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Tuesday Sep 02, 2014

High-rise rezoning angers Durban property owners

There's a battle looming on Durban's Berea over a high-rise development. Residents want eThekwini Municipality to reverse its decision to rezone the property at 317 Currie Road from GR1 (residential) to GR5 (commercial, high-density, high-rise buildings).

Currently standing at six storeys the building already dominates the neighbourhood.

Their frustrations are fuelled by a nine-storey building under construction on the property. They argue that it blocks their view, could result in their properties losing value and privacy being compromised.

A spokesman for the developer, however, said neighbours had been given notice of the rezoning application and the chance to object, and there was nothing unlawful in the construction of the development.

But the residents accuse the municipality of flouting bylaws by allowing the development.

'The law simply states that intentions to rezone property should be advertised to everyone within 100 metres of the said property, but I wasn't informed,' said a resident who wanted to remain anonymous.

He bought his luxury flat for the 180ยบ view of Durban, but the new building was going to cast a constant shadow on his property and 'steal my view'.

The owner of a flat at Surrey Mansions, Clive Walker, said he had not received a notice advising of a rezoning in 2010. Cadogan Gardens resident Hardy Wilson said he was aware of the development when he bought his flat in December 2012. 'I went to the municipality to inquire about the development and they showed me approved plans for a four-storey building. The amended plans were only approved this year.'

One of the most affected buildings is 6 Winter Gardens, which has units valued at more than R6 million. The new development stands directly in front of it.

Alan Ross, who lives next to the development, said he had received the notice for the rezoning application, but he said it was incorrectly phrased and most of the details had been omitted.

Ross is concerned about his privacy and said occupants of the new building would have an unobstructed view into parts of his home.

'The municipality town planning department has seriously let us down; they simply don't appreciate how this affects the value of our properties,' he said.

The residents said they had made numerous trips to the municipal offices, but had been denied access to building plans, officials citing 'copyright reasons'.

The Save Our Berea community organisation has thrown its weight behind the residents.

'We've never heard of a GR5 zoning being used anywhere outside of the CBD or the beachfront and it is totally inappropriate for the Berea or any other suburban residential area,' said the organisation's Kevin Dunkley.

'The questions that beg an answer are why the city agreed to a rezoning that over-bulks the site and compromises all town planning criteria such as side-spaces etc?

'Why this rezoning only took place after the development was started? How the foundations had already been put in place for a building that complied with the GR5 zoning, before it was ever zoned GR5?'

eThekwini spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said due process had been followed and all the affected neighbours were correctly notified. There were eight objectors who were notified of the final decision and no appeal was received.

'The municipality is unaware of any irregularities in the process and, if there were any, the affected parties should have brought the complaint to the municipality's attention at that point, not three years later.'

The developer, Serengeti Rise Industries (Pty) Ltd, commented via lawyer Richard Hoal, a partner at Cox Yeats. He confirmed that the company was constructing a ninestorey residential block of flats 'in accordance with an approved building plan and other approvals granted by the eThekwini Municipality'.

'Neighbours were provided with notice of the rezoning application and given an opportunity to object. Indeed, some of the neighbours did object and, after considering the objections, the eThekwini Municipality approved the rezoning of the property in December 2011. The time period for appeals by neighbours expired early in 2012,' said Hoal.

He would not comment on the changing of plans from four storeys to nine storeys after the rezoning had been granted, but said 'there is nothing unlawful in the construction of the development'.

The Mercury


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