“This is my heaven, and that is my hell,” says Milnerton resident Yehudit Eini as we walk through the beautiful greenery at the entrance of her home which faces the concrete giant brooding over her backyard.
Overlooking her private space and charming entertainment area, are 20 windows within a few metres of her washing line. They loom over her property. An office worker is taking a smoke break on a balcony.
“I have been harassed by the tenants next door, I have sent pictures of girls showing the middle finger to me, to the landlord. They smoke at the emergency exit next to my washing line and laugh at me,” said Ms Eini .
She and her family have experienced everything from paint being splattered on their washing line, due to renovations next door, to sleepless nights when the office space turns into “party central” after working hours. And the Einis are not the only ones who have suffered.
Next-door neighbour Alvon Collison who originally challenged the development of the Millvale office block when the plans were discovered (“Residents in flat spin,” Tabletalk, May 19 2010), said he had awnings installed over his windows to stop the tenants peering into his home.
“Every Friday night there is a party upstairs on the balcony and they’re drunk, screaming, shouting and having a loud disco. I used to bring people into my house on Sundays to enjoy a comedy drama, but I can’t anymore. Cars from the building are parked in my driveway,” said Mr Collison. Residents opposed the original development, which proposed the building of a seven-storey building, and the developer subsequently reverted back to plans to construct a two-storey building, as those plans were compliant with the zoning scheme accepted by the City in 1996 and did not require public participation.
According to Johan van der Merwe, Mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, the City’s records show the property was rezoned during 1996 from single residential to general business for offices only. The rezoning process had required public participation, which was completed in 1996. “A building plan application was submitted during 2010, which was found to be zoning compliant; thus the proposed development complied with all conditions of approval, including the building line setbacks (1.5m setback along boundaries) and height restriction.
“The height of the building is that of a two-storey building, as the height of each storey complied with the maximum storey height defined by the former Milnerton Town Planning Scheme at the time. It should be noted that council decisions in fulfilling their operations are final and binding,” said Mr Van der Merwe.
Millvale House is now advertised online as “A-grade office space to let” and houses various businesses such as Oxbow, Nedbank and Nordien Law.
One of the landowners and developers, Ray Black, was surprised that the neighbours were now raising their disapproval, five years after Millvale’s development.
“The building was originally planned to be a seven-storey building and had it been approved, it would’ve been a lot worse. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about the complaints.”
“We are in the process of having the windows sandblasted. We’re trying to accommodate the neighbours as much as we can, but compensation to neighbours whose property value dropped) is a bit extreme,” he said.
Mr Black said apart from one neighbour, who complained about the building, the rest of the neighbours had been accommodating and some had mentioned that the building was uplifting the area.
“It looks better than the building before. We’ve done everything to requirement, and we have never done any damage to neighbouring properties.
“The company on top does have a party now and then which does get rowdy, but I have spoken to them and asked them to turn it down,” said Mr Black.
Brett Furlong, the managing director of Oxbow Office Solutions, which occupies the second floor of the building, said the company has been in the building for three years and are sensitive to the concerns of the surrounding neighbours.
“We listen carefully to neighbours’ concerns and try to manage them. We’re sensitive to guidelines, even with parties. Once a month we have an awards ceremony, for the best employee of the month, and so on, and the music is on between 6pm to 8.30pm.”
Mr Furlong said the company would inform neighbours about events they would host and would provide a basket of goods to those who complained.
“We want to contribute to the spirit of uplifting the community, so we employed a security guard for the benefit of the staff and the neighbours. He stopped nine potential car break-ins. There is good stuff coming out of us being here,” said Mr Furlong.
While Nordien Law and Africa Travel, who are also situated on the second floor, refused to comment, another tenant said they understood the issues the neighbours were facing, as they were experiencing similar problems within the building.