There were sharp exchanges between councillors following a discussion of whether to invite offers for a derelict hotel in the county town.
It was revealed last month that a prospective buyer decided not to go ahead with their acquisition of the Imperial Hotel, which is owned currently by Mayo County Council Councillor Cyril Burke requested that the council consider looking for expression of interest on the sale of the Imperial Hotel to be sold as a boutique hotel whilst still advancing the hotel through the current process as part of the town regeneration project through a notice of motion.
The councillor explained that he didn’t see any difficulty with inviting expressions of interest over the next six to eight weeks for someone to come forward.
“A lot of people in Castlebar were disappointed to see the deal fall through. There is a lot of goodwill towards seeing it as a boutique hotel. The town needs it badly.” In response, Councillor Michael Kilcoyne said while some people were disappointed, there were also people happy the deal fell through. He believed it shouldn’t be sold off, having sold off the old library last year.
“People are of the view it was purchased by Mayo County Council ten years ago and why has it gone to ruin? It was supposed to be the HQ for the Town Council, but your party (Fine Gael) got rid of it.
“If someone wants to come forward, fine. But the council should be actively doing that hotel up the last three, four years.” Councillor Blackie Gavin said he did not like the use of the word ‘consider’ in the motion, saying it was pity to hear that Cllr Burke wanted to sell off “a part of our town”.
He commented that the council submitted two applications for the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) with €11 million approved two years ago, but nothing has happened since.
The building is of huge historical significance to Castlebar and this county and on that, Cllr Gavin said he could not support the motion.
“As far as I’m concerned, this town isn’t selling anymore because this town isn’t going to benefit.” Councillor Al McDonnell said something should happen whether a development is proposed by the council or private, the status of the building should be preserved while the view of Councillor Martin McLoughlin was that he wouldn’t support anything else apart from a hotel, having been one since 1838.
Director or services, John Condon, explained that the council did not have the resources to do anything with the hotel until recently after getting funding through the URDF, €6 million of which was for the hotel, partly done in partnership with the Western Development Commission and the University.
The council are anxious that the building gets the hotel done and would be happy if negotiations with the interested party worked out but after not working out, the chief executive notified the municipal district.
Any sale on the building would not just have to pass the municipal district, but the full council. On where they are with the motion is if it’s adopted, Mr Condon said the council would want a short process and propose to continue what they are trying to do with the funding in parallel with seeking genuine expressions of interest.
If an agreement is not reached, they will continue to try to draw down the €6 million for the hotel.
The motion, seconded by Cllr Deere, was voted through five to two and will now come before a meeting of the full council. All but two councillors in the Castlebar Municipal District – Michael Kilcoyne and Blackie Gavin – voted yes.