Licence to nil

03. 23NEWS

Greg James and Jenny Dawson cracked a mention at Freo’s heritage awards last week for giving the J-Shed a lick of paint, but they might soon be out. File photo

FREMANTLE city council appears to have broken its own rule by refusing leases to artists operating from the J-Shed on Arthur Head.

Back on June 27 last year, the council adopted a motion on the management of Arthur Head which explicitly states, “enterprises and individuals that have artistic endeavours as their core business will not be excluded from holding leases in the subject properties”.

That decision has not been rescinded.

Yet minutes of a meeting between mayor Brad Pettitt, corporate services head Glen Dougal and the artists on February15 this year show the council “rejected” a request for standard commercial leases “…on the grounds the city wants the option of reviewing tenancies more regularly and removing tenants who do not meet or adhere to the Arthur Head activation criteria,” the minutes note.

The minutes were prepared by the artists but, in an email exchange seen by the Herald, Dr Pettitt acknowledges they’re an accurate account.

To confuse things further, the council adopted a separate motion on November 28 that also appears to contradict the one already on its books.

“Established practicing arts business…can be offered longer performance-based tenancy agreements,” the motion reads.

The council has since offered licences to sculptor Greg James and ceramicist Jenny Dawson.

But licences are not leases, with crucial differences the artists say are unfair and likely to ruin their businesses.

Licences cannot be on-sold. Ms Dawson told the Herald that without tenure on the building, the business she’s built up over 20 years will be worthless if she ever wanted to sell.

Licences also don’t confer an “interest” in the property to tenants. That gives the council the right to plonk another artist or business in there at its whim—even when the tenant has already paid a year’s fees in advance.

The Herald asked the council to explain the discrepancy in its bookkeeping, but community development director Marisa Spaziani dodged the question.

“The city is currently in negotiations with the J-Shed tenants over license agreements and as such, it’s not appropriate to comment publicly on these licenses (sic),” she told the Herald.

She noted licence agreements are a form of tenancy agreement, which were being implemented on the basis of the November meeting.

“The city is not obliged to make offers to any particular current tenant, however as outlined in the resolution, it can (but is not obliged to) make a longer, performance-based tenancy offer which has been put to the tenants in question.”

But she had nothing to say about how that could have been adopted given the earlier motion.

Former WA small business minister Simon O’Brien has also been roped into the issue and, along with fellow South Metro MLC Lynn MacLaren, will meet with the artists, mayor and Fremantle chamber of commerce head Tim Milsom on July 18.

Meanwhile, the council has announced that West Coast Blues and Roots organisers Sunset Events has been chosen to develop a bar or cafe in the J-Shed’s southern studio.

by STEVE GRANT

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