The council last night heard the results of a consultation on the guiding principles for developing the long-vacant site, which include an eight-storey maximum building height.
However, North Ward councillor Phil Martin told the meeting the North Adelaide community did not support eight storeys on the site.
In response, Lord Mayor Martin Haese labelled him a “financial vandal”, area councillor Anne Moran argued he was exploiting a council gag order to throw other elected members politically “under the bus” and central ward councillor Houssam Abiad declared: “No-one supports you … you are so alone.”
The public spat came after a confidential council meeting earlier that evening in which councillors were given details about the financial prospects for developing the 88 O’Connell Street site, which is now owned by the council.
Moran and Abiad said they were constrained by the confidentiality of that meeting from saying why eight storeys were necessary for the success of the project, but heavily implied that it would not be financially viable if it did not reach that height.
Moran told the meeting that she hoped council staff would soon present information in public that was as near as possible to that expressed to councillors in confidence “so that we can argue against that robber baron over there (referring to councillor Martin) and expose him”.
Developer Con Makris, from whom the council bought the property, had abandoned a $200 million development plan that involved a 16-storey tower.
Abiad told InDaily this morning that “anything under (an) eight-storey development for that specific site will have a significant financial impact on council’s bottom line”.
“This is common sense.
“I don’t expect a financial return (profit for the council, but) if we get a community benefit and break even that will be a very, very successful outcome.”
Moran told InDaily “eight storeys will still lose us quite a bit”, arguing there should be a new round of consultation on the basis of new information about the financial prospects for the development depending on its height.
“We’ve got our hands tied behind our back (by the confidentiality),” she said, adding that ratepayers should be given the information they need to decide whether they are prepared to lose “millions” in order to keep the development height low.
But councillor Martin told InDaily the North Adelaide community was opposed to eight storeys and that building that high would risk beginning to change the character of the suburb into something like “North Sydney”.
“The phony economic rationalist argument is that the council needs to recoup every dollar that it spent acquiring this site,” he said.
“If we can spend tens of millions of dollars stuffing up Gawler Place, why can’t we spend (non-recoupable money) on North Adelaide?
“Eight storeys on 88 would be a disaster.”
He said he was simply expressing the will of the ratepayers of North Adelaide, who did not want to take the “first step towards creating North Sydney (in North Adelaide)”.
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