The Fitzherbert St section in Featherston more than a year ago, when a commercial development was first announced.  PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

 

HAYLEY GASTMEIER

hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

 

A lack of action at an empty site earmarked for commercial development in central Featherston is frustrating a group of residents, who have labelled the bare space an eyesore.

A project to develop a retail and cafe space on a section between Fitzherbert St and Fox St has been in the pipeline since September 2016.

The empty site, where Chung’s supermarket was demolished in 2010, was once dubbed “the shingle pit” by some Featherston residents.

Marcus Darley of Featherston Central Limited is behind the planned project.

South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) has confirmed the development is at a standstill after a number of issues relating to resource content, and says the ball is in the developers’ court.

However, Mr Darley disputes this, saying his company is “in negotiation” over the resource consent, which was now “in the council’s hands”.

“We are nearly there, but the council has put it on hold,” he said.

“It’s been a long process, and there still seems to be problems with the title.”

The Featherston Ratepayers and Residents Association (FRRA) want to see the land utilised as soon as possible.

FRRA deputy chair Sue Fox said the vacant section was an eyesore.

“We want the town to look as if its thriving rather than going backwards.”

SWDC planning and environment group manager Murray Buchanan said a lack of car parking for the proposed development, and the absence of a loading zone on the site, were the key problems.

A developer would normally be obliged to provide between 20 and 25 car parks for a project of the proposed size.

The plans included just three parking spaces.

Mr Buchanan said the council indicated “early on in the piece” that it was prepared to waive half the required car parks, with only around a dozen needed to be provided.

SWDC also offered “a cash in lieu contribution” arrangement.

This means, if a developer cannot physically provide the car parks, they pay an equivalent value to the council.

“Then the council holds that money and waits for an opportunity to get a piece of land and provide some parking — it’s a way of banking the carparking that’s required.”

Mr Buchanan said the council needed to be fair about businesses having adequate parking spacings for their customers.

The development plans did not include loading facilities on site, but a loading zone on the street.

This would have to be gazetted, and because Fitzherbert St is part of State Highway 2, the New Zealand Transport Agency would be involved in this process.

Mr Buchanan said problems with easements on the property and the section’s boundary line had also arisen, holding up the project.

He confirmed the building design now complied with Fitzherbert St heritage requirements.

After the Chung’s supermarket was demolished, the land came into SWDC’s hands via a landswap deal.

It built the town square on half the land and sold the remaining area to Featherston Central.

FRRA opposed the town square development, preferring instead that the entire space be utilised for commercial development.

Ms Fox said the square was “ill thought out” and its $600,000 cost could have been better spent.

It saw little use — one reason being the need to fill out an eight-page application for each event, according to FRRA.

It would like to see the Fitzherbert St land brought into productive use, creating more business and jobs for Featherston.

“The businesses in the town rely heavily on foot traffic and if you have a town that’s strung out, with huge empty gaps in it, you don’t get people walking along looking into the shops, creating business and prosperity for business owners.”

Featherston ward councillor Dayle Harwood said it was a shame to see the site was still vacant after many years.

“It’ll be the jewel in the middle of Featherston once it’s there.”