Hotel appeal could be dropped, mayor says

An appeal by the company bidding to build a $100 million waterfront hotel in Dunedin could be dropped as a result of negotiations with Dunedin City Council staff, Mayor Dave Cull says.

Mr Cull said he was encouraged by the ''very positive'' comments from hotel developer Jing Song, of Queenstown, reported in yesterday's Otago Daily Times.

Ms Song, a director of Betterways Advisory Ltd, said she was prepared to compromise on the hotel's design, including its height, and possibly even its location, if it meant the project could proceed.

Mr Cull said yesterday he wrote to Ms Song on June 11, days after the decision to decline consent for the hotel was announced, offering independent planning advice to try to find a way forward.

Ms Song's representatives had since met council staff to discuss the offer, which resulted in a ''positive consensus'' between the parties. The two sides planned to keep talking, but, in the meantime, the council planned to secure the services of an independent planning company or individual to help the project, Mr Cull said.

The planner would most likely be from outside the city, and would need ''heavyweight'' experience in large-scale developments.

The council would offer the planner's services to Betterways in the hope that could help achieve ''a more positive outcome'', Mr Cull said.

He expected the discussions that would follow could take several months, but could result in Ms Song being prepared to drop the appeal and agree to a revised development.

The discussions would include whether there was agreement on ways of dealing with the ''challenges'' surrounding the 41 Wharf St site, including the hotel's height and problems with traffic congestion and pedestrian connections, Mr Cull said.

If those could not be resolved, discussions would shift to alternative sites, in a bid to settle on something that worked for all sides, Mr Cull said.

Asked how quickly that process could happen, Mr Cull said it could form part of Environment Court mediation talks, ''but it needn't''.

''I don't see any point in mucking around.''

The steps ahead, including whether a fresh consent application and hearing was needed, would depend on what option was pursued - ranging from a new site to a plan change or a revised proposal, he said.

Any agreement would also have to work for both parties, but ''we would really like to encourage this investment in a high-class hotel in Dunedin'', Mr Cull said.

''We definitely need it.''

''In some ways, ironically, the [committee's consent] decision freed us up ... to get involved in a constructive dialogue about how we go forward.''


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