City soft on developer, say residents

Residents feel Arum Road is being targeted by developers who want to build high-density developments in the suburban road.

The Greater Table View Action Forum (GTAF) has laid an official complaint with the City of Cape Town, which it accuses of condoning “illegal building works” at a block of flats in Table View.

The four-storey block at 43 North Road in Sunridge was completed last year.

The owner, Laronamix (Pty) Ltd, was approved to build 20 units but added an additional four units and a janitor’s flat.

The additions exceeded the regulations of the General Residential 3 (GR3) zoning, and the owner submitted a departure application which was declined by the City.

David Bettesworth Town and Regional Planners was appointed to submit the necessary motivation for the application. In the meantime, there was a change in interpretation of the zoning scheme by the City.

It was concluded that a departure application was no longer an option and a rezoning to the next subzone would be required.

David Bettesworth Town and Regional Planners then submitted an application for the rezoning from GR3 to GR4 and building line departures.

The public have until the end of May 6 to submit comments or objections to this application.

The owner has paid a R500 000 fine for the additions, but David Ayres who heads up the planning and bio-diversity portfolio of GTAF believes it’s a pittance compared to the profit the owner stands to make from selling the four extra flats.

He said the application for the “unauthorised building” had gone through the local municipal office.”

Plans would have been passed by this office, the building inspector would have been required to report any unauthorised works to this office. Yet this unauthorised building was able to be completed. Clearly this is not acceptable,” said Mr Ayres.

Merely issuing a fine before accepting a re-zoning application was setting a precedent for other developers to do the same in the future, he said.

But Isalde du Toit from David Bettesworth Town Planners said the fine had discouraged developers from building anything without building plan approval “even minor deviations”.

She said the owner of the North Road flats had realised after the original building plans were approved that the additional units could be built by enclosing certain approved terraces.

“His thinking was that this would improve the viability of the development, without causing any additional impact, as the building footprint would not have to be extended.

“The owner had never undertaken a development project before. Based on the advice he received and his own limited experience, he assumed that although the building plan approval of the additions would first require a zoning scheme bulk departure, this would be approved quickly,” she said.

He took the decision to start building in terms of the approved building plan, thinking that by the time he was ready to commence with the construction of the additions, his approvals would be in place said Ms Du Toit.

“For a variety of unforeseen reasons, notably a change in interpretation of the zoning scheme by the City, the application process was delayed considerably. The owner was therefore faced with the decision to either halt construction, which would have had huge financial implications, or proceed without plan approval for the additions. Taking all health, safety and fire precautions into account, he decided to proceed. He however continued to engage with the City to comply with the new application requirements,” she said

She said despite the owner’s best intentions to comply with all regulations, he found himself in a position he did not anticipate.

“It should be mentioned that a major change in interpretation by the City of the Municipal Planning By-Law (bulk increases can no longer be applied through a departure, but only through a rezoning), came as a complete surprise to the development industry and resulted in significant delays to numerous development projects – this delay in the time taken to process the bulk application was a so-called ‘curve ball’ for all involved. This town planning firm does not condone unauthorised building work,” said Ms Du Toit.

On Friday March 29, Mr Ayres lodged a complaint with the City manager and included the details of 86 other complainants.

He also lodged a C3 complaint about the unauthorised building work on behalf of GTAF.

He said he could not see how council could continue with the application until such time as the complaint had been fully investigated.

“For the City to continue with the application whilst the investigation is still under way would pre-empt the outcome of the investigation,” he said.

Marian Nieuwoudt, Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, said the City’s building inspector had served a notice on the owner on December 5 2018 for unauthorised building work. A penalty had been paid in March, said Ms Nieuwoudt.

“The applicant submitted a rezoning and departure application in December 2018, but the assessment could not proceed due to the penalty not being paid at the time. Given the payment of the penalty last month, the City has now proceeded with the assessment of the application. The application has been advertised in the form of a press advert and notices to the surrounding property owners for comments/ objections/ support,” she said.

“As for the rezoning and departure application, this process is under way. I want to reiterate the payment of the penalty does not imply that the City has approved the building, nor that the applications have been approved. These processes are under way, and the applications are being dealt with in accordance with the Municipal Planning By-law,” she said.