Retired tomato growing brothers selling 1.2ha despite anger about council industrial zoning

Two retired tomato-growing brothers who live on a waterfront Auckland horticultural site are selling half their land, despite one’s bitterness against the council’s current zoning of the site as light industrial.

Dudley and Rodney Barton of Favona Rd, Wiri, have engaged CBRE to market 1.2ha of Barton Growers’ 2.4ha site, selling the portion closest to the road but keeping the waterfront site.

Two years ago, Dudley Barton complained about Auckland Council’s zoning, but now says he just wants his millions and to get on with his life.

That article was headlined “living in paradise, feeling like hell; one of Auckland’s last seaside market garden owners”.

Barton has many complaints but he mainly wants his land rezoned residential, the same as the proposed Market Cove project next door, by Southpark’s John and James Sax.

Barton said residential-zoned land fetched far more than industrial, so he could get a much higher price if the council agreed to change his zoning.

But the council says to do that, he would need to apply for a private plan change.

Barton, however, says that would potentially cost a six-figure sum so he and his brother are selling their property on an as-is basis, zoned industrial.

John Duguid, council plans and places general manager, said that in 2019 most properties north of Favona Rd were, like the Bartons’, zoned business or light industrial. The neighbouring lots, such as at Market Cove, were rezoned residential only when they were put forward to become a special housing area, he said.

Barton said some industrial land in the area was now going for $1000/sq m. If a buyer paid that much, he and his brother would get $12m for the 1.2ha on sale.

CBRE says the site is between Ōnehunga and Ōtāhuhu, well-positioned for airport access and “ripe for new industrial buildings”.

Expressions of interest are open until mid-October for the property marketed by Bruce Catley and Alex Divers. The sites are at 14 and 14a Favona Rd.

Worker accommodation, car sales, garden centres, drive-through restaurant, dairies up to 100sqm of floor area, trade suppliers, show homes, service stations, emergency services, tertiary education, wholesaling, storage, animal breeding, horticulture and construction of new buildings are some of the permitted uses for land zoned like the Bartons’.

“We are hoping to sell now because the price which agents tell us they can get is the same as land in this area without the council limitations. That is due to the shortage of available land,” Barton said.

James Sax said he and his father might be interested in buying Barton Growers’ land but it all depended on price and there might be a variation between what was expected and what could be offered.

Market Cove had not started due to the lack of a suitable project manager, James Sax said.

“It breaks my heart,” Sax said of Market Cove. “But we need a community-minded development manager who captures John’s vision because Dad is trying to encapsulate the community at Market Cove.”

Sax said he knew of parties keen to buy the Bartons’ land, but one had a steel business and wanted access through the Market Cove site to the land. Sax said that was an unacceptable proposition and was firmly rejected.

Dudley Barton said he had met James and his father John Sax a number of times to discuss his land sale.

“They will only offer a fire sale price, way less than half the true value,” Barton said.

Auckland Council values the Bartons’ place at only $4.2m:
• $1m for 5390sq m at 14 Favona Rd (rates $3400)
• $1.1m for 6649sq m at 14a Favona Rd (rates $1900)
• $2.1m for 1.1ha at 20 Favona Rd (rates $4800)

“It’d be double the price if it was rezoned. Why should we sell for less? I’d like to relax more, go to Europe, Asia, South America, buy a new car, play golf,” Barton said in pre-pandemic times.

This month he said he wants buy another place and move elsewhere in Auckland.

He has previously refused to pay rates based on the existing land zoning, claiming that even as light industrial he was being charged too much because the assessment of value was too high.

That got to the point where he said the council claimed $400,000 in unpaid rates and penalties, resulting in threats of a court action. Eventually an agreement was reached and he paid a much lesser sum but he still remains sore about that.

And he’s unhappy with the $10,000 or so in annual rates on the place, which the brothers fund partly by renting one of their three houses for $600 per week.

Now, the Bartons are just hoping for a sale of half their land.

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