Debate rages on hotel bid
The owner of the now defunct Skyline restaurant building wants the council to drop the public reserve designations on the Skyline site in order to build a 24 room hotel. While council officers have advised a hotel was not a compatible use of the site, councillors at last week’s strategy and policy committee meeting voted to recommend the full council consult with the public on whether the legal protections on the land should be removed. Council officers were unable to confirm yesterday whether the consultation document would mention the hotel proposal. The full council will vote on the matter next week.
Cr Iona Pannett told Capital Times she was concerned there had been no pre-consultation over the hotel proposal and ward councillors and people living in the vicinity of the site had not been aware of the plans.
“The site has spectacular views and needs a level of protection,” Cr Pannett said. “By building a hotel there you are effectively privatising the space.”
Cr Pannett said she was also concerned by the “stand over” tactics being used by the site’s present owner who has threatened to let the existing Skyline building remain unused and fall into disrepair if the reserve classifications were not removed.
“He’s basically saying if you don’t do this I’m walking away,” Pannett said.
However, Cr Andy Foster says it is too early for people to be taking sides over whether or not a hotel should be built on the site. He says the way forward was to hold discussions with key stakeholders, including the public, to find uses for the site that were appropriate.
“It’s a very important site governed by a complete mess of different legislative controls and zoning regulations,” Cr Foster says. “What’s on the site now is not attractive and it isn’t working. The building is not sustainable as it is for use as a café or restaurant so we’re trying to find some other uses that may work.”
The Skyline site has long been a cause of problems for the council. It was involved in a six year dispute over lease terms and rent with the building’s previous owners who leased the land on which the building stands. At the time the owner accused the council of attempts to triple the rent and pushing the owner out of business.
A leading Wellington restaurateur, who did not want to be named, said he was surprised operators of the Skyline building had not been able to establish profitable businesses from the building.
“It’s at the top of the cable car, one of the city’s most visited tourist sites,” he said. “I guess it must come down to the terms and conditions of the lease, rental costs and restraints on the nature of the business.”
The council would not release details of the lease saying they were commercially sensitive.