Council under fire over purchases
Hamilton City councillor James Casson has called out Mayor Andrew King and his ‘tight five’ for showing a lack of respect to ratepayers after the council narrowly approved buying four Victoria Street commercial properties above market value.
The purchase was confirmed last week by council, part of a long-term plan to develop a central city river park adjoining the new Waikato Regional Theatre.
As part of its 10-year plan, the council had put aside $7 million to buy some properties. The market value was $4.3m for the properties and council voted to pay $6.4m, paying a 51 per cent premium above market value.
“I did not vote for this but the mayor seems to have his tight five in tow, and for the record the mayor used his casting vote to secure the purchase, jumping up stating yahoo, I get to use this,” Mr Casson said on his public Facebook page.
“This showed a real lack of respect for the vast majority of ratepayers who did not want council to purchase and also towards the councillors who voted against it.”
Councillors Angela O’leary also took to her own public Facebook page to voice her frustration at the purchases.
“There were other projects in the Long Term Plan that could have been more important to Hamiltonians than purchasing these buildings,” Ms O’leary said.
“Council could have instead reduced the rates. I am disappointed in this decision, but there was enough support to get it over the line. This is now a significant city investment so we must look after it.”
Mayor Andrew King, in a statement, said the vendors of the properties approached the Council with a willingness to sell the sites — an opportunity Mayor the council could not let pass by.
He said short-term arrangements will mean the council retains the buildings as investment properties, meaning existing business tenants will stay and provide a revenue stream.
“Keeping the businesses there gives us an income from the properties while we develop plans to incorporate these sites into an expanded riverside public plaza,” Mr King said.
“These long-term strategic purchases are intended to provide the council with a maximum opportunity to develop and enhance this important part of the central city.”
“I’m delighted these purchases will help progress my dream of opening up central Hamilton to the Waikato River for the long-term benefit of our city and its residents.”
On the Hamilton News Facebook page opinions were divided, but with the vast majority critical of the council paying above market value and many saying none should have been bought at all.
One person did say the purchase was a smart move by council.
“Although not that happy on paying the price, only the council can provide for a nicer and attractive city. A private landowner will never develop land for public use without a plan for an income (and nor do they need to). The overall plan by HCC has my full backing,” he said.
Another said it was incompetence on the council’s part.
“The councillors who allowed this gross overspend should be made to pay the extra out of their own pockets. Bet that would slow the extravagance,” they said.
242-254 Victoria Street, where tenants include Mexico and Dough Bros, was purchased by the council for $3.75m — 56 per cent more than the $2.4m market valuation.