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Tuesday Jun 19, 2012

Cape Town: Revolt over city stadium proposal

Councillor JP Smith has taken a defiant stance against the plan to seek changes to the record of decision so it can try to make Cape Town's R4.5-billion stadium financially viable - and has stormed out of a mayoral committee meeting called to discuss the matter.

The City of Cape Town wants to overturn regulations banning commercial activity at the Cape Town Stadium and build a nightclub, restaurants, coffee shops and sports bars in an attempt to make the struggling venue commercially sustainable.

After the mayoral committee meeting last week, Smith called Dr James Loock of the Green Point Ratepayers and Residents Association and expressed his opposition to the city's plan to ask the provincial government to change the record of decision on the stadium precinct.

Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security and former ward councillor for Green Point, apparently told Loock he had walked out of the meeting "because it is a betrayal of the trust and agreement with the ratepayers".

Mayor Patricia de Lille says Smith may speak on the matter only in his personal capacity.

Many Green Point residents were opposed to the building of the stadium, citing high costs, noise levels and traffic volumes, and concerns about sustainability. To appease residents, the province imposed restrictions, banning commercial outlets, and the hiring out of office space to third parties.

But an independent business consultant hired to develop a business model for the stadium and Green Point Park has suggested several options.

In an e-mail to members of the ratepayers' association, Loock wrote: "JP called me, very concerned, about the mayco meeting he walked out of because the city is planning on asking province to change the record of decision and go against our decision to limit the extent to which commercialisation of the common can occur. He said ... he walked out because it is a betrayal of the trust and agreement with the ratepayers."

Loock wrote that Smith, who counts Green Point as one of his constituencies, "suggested that all the relevant ratepayer organisations get together and make a joint position statement".

Smith said his discussion with Loock had been "a private conversation. But I did excuse myself from the meeting because I did not support the item. I was the subcouncil chair at the time when we did the (record of decision)."

Smith said mayco did not hold a caucus before the item was put on the mayco agenda.

"There's no caucus on planning items... so I'm not thwarting any caucus position.

"The community is going to engage with city officials.

"But no one wants to see any additional structures being built on the common and there must be activities within the stadium to make it more financially viable."

Mayor Patricia de Lille said: "The only relevant fact here is that mayco formally agreed that the city would approach the provincial government with a view to initiating an extensive public participation process that would consider the possible commercialisation of Cape Town Stadium."

De Lille said any councillor who held an alternative position "can do so only in their personal capacity".

Grant Pascoe, mayoral committee member for events, marketing and tourism, declined to comment on Smith's comments and walkout.

"Mayco took a decision and is to recommend that the council mandate the executive director to start a process of engaging the province to seek amendments to the record of decision and also put together a consultative process," said Pascoe.

Green Point ward councillor Beverley Schafer said she could not comment on the mayco divisions, but was working closely with residents.

"We are negotiating, putting together a position on how my ward feels and what they believe would will be acceptable," said Schafer.

Cape Times

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