FREMANTLE city council has given a local developer exclusive rights to buy one of its properties after releasing a business plan to the public that omitted key information.
At its last meeting the council voted to enter a deal with Bruce Moriarty’s Fremantle Park Investments to sell the old youth centre at 7 Quarry Street (behind the old Beaurepaires site) for between $2.6m and $2.75m.
But a council-initiated rezoning of half the site, which would increase its density up to six-fold and affect the value of the property, is yet to be determined by the WA planning commission.
The business plan makes no mention of the outstanding rezoning application, stating the entire site is under the higher density mixed-use central city zoning.
Council corporate services director Glen Dougall declined to explain the discrepancy but said the sale price was determined by two valuations that assumed rezoning would be approved.
The council’s decision to sell before rezoning is finalised may be explained by the fact Mr Moriarty is working to a deadline and can’t afford a lengthy scheme amendment.
He has just 30 months to redevelop the site before the lapse of tax credits he’s secured from a national rental affordability scheme (NRAS). The council’s own minutes say WA planning minister John Day may not make a decision till late this year: if the sale was put off till then Mr Moriarty may struggle to develop the site in time.
Mr Dougall acknowledges it’s the prospect of the affordable housing, a key component of the city’s strategic plan, that has made the deal a “very attractive proposition” for the council It recently watered down the affordable housing component of its scheme amendment 49 after developers complained it was onerous.
Mr Moriarty approached the council about buying the property, which abuts the old energy museum on Parry Street. He’s negotiating with Western Power to purchase that site, for which he also has NRAS credits.
Mr Dougall won’t divulge exactly when the first approach was made, but the council was almost certainly aware of Mr Moriarty’s plans for the property before councillors voted to initiate the rezoning, as the NRAS deadline was just eight working days later. Mr Moriarty’s application included a letter from the council stating its intention to sell the property, a requirement of the NRAS process.
According to council minutes, Mr Moriarty has 25 credits for the 1477sqm site, but they’re only usable under the higher zoning as he’s planning 20 two-bedroom units, five one-bedroom units and an undisclosed amount of “non-NRAS residential accommodation”.
Mr Moriarty is a friend of mayor Brad Pettitt and the pair were founding members of the Fremantle Network. Dr Pettitt has acknowledged the developer told him of his interest in purchasing the property before the rezoning came before council last year.
Dr Pettitt did not declare an impartiality interest at that time and he voted in favour of the rezoning, believing there was no need. He declared an interest when the sale was raised on December 18 last year and again last month, leaving the chamber.
Impartiality interests don’t prevent elected officials from voting if they feel their judgement won’t be clouded.
by STEVE GRANT