The lease, if accepted, would allow the city to take financial responsibility for the conservation, refurbishment and ongoing maintenance of the Warder’s Cottages.
The Strategic and General Services committee on Wednesday night decided to accept the offer in principle, subject to a business plan which will include possible uses for the buildings.
However, councillors acknowledged this will mean the City’s ratepayers will be forced to pay for what will be millions of dollars of conservation and maintenance costs, describing it as ‘cost shifting’ on the part of the State Government.
The initial loan would be for $6 million worth of restoration and a further $3 million would be needed for ongoing maintenance.
Cr Dave Coggin said he wanted to hear from ratepayers as to whether they would be willing to foot this bill before the final decision at next week’s full council meeting. The offer also states that one or two cottages should be used for affordable housing, while the remainder can be used at the City’s discretion.
However, councillors believed affordable housing was not appropriate. Cr Andrew Sullivan said people who rented a property wanted to put up pictures or decorate and the City’s ability to inspect it would be limited.
‘This notion that with a business plan it could become commercial in 20 years and so it won’t have an impact on residents, is false,’ he said.
‘If this city borrows $6 million to do what is the most basic conservation work we will be tying up the $6 million for 20 years.
‘This will mean we will not be able to borrow money for other projects.’
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said uses such as restaurants, small bars or a demonstration historic house were some options that could be presented in the business plan.
‘While most of council would probably rather the State Government was funding the restoration of the cottages without the City of Fremantle’s help, the possibility of the city taking control does open up some great opportunities for reusing these important heritage buildings in a better way that both activates them and protects their heritage,’ he said.
‘It is a great opportunity for more public and interactive uses than these heritage terraces have been used for in the past but we need to make sure that taking on their restoration doesn’t ultimately come at a cost to the ratepayer.’