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Thursday May 22, 2014

Cape Town's plan for 'special' suburbs and services

The City of Cape Town has backed an application for top-up services from property owners in five areas.

The city's mayoral committee this week recommended that five new special rating areas - Strand, Brackenfell, Llandudno, Salt River and Kalk Bay/St James - should be approved by full council at next week's meeting.

If approved, they will be added to the existing list of 26 Special Rating Areas (SRAs) across the city.

Formerly known as Improvement Districts, SRAs refer to an area where property owners have agreed to pay additional rates for services such as security officers and street cleaners.

It is a community-driven and funded model, subject to the rules and regulations that govern public money, said Ian Neilson, mayoral committee member for finance. 'An SRA is always initiated by a community and not by the city. The city plays an enabling role and monitors and administers the process.'

A majority of property owners in this designated area - 50 percent plus one - must vote in favour for the city to consider its application. Although the Kalk Bay/St James steering committee claimed to have had almost 65 percent support for the SRA, there were 48 objections. These included allegations that the steering committee had coerced support and manipulated votes, when most of the community seemed to be generally satisfied with council services.

Several public meetings were held to allay concerns and, after a new audit, it was established that support for the SRA was at about 60 percent.

Eddie Scott, of city finance, said the residents of the two communities were 'largely divided' on the matter and the allegations. He said the steering committee was maligned despite assurances that the prescribed processes were followed.

But Neilson said the city had to approve Kalk Bay's application as the entire process had been thorough.

The other areas were largely in support of setting up SRAs. The steering committee responsible for setting up Strand's SRA noted: 'The only way to halt the downward spiral of decay' was to set up a 'well-managed urban process'.

About 54 percent of Salt River's property owners supported the SRA. There were only two objections, from one property owner, who said he was satisfied with the council's services and did not want to pay extra.

There was substantial support from property owners in Llandudno, with almost two-thirds giving the SRA the thumbs up. There were 16 objections, but the majority agreed that the need to prevent urban decay was significant.

Those residents were particularly concerned about the cleanliness and safety of communal spaces and removal of alien vegetation.

Neilson said an additional SRA rate had been calculated for these five areas, based on the total municipal valuation of all the properties affected.

These would be considered for approval as part of council's budget process. The additional rate will be levied from July 1, if approved.

Cape Argus


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