YMCA awaits details of Hamilton property offer

VALUABLE PROPERTY: The Hamilton YMCA site might end up being owned by the organisation.
VALUABLE PROPERTY: The Hamilton YMCA site might end up being owned by the organisation.

A critical central city sports arena could be lost to developers because of a closed-doors decision by council, a Hamilton councillor is warning.

A confidential briefing to councillors has confirmed the YMCA must be given the first right to buy its council-owned property at market value.

YMCA national chief executive Peter Ferguson said the organisation was definitely interested in exercising the purchase option, but was still in the dark as to potential covenants, and price.

The parcel of titles being offered meant 50-60 per cent of the land was not currently being utilised and he would want to assess the potential for services the YMCA did not provide in the Waikato, such as accommodation, under any restrictions council put on the site.

The age and condition of the buildings also needed to be reflected in the price, he said.

Hamilton City Council voted 7-6 in June to offer the YMCA site for sale to buyers who would continue to use it for recreation and related activities.

Staff then estimated the site's three separate titles could together be worth up to $3 million and signalled two parties were already showing interest.

However in September councillors were told by city officials of a claimed agreement made when council purchased the Pembroke St property 20 years ago, giving YMCA first option on the property if it were ever sold.

Council chief executive Barry Harris has confirmed the option exists.

"The matter was discussed in public excluded because it had a whole lot of commercial issues relating to it, but I can confirm the YMCA has been given first right of refusal on the option to purchase the site," he said.

"They have until February to exercise that, and if they choose not to, the property will be put out onto the open market following that.

"The process that we're following is to obtain an accurate market valuation, and that is presented to the YMCA. Whether they want to take it up is their right."

But councillor Martin Gallagher said the potential open market sale was at odds with council's earlier resolution specifying use, and raised the "very real prospect of the loss to the city of a major historic indoor stadium".

"The zoning of the property allows a retirement home, hospital, school, you name it. This is where we start getting on the bulldozers. If you're an investor, in the medium to long term, you could do that there," he said.

Councillor Dave Macpherson said it was "reprehensible" that the council had moved away from the intention of the earlier long term plan decision.

"But we've been advised that legally, we can't bind anyone to anything, so either way you'd be doing it on good faith," said Mr Macpherson.

Waikato Times