Mayor to contact owners of eyesore

Pressure will be put on the owners of a vacant, high-profile Timaru site to ensure it does not detract from the town's appearance.

Ironically, broom, weeds and long grass were cleared from the site on the corner of Theodosia and Elizabeth streets last week, the day before district councillor Jo Taylor raised its appearance at the community development committee.

The site, near Shell Caroline Bay, has been vacant for several years. It is owned by a consortium which received building consent for a $12 million hotel in 2009.

Cr Taylor was concerned the site looked untidy, while fellow councillor Damon Odey was concerned about the public perception of the town.

"We don't want it looking like a dump for the next 10 years," he remarked.

Perhaps Gap Filler or a similar group might like to develop the site, Cr Hamish Fraser suggested, referring to the Christchurch group which has been beautifying sites left vacant after the Christchurch earthquakes. If the council matched sections with community groups, it could be a win-win situation, he said.

Mayor Janie Annear undertook to contact the owners' representative personally and report back to council.

"I have a real concern about how it was looking. The rest looks so well looked after, that (the site) it is glaringly obvious."

The only time the council can usually insist on a property being tidied up is if it is a fire hazard, council regulatory services manager Peter Thompson explained.

Ecan becomes involved if there are noxious weeds on the site.

If a property owner fails to deal with the fire hazard – whether it is rubbish or long grass – the council can do the work and charge the owner.

That happens about 20 times a year on average, with the owners often absentee landlords.

The same properties often repeatedly come to council attention, with the situation usually being solved only when an empty section is sold and built on.

Even if a house is dilapidated and there are half a dozen cars parked on the property, the council can do little about it. Mr Thompson said they could become involved if there were vermin on site, but if the property was unoccupied that was not usually an issue.

Occasionally the council takes action if a property is deemed to be dangerous or unsanitary, but those criteria applied only if the property was occupied.

It was not uncommon for neighbours to ring the council complaining the adjacent property was a fire risk, even when it was raining, Mr Thompson said.

"It might not be a fire risk now, but it could be in the future. They are not absolutely wrong."

Repeat offenders were written to at this time of year and reminded to ensure their properties did not become a fire risk.

The Timaru Herald