and 54 George St, are on a $1.5 million list of properties the council plans to consult the public about selling.

The buildings, with a market value of $300,000, earned the council more than $25,000 a year.

Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell told the council's finance and performance committee yesterday the properties were the pick of the bunch of the land and buildings proposed for sale, and the council should keep them.

"There are a bunch of lemons on this list, but these are not among them." Committee chairman Ross Linklater said the buildings were old, possibly earthquake-prone, and the council should put them on the market while George St was doing well.

"I think our bread and butter as a council is not about owning commercial buildings."

Cr Susan Baty said there was nothing in council strategies that justified its presence in the commercial property market, and it was not part of the council's core business.

The council has owned the shops, which used to form the entrance to the old Astoria ballroom, since 1988.

It has since had several offers to purchase, with the latest turned down in 2008.

Of the nine properties identified for possible sale, the one that sparked the most debate and was eventually dropped from the list was a financially worthless, unformed accessway from Panako Pl to Awapuni Park.

Senior parks and property manager Aaron Phillips said it had been open only briefly, was never formed, and was later closed and effectively absorbed into a neighbour's property.

Awapuni ward councillor Annette Nixon said the sale would achieve little, but an extra access to the park would be an asset.

"Awapuni Park is tucked away and the majority of people don't know it's there. You can't see it. The dog-leg access [from nearby Newbury St] does not have a safe feel, and you can't see into the park from there."

Cr Nixon convinced a majority of councillors that opportunities to create better pedestrian walkways and links should be retained.

There were a couple of other properties Cr Bruce Wilson said it would be valuable to retain, but he agreed to hear what the public thought.

One is on the corner of Hardie St and Fitzherbert Ave, which provided "framing" for an attractive view of Palmerston North from the Fitzherbert Bridge.

The other was on Ruapehu Dr, where the proposal was to subdivide a slice off a section to provide access to walkways, and to sell the balance.

Cr Wilson said that could limit the options to build a zigzag track rather than a steep one with steps, or to develop another neighbourhood park - given that the nearest playground is 850 metres away.

If the full council endorses the committee's recommendations next week, there will be public consultation before any sale.

Manawatu Standard