Residents raise concerns as by-laws amended

“The City’s perverse notion that it can ‘densify’ itself out of its infrastructural and financial problems is clearly indicative of an administration short of ideas and plans and strong on revenue collection, regardless of the consequences.”

So said the chairperson of the Camps Bay and Clifton Residents’ and Ratepayers’Association (CBCRRA) Chris Willemse in response to the Council’s approval of amendments to the Municipal Planning By-law (MPBL) on Thursday October 31.

The by-law regulates development and land use in the city.

The City states that amendments are part of its annual review process, and must give effect to the policies and strategies that have been adopted by Council over the past few years.

The amendments will, among others, allow for controlled densification, short-term letting of flats, and minor freestanding and minor rooftop cell masts, either as of right or as a consent use.

In March this year, the City ran a public participation process to inform residents and interested and affected parties about the proposed amendments, and get their views on the matter.

They hosted six public information sessions in Milnerton, Kraaifontein, the Cape Town CBD, Fish Hoek, Goodwood and Strand where planning officials answered residents’ questions.

In the session held in the CBD, residents from the inner city, city bowl and the Atlantic Seaboard weighed in on the proposed amendments.

Some raised concerns about property owners who lease out their apartments for just a few days.

They said they had court cases regarding the matter where they have taken people on but unfortunately at times, they struggled to get sufficient evidence to satisfy the prosecutor.

The City’s Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, said they have used all available resources to alert residents to the proposed amendments, and to encourage all concerned to submit their comments.

“All-in-all we received 131 submissions from residents, ratepayers’ associations, organisations, and other interested parties and I want to thank them for their valuable input.”

Ms Nieuwoudt said planning officials assessed these with great care, and made some changes to the proposed amendments.

“For example, following on from the constructive public engagement process, it was decided to omit the section about emergency housing altogether, as it needs further refinement; and we added provisions to the section that deals with the third dwelling as an additional use right,” she said.

Some of the amendments include a provision that allows for short-term letting from a house or flat for a period not exceeding 30 consecutive days. This, the City said, is in response to the increase in short-term letting via online platforms such as AirBnB.

“Many submissions supported this provision as it will contribute to our local economy and tourism sector, and job creation. We recommend to body corporates, homeowners’ associations and the like to control or prohibit short-term letting in accordance with their own rules and to address issues of security or behaviour,” she said.

The amendment also makes provision for a third dwelling as an additional use right for properties zoned as Single Residential. This means that the property owner is allowed to add a third dwelling on the property without prior approval from the City.

This will be subject to the normal development rules of the property and specified additional conditions (conditions would typically determine the size and height of the third dwelling).

Mr Willemse said the public participation process certainly had all civic groupings opposed to the third dwelling proposal and, as always, the City simply ignored the broader community.

“It was clearly just another “box-ticking” exercise by the City where it has no intention of taking heed of its ratepayers but rather pandering to its sponsors in the development industry.”

He said the City has no intention of increasing its services, such as sewerage and simply puts its collective head in the sand and repeats the mantra of “adequate services” when it is clear to all that this is not the case.

“The fact is that the City pumps millions of litres of raw sewerage into our coastal bays daily and continues to defend the indefensible consequences thereof. Basically, this is a ticking time bomb. Similarly, the issue of electromagnetic cell mast towers is simply approved with the proviso that the negative health effects are the responsibility of national government. This absurd situation is only made worse by the constant demand by the City that it should have all competency over local matters.

“An immense amount of time and effort went into the ratepayers’ response to the public participation process – and once again it was treated as merely window dressing by the City,” he said.

Sharing these sentiments, the Sea Point Fresnaye and Bantry Bay Residents and Ratepayers’ Association (SFB) said they understand and support in principle the imperative for controlled densification.

However, they said this should happen in a holistic and integrated way so that the potential impacts including the challenges of adequate infrastructure provision, particularly water and sanitation, increased traffic density and control, environmental impacts, are planned for and the negative impacts mitigated.

“In this regard, it is of deep concern to the SFB that the imperative for densification is being driven by the City in the absence of an adopted social housing policy; without there being a transport management strategy and plan in place for this busy part of the city; and where tons of untreated sewage are already being pumped daily into the sea along this stretch of the Atlantic Seaboard.

“But perhaps most concerning is the tendency for the City, in consultation with the community, to develop municipal by-laws and regulations, including planning and zoning schemes, only to override and ignore these very planning frameworks, and the legitimate concerns of residents and ratepayers, in the interests of developers,” they said.