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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Fury over Clifton development bid

Cape Town - Plans for the sale of prime municipal land in Clifton – including the sites of the Glen Country Club and Bungalow restaurant – to a private sector developer are at an “advanced stage”, but there will still be opportunities for affected communities to comment before a tender process is finalised.
The City of Cape Town wants to sell or lease portions of four erven in Clifton for an underground parking garage, a residential village with a boutique hotel and a commercial space with an anchor retail tenant, while also mooting upgrades to recreational and sport facilities in the area.
But the project has been slammed by residents and lobby groups in the area who are concerned that the proposed developments could be detrimental to Clifton.
Janey Ball of action group Clifton Organised said the draft conceptual framework published in February was somewhat vague. Soon after the deadline for submissions on April 4, a full mayoral committee meeting was convened on site on Friday.
“It seems clear that this development process is being driven through the corridors of the city with great haste and it is extremely worrying that council, at this early stage, is being asked, at month-end, to grant in-principle approval for the sale of certain portions of the land.”
Ball said the “impetus” for the development was the refurbishment of the garages at Clifton. But now residents are being asked to consider a development that will include 40 bungalows, 880 parking bays and a boutique hotel on the legally protected Clifton Scenic Reserve. “The approach we are taking is in no way intended to be obstructive nor are we anti-development. We simply wish to be part of a transparent process that considers all inputs.
“We are also mindful of the privileged position our community enjoys and mindful too of the city’s need to optimise returns on all possible investments. Accordingly we are committed to working with the city to achieve a ‘win-win’ situation from which all parties can emerge content,” said Ball.
During the public participation process earlier this year, objectors complained that the proposed sale of this prime Atlantic Seaboard land would deprive residents of the free use of this valuable coastal asset. There were also concerns about the impact of the development on a protected heritage site.
Many of the 90 comments lodged during this public comment period related to whether the city had followed proper planning processes.
One resident noted: “Why is the mayor fast-tracking and driving the sale of land used freely and for over a century by families from across the Cape Peninsula for the benefit of a private developer who is behind the scenes and unnamed?”
The Bungalow Owners’ Association said on its website: “We believe the statutory process has not been properly followed – except for the Municipal Finance Management Act 56/2003 and the council’s bylaw relating to the Management and Administration of the City of Cape Town’s Immovable Property published on February 28, 2003 Section 4 – no feasibility studies have been carried out, and no market research conducted as yet. The reported land values are, in our opinion, completely understated.”
Another objector said: “It would be a short-term, completely unsustainable project which would ruin the long-standing attractiveness, sustainability and tourism in one of the most popular and beautiful areas in our country.”
There were also concerns about traffic congestion in the area.
But speaking at Monday’s Subcouncil 16 meeting, Clifton’s ward councillor Jacques Weber took pains to assure affected residents and other associations that their concerns would be considered before any plans were finalised.
“This is just one of a few stages of public participation. Development in this area is needed and welcomed.”
Subcouncil chair Demetri Qually said: “This is a major development that will require the creative and participative involvement of all stakeholders. People don’t want to see a significant asset disappear.”
The erven in question are currently being used by restaurants and sports clubs, and as parking lots. One of these establishments is the Glen Country Club, which the city has described as a “run-down eyesore in this prestigious coastal precinct”.
In the report considered at the subcouncil meeting, Neil Eybers of the city’s finance directorate said the precinct upgrade project had initially focused on the redevelopment of the Clifton garages located next to the public parking area for Clifton’s fourth beach.
But this “footprint” was expanded following an internal decision that the whole precinct would benefit from an upgrade that would inject “much-needed investment” into the area. This decision forms the basis of the draft development framework.
“Other problems and challenges in the precinct relate to safety and security, limited public access to the coast, insufficient parking for visitors to the area, the lack of a precinct identity and opportunities for further private sector investment,” said Eybers.
The sale or lease of the land will be done through a competitive process and the successful bidder or bidders will have to work within the approved design framework.
Portions of the residential properties will be sold, while the management of the sports facilities will remain the responsibility of the clubs, he said.
The report referred to the “rationalisation” of the active recreational facilities in the precinct, including the potential development of a covered bowls green, and upgrades to the cricket oval and tennis courts, Maiden’s Cove picnic area and the inclusion of a walkway along the coastal edge. The project will possibly include the relocation of the Bungalow restaurant, formerly known as La Med.
Eybers said all other city policies, such as the scenic drive policy, would be considered during the approval process, and residents would again have an opportunity to comment.
The city would also invite affected parties to comment on an updated map and plan for the area in the next 10 days.
Once council has approved the sale or lease of the properties, the urban design framework will be presented to affected parties for comment. When this is finalised, the city will call for tenders for the sale, lease or development of the facilities in accordance with the design framework. The successful bidder will need to get the necessary statutory approvals for the developments.
Eybers said the council would derive “significant financial benefit” in the form of the sales price and lease income, as well as the rates and taxes. It’s been reported that the sale could be worth about R100 million. The council-owned garages will be redeveloped by the private sector at no cost to the city.
Cape Argus

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

News 24: Clifton sale may bring mall

An in-principle approval for the sale of land as part of the Clifton precinct upgrade project was presented to the Good Hope subcouncil yesterday.
The proposal suggests the sale of land for the possible development of a three-storey parking lot and over 25 000m² of retail space. It also looks at rationalising the facilities at the Glen Country Club and the Bungalows restaurant area.
A public participation process for a proposal to upgrade the area around Clifton 4th Beach closed in April (“Input for new plan”, People’s Post, 10 February).
Ian Neilson, mayoral committee member for finance, says: “Approximately 100 comments and representations were received from the public. A number of comments and issues have been highlighted through this process and these are being fed into the urban design framework process which is currently underway.”
Media reports have estimated the development is worth R100m.
The proposal is still at conceptual stage, which if approved by the public, will see a developer sought through a competitive process, says Neilson.
“The possibility of selling off portions of the land for residential development, with architectural guidelines in keeping with the existing bungalow architecture, is being considered. Portions of land for a proposed parking garage and possible retail facility could be leased to a developer. It is foreseen that the recreational facilities will be leased to the user sport clubs of this precinct,” he says.
Clifton-on-Sea and District Bungalow Owners’ Association chairperson Paddy Walker says the proposal was brought to residents’ attention last year, but the association is not able to comment until the draft conceptual development framework is released. This document will show the scope of the proposed development.
Camps Bay Ratepayers’ Association chairperson Chris Willemse says residents need more details on what is proposed.
The approval will allow for the sale of the property.
“In-principle approval does not confer any development rights onto the property. The process for applying for these development rights still has to be followed before any development of the property can take place,” Neilson says.
The next step will be for the City to start an interaction with interested and affected parties considering the draft urban design framework for the property, he explains.
“This urban design framework will set parameters for the proposed development. Obtaining land use rights and approvals for this development is a completely separate process to obtaining in-principle approval for the alienation of the property,” he says.
“All required land use, environmental, heritage and any other statutory applications will also involve statutory public participation which will give the community at large ample opportunity to input their views to the authorities.”
The proposed development will affect four erven, which have different zoning, and has been under discussion since around 2002, says Neilson.
“The City does not consider this project to be moving exceptionally fast. The processes for considering the development of this property are ongoing,” he says

Thursday, 14 May 2015

THE Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has expressed great concern at the battery of proposed City Council rates and tariff increases for the new municipal year as all of them are well above the current official CPI rate of inflation of around 4,0 percent.
This was made clear by Chamber members after a presentation on the draft budget by the deputy Mayor, Mr Ian Nielson.
The proposed increases are 10.83 percent for property rates, 8.33 percent for refuse removals and 11 percent for both water and sanitation. Electricity tariff increases will be even higher but this depends on a pending decision by NERSA on Eskom’s latest application for a further tariff increase.
Ms Janine Myburgh, President of the Chamber, said that we had experienced above-inflation increases in the past and more were projected for the next three years. “How long can the City continue with these huge rates and tariff increases? It is not sustainable and the City should expect some strong resistance from both business and residential ratepayers.”
Mr Jeremy Wiley, chairman of the Chamber’s Economics and Financial Affairs Committee, said the biggest cost, at more than 30 percent of the operating budget, was the City’s 27 000 staff who earned an average of R30 000 a month in salaries and benefits. This was much higher than private sector salaries. It was unaffordable and required urgent attention.
Mr Neilson explained that salaries were negotiated at national level and that the City’s mandate to SALGA was an 8 percent annual increase, which in itself was well above inflation. Mr Wiley pointed out that the draft budget indicated a 10% increase in salary costs or nearly 10 percent and that the City should, like the private sector, be looking for ways to reduce staff costs, increase productivity and improve the delivery of services to ratepayers.
Mr Charles Scheltema, a member of the Chamber board, said that businesses had opted to create some 32 city improvement districts and to pay additional rates in order to supplement services the City was unable to provide. These improved services increased property values and, as a result of their own success, businesses in the improvement districts found that their overheads increased as property rates went up thus contributing even further to the city’s income. He said that just as businesses had to reduce their costs to survive the City should find ways to do the same.
“The core problem is that the City decides how much money it needs and then sets the tariffs. That’s a sure way to lose control of rising costs. The correct way would be to decide that rates and tariffs could not go up by more than the inflation rate and then instruct departmental heads to work within those limits. We know that it will be hard but good financial management is never easy,” said Ms Myburgh.
The Chamber also expressed concern about the high operating costs of the My-City bus service. It also called for a better to plan bring down refuse removal costs and to roll out the solid waste recycling programme throughout the city.
In spite of these reservations, Cape Town was arguably the best managed city in South Africa and compared favourably with other world class cities. The Chamber still expected the City to deliver better value for every rand paid in rates and tariffs.
Ms Janine Myburgh, President of the Cape Chamber,
Mr Jeremy Wiley, Chairman of the Chamber’s Economics and Financial Affairs Committee
Mr Charles Scheltema, Chamber Board Member
Issued by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, May 4 2015