The land at 57 Fitzherbert St. PHOTO/FILE

STEVE RENDLE
steve.rendle@age.co.nz

Plans are afoot for South Wairarapa District Council to make lemonade out of the ‘lemon land” in the centre of Featherston, where a Chorus duct has stymied development in the past.

The council will shortly put the land, at 57 Fitzherbert St, up for sale by tender, confident that the presence of the duct, for which an easement exists, will not deter potential purchasers.

The council accepted an offer from developers to build a retail hub on the site in 2016, but that deal fell through when it was discovered that Chorus required access to the underground duct.

The council gained the land through a land swap with Trust House in 2013, but the trust denies it had any knowledge of the issue.

Wednesday’s SWDC meeting approved terms of reference for a subcommittee set up to oversee the sale of the property, with a tender through a sole real-estate agent, yet to be named, likely in the coming weeks.

Both Mayor Viv Napier and acting chief executive Jennie Mitchell were confident after the meeting there would be considerable interest in the site, despite the duct issues.

Mitchell said after the original developers pulled out of the project a “half-dozen interested parties put their hands up expressing interest in the site”.

The easement on the site requires only that access be available to the cable duct, but Napier said this could be achieved by paving the area above it, which could be excavated if needed.

Napier said the area would suit a group of retail shops with a paved path alongside.

The council is likely to make approval of the use of the land a condition of sale, and consideration is being given to requiring “first refusal” being given to the council should the land be offered for re-sale in future.

The site is between the SuperValue supermarket and the town square, on the main road through Featherston.