DCC report opposes city hotel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Plans for a 28-storey waterfront hotel towering over Dunedin have been dealt a blow by a Dunedin City Council report that criticises the design and recommends resource consent be declined.

However, the man fronting the $100 million project, Betterways Advisory Ltd director Steve Rodgers, insisted yesterday he was still confident the hotel would be built.

The report by council planner Lianne Darby, made public yesterday, identified the hotel's height and dominant appearance as among areas of concern.

A host of technical worries also raised doubts, ranging from traffic problems and shading to a lack of information about wind gusts magnified by the tower's height.

However, the potential benefits of the project were also canvassed, and Ms Darby's report left the door ajar by including a list of detailed conditions to impose if consent were granted, despite her recommendation.

That included referring the hotel's design to a council-appointed panel of experts for final approval, to help improve the hotel's appearance before any construction.

Mr Rodgers yesterday said he was surprised by the report's recommendation but believed including the list of conditions showed the hotel was close to winning approval.

"We think we can get over that hurdle," he said. "A wee bit of effort and we are over the line."

Council resource consents manager Alan Worthington said including the conditions while recommending consent be declined would mean a "more robust and timely process", but did not indicate which way the decision might go.

That would be up to the council's hearings committee, which would meet on December 3 to begin hearing the applicant's case, supporting evidence and public submissions.

Plans for the five-star hotel and apartment tower were unveiled in May and immediately triggered an outcry, resulting in 507 public submissions, 457 opposed, 43 in support and seven neutral.

The building is planned for vacant industrial land at 41 Wharf St and includes a rooftop terrace and bar, but is considered a non-complying activity under the council's district plan.

Ms Darby's report said about 60% of submissions objected to the hotel's height, arguing it was "too tall, out of character ... or badly positioned", and some would continue to see it as "severe and offensive", even with design changes.

"Because of its bulk and location, it cannot be missed.

Because it is located at the water's edge, it imposes its presence on the harbour view from a large range of locations."

When viewed from a distance, the hotel would not break the skyline and would therefore not "dominate" views from residential homes.

It would disrupt the outline of Otago Harbour and tower over some inner-city buildings, but the Resource Management Act did not protect views, meaning "this reason alone is not sufficient for [the] council to decline consent", she said.

On the positive side, the hotel would put underused land to use, enhance the site and provide new employment opportunities for Dunedin.

"It is a rare opportunity for a development of this size to be established in Dunedin with no direct costs to the ratepayer."

However, its design meant it would struggle to fit in its historic surroundings and there would be "some adverse effects on the heritage values of the surrounding area", she said.

The council's consulting urban planner and designer, Ian Munro, of Urbanism Plus, said the "retrospective" design appeared to be from the mid-20th century, and meant the hotel would be "stark and ... plainly out of context" with its surroundings.

It had the potential to be a "landmark structure of high quality", but only if a higher design standard were enforced, which could alleviate many concerns, he believed.

While a 15-storey, 60m-high building would better suit the site, the potential to improve the design and finish meant he did not recommend reducing the hotel's overall height.

Adding a modern, tall structure on the fringe of heritage buildings was consistent with the approach adopted in Europe, where modern "outer" cities ringed smaller, historic "inner" cities, Mr Munro said.

The Wharf St site was also the closest "choke point" between the waterfront and the inner city, making it the "obvious connection point" between the two.

However, a new footbridge would be needed to link the hotel site properly to the inner city, Ms Darby's report said, something Mr Rodgers addressed when unveiling early - and uncosted - plans this week for a new pedestrian and cyclist link.

Ms Darby's report also warned the hotel could cause traffic problems in Wharf St, identified a lack of parking for the hotel, and concluded shadows cast across nearby Customhouse Quay would be a problem each afternoon, year-round.

The hotel would also be built on reclaimed land at risk in an earthquake, but the report accepted engineering solutions could address that.

However, wind-tunnel testing was needed to determine the true extent of the magnifying effect of the tower on wind speeds in the area.

Next month's consent hearing would run from December 3 to 6.


The view from the hill

Topsy I've seen the sketches showing the visual impact the proposed hotel will have on the harbour basin viewed from the hill suburbs and they're hideous.  They can be seen in the submissions that we all have access to and I'm not sure why the ODT hasn't shown them yet.

Missing angles

Where are the sketches showing the visual impact that the proposed new hotel will have on the harbour basin when viewed from the most popular tourist location, the hill suburbs ? The applicant has supplied only close-up sketches, or sketches with blurred backgrounds. Something to hide, perhaps ? How will the harbour basin look with a 90m high, 30m wide, brick parked right in front of it ? Once it is built, that clean view that we all know and love is gone forever. Handle with care.

Wise. not cynical

Ian: 76 years on this planet brings perspective and wisdom and a fair degree of cynicism. Nothing wrong with that. Call it wisdom instead.
Yes, we'll get the usual fluff. I suspect these people would see a kind of 'vibrancy' with putting something 'visionary' on the top of Mt Tongariro. 'Big picture' people, I suspect.

Graphic label

Graphics, charts and diagrams are a great way of displaying information at a glance. But they should be labelled accurately.
I notice that the ODT graphic is labelled "Dunedin's Waterfront Hotel." This may be just to fit some kind of description into the available space but it would be more accurate to call it "The proposed waterfront hotel in Dunedin."
It's very important with developments to say that they are only 'proposed' until they are definite. And the hotel wouldn't actually 'belong' to Dunedin, either.



What will this cost ratepayers?

I wonder how much the ratepayers will end up paying for this in total? I would say one hell of a lot, despite what the spin doctors might try to say. Economic benefits are always easy to write about and state, but the reality is usually dramatically different

'Tis the season of.........'

'Digger': Thanks for pointing out to me that as the most conspicuous and probably the only beneficiary so-far from the stadium debacle, the ORFU did actually partake of a 'free-lunch' and the future might prove that, that was only a 'entree' for greater things yet to come.

Do I suspect that we are about to suffer the usual deluge of 'vibrancy', 'synergies', 'visionaries'  and all the other jargon the 'pro-anything' lot use to disguise their real intentions, or has 76 years of residence on this planet made me cynical? 


There is such a thing as a free lunch

Ian. 'There is no such thing as a free lunch' (Truman) He was wrong. The ORFU got a free lunch. The stadium.

re: Planner notes no cost to ratepayers

Yup, anyone that comes from Auckland (like me) has seen this statement countless times.  Gulf Harbour development, covered in tarps half the year due to leaking (I wonder who ultimately picks up the tab for that).  Orewa Nautilus Tower (identical proposal methods to the Dunedin Hotel - Jobs, boost to the local economy, Orewa will die without it! no cost to ratepayer).  It's now half empty leaking and council in for possible 20+ million repair bill.  It's ok though we know the developers funding the Dunedin Hotel -oh wait.. who are they? I also love how they claim an engineering solution can handle the weetbix ground underneath this thing when a 7.0 mag hits, now that would make a good Tui billboard.

Matters to be considered

Interesting point made by Iheartnewspapers about what matters may be considered in the planning consent process.
However, I suspect that the actual and potential effects on the environment (and the definition of environment does not directly include 'economic environment) would be weighted more heavily. I guess the question is whether the RMA and the resource consent process is aimed primarily at effects on the environment rather than economic development.
It hardly matters, as I see Section 104 gives the council the right to consider anything they consider 'revelant and reasonably necessary.' See here


Splitting hairs

I know I'm splitting hairs - but the staff member said "no direct costs to ratepayers" - which is slightly different.   And talking about things being not what they appear, I was impressed with yesterday's ODT slide-show of artist's impressions of the new walkway.   With one exception, they all managed to show the new hotel sitting sympathically in its neighbourhood by only showing the three storey part of the building - not the huge mass which is causing so much concern.

While I would love to see job creating development on this scale, I do think the council staff have got it right - the cost to our city would out-weight the benefits. 

Planner notes no cost to ratepayers

It seems extraordinary that a planner should put such a comment in a planning report because (as Farsighted has commented) such a consideration is a political one, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the planning process.


Down the 'Primrose Path' again

In the early days of the stadium saga, it was the lure of 'something for nothing' which first looked attractive. I would suggest that this hotel proposal is going through the same 'rose-coloured glasses' stage at present. In fact, the familiar rhetoric is being trotted out as well - 'Dunedin will die without it', 'it will bring employment', tourists, the Dalai Lama...
I believe the saying 'there is no such thing, as a free lunch' originated with US President Harry S. Truman in the years following hard on the heels of WW2. There is another saying from roughly the same era: 'The Buck stops here'! Our bucks have indeed 'stopped', as they have all but run out, but still the delusions of grandeur refuse to go away and we continue to carry on as if our city is a metropolis and a major player on the world scene.
We are a moderate sized city, which services a rural hinterland. We are not a major-player in anything, nor will we ever be. A realistic aim would be to recapture some of the engineering and other business, which we had done so little to avoid losing in the last several decades. It's nice to have tourism, up-to-a-point, but it's the icing on the cake, and spread thinly, for most, at that. [Abridged]


Gateway test

If the s104D gateway test is satisfied, then I don’t see why additional jobs and the use of vacant land cannot be taken into account by the decision makers under s104 as positive effects created by the proposal.

Please Note

All of the Green ticks on the left - the good things about the proposal - have absolutely no weight in the outcome of the resource consent application.

All of the red crosses on the right - the bad things about the proposal - do have a bearing on the application.

The job of the Hearings Committee is quite simple: to hear the evidence presented by submitters and decide on the basis of the law whether the application should be accepted or declined.

They cannot be swayed by opinion and nice concept drawings - only evidence.  Evidence that the proposed hotel will have only minor effects.

Source of ODT graphic

What is the source of the ODT graphic showing certain pros and cons of building the proposed hotel? And what information supports these conclusions?

I would be surprised if this graphic amounts to a summation of the planner's report but its placement in the ODT article might very well mislead readers into thinking so. 

Editor - The points in the graphic are a summary of the planner's report.

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