Mayor denies land sale about 'politics'
Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio has hinted that a decision on the sale of Wakatu Square might be left to the next council, following concerns at a hearing that the sale was being rushed.
Councillors will discuss submissions from Thursday's hearing at a meeting on Monday.
Mr Miccio said after the hearing on the proposed land sale to Windermere Holdings for a new Farmers store, that the council's timeline was driven by the potential purchaser's demands and was not political.
He said any development would have to be completed before Farmers' current lease expired in 2015, so they would not need to cease trading for any length of time, Mr Miccio said.
Farmers wants to move to one large location, from its current two premises in Trafalgar St and Bridge St.
"It is possible if council feel that they would like more time to leave the decision for the incoming council, that this could be done. There is of course a risk, but in my view it's important we get this right."
Mr Miccio said the consultation process had been "useful" and "thorough" and he was sure the council would make a decision on Monday that was in the best interests of the community.
He said on Thursday it was a "subjective matter" as to whether some people considered the plan was being rushed.
"I think it became clear throughout submissions the council had been talking to Farmers for a while and their suggested developers WHL [Windermere Holdings] and Bill Dykseul," he said.
Despite the council being in talks with the developer since October last year, it announced the plan to the public only last month.
The council plans to sell the land for just over $2 million based on rateable value.
An independent valuation of the two parcels of land in Wakatu Square, called for by the public after a recent meeting and released this week, has put the market value at $2.75 million.
A valuation commissioned by Nelson firm Gibbons Holdings by Dunedin firm Crighton Anderson, put the value at $3.1m.
The move to sell the land at a rate well below market valuation has prompted anger from local legal and property developer sectors.
The five-hour hearing on Thursday was marked by accusations from Cr Pete Rainey that the negative reaction was "sour grapes" by local developers.
That was countered by statements from developers that they had been willing to consider a development on the site, but the council was not interested.
Gibbons Holdings managing director Scott Gibbons produced a file of correspondence which showed local developers had been in contact with the council over the site, and that nothing had progressed.
An email to the mayor in October last year from Paul Smith, of Windermere Holdings, showed the talks had started then and that Windermere knew others were interested.
"We understand there are other parties considering this project, so obviously we are aware there is a competitive element present," Mr Smith said.
Nelson realtor Doug McKee said the difference this time as opposed to earlier attempts to develop the site, was that it was the first time negotiations had been held over the two parcels of land, including that bought by the council in recent years to expand the total area of Wakatu Square.
Few submitters denied the value of having Farmers in Nelson city, but many did not want it shifted to Wakatu Square. Reasons ranged from its potential to pull shoppers away from the main street, to the effects of a large building on other premises currently surrounding Wakatu Square.
Gaire Thompson, who owns the Trafalgar St building leased by Farmers, told the Nelson Mail he did not think there was any urgency over a decision on a new site for Farmers. He added he was not unduly concerned about losing them as a tenant, because of the potential to create more shops in the building if they vacated.
"For Nelson's sake we don't want them [Farmers] doing anything desperate," Mr Thompson said.
He said in his submission to Thursday's hearing, delivered on his behalf by his wife Nanette, that they had also offered Farmers a larger shop on the current site, including the former H&J Smith site.
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