ANOTHER of Fremantle’s senior real estate figures has taken aim at Fremantle council over its troubled selling of a development property in Quarry Street.
At last week’s finance and policy committee, the council considered an item about the sale of 7-9 Quarry Street behind closed doors, but it’s controversially withholding any information about the potential buyer or his plans until after the item goes to full council. The agenda only noted that the attached documents included a “contract of sale” and a “proposed design”.
The Herald understands the offer has come from the same developer who put in the only bid when the site, formerly the city’s children and youth services, was previously put up for sale. That offer was knocked back as too low.
Veteran real estate agent John Dethridge says the process has him “concerned”.
“I have been informed that the City of Fremantle council have recently authorised the CEO to proceed with the sale of the above-mentioned property held in their ownership,” Mr Detheridge wrote in a Letter to the Editor.
“The City of Fremantle has a duty to maximise the selling price of this land for the ultimate benefit of its constituents.”
Mr Dethridge said the land had been rezoned as mixed-use with a residential density of R80, but developers would need time to assess its potential, and that could only be realised through a competitive tender process rather than an EOI.
“I for one would be very disappointed if this land was disposed of in a non-competitive marketing environment which I am led to believe may be a possibility.”
Fremantle Society president John Dowson called the Herald concerned about the potential sale, and when we noted the committee had deliberated on the item for just one minute, he hit the roof.
“This rare and glorious site of 4143sqm adjacent to a park in this current boom should be worth about $2,000 per sqm, but council will sell it for much less,” he fumed.
“A great deal of time and money has been wasted getting this property sold.”
The first attempt to offload the site was an exclusive offer to Bruce Moriarty, a developer with close links to former mayor Brad Pettitt, but it fell through when a tax offset for affordable housing was axed by the Abbott government. The council the tried to get it developed under the baugruppen model where potential tenants replace the developer in the process, but they wanted the council to carry too much of the risk and the plan died.
The council’s next step was to try to auction it after advertising on a DIY site dismissed by former REIWA head Hayden Groves as a “mom and pop” operation. Only the single bid by the current developer was received, so the council then put it out to an expression of interest.
City Ward candidate Craig Ross raised the sale during the city’s recent general meeting of electors after noting the council had devalued the property from $9.3m to $5.08m inside a year.
In response the council said the $9.3m had come from an independent valuer, but like a property on Holdsworth Street valued at $3.1m but sold for $1.08m, there was a difference between “fair value” and “market value”.
“The poor sales process and the undue haste to sell the Quarry Street property raises red flags, as does the clearly unsatisfactory response by council officers when asked at the recent electors meeting as to why and how the property was devalued by $5.1m from $9.3m to $4.2m at 30 June 2020,” Mr Ross told the Herald on Thursday.
The Herald also queried why the council hadn’t published the motion or the committee vote in the agenda or minutes, denying ratepayers a chance to view the details before it went to council for endorsement.
The council said because the decision wasn’t valid without a full council vote, it wasn’t required to. We humbly begged to differ, saying the Local Government (Administration) regulations were clear that all council and committee decisions had to be recorded, a view Mr Dowson said he confirmed with the local government department.
by STEVE GRANT