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Sunday Oct 10, 2010

Rupert's golf course development awaits green light

While the dust settles on several land deals and developments in the Greater Hermanus area, business tycoon Johan Rupert is waiting to hear if he will get the green light to develop a world-class golf course in the fishing community of Hawston.

His concept is based on a similar development in the US called the East Lake Meadows housing project in Atlanta, where a refurbished world-class golf club kick-started redevelopment, bringing with it commerce and jobs.

Rupert's university friend, rugby legend Morne du Plessis, has been driving the project at community level.

The site is one of the last undeveloped seafront properties in the area because it has not yet been zoned and consists of about 206 hectares of land which, it has been claimed, will be sold for an estimated R25 million.

Rupert's team submitted a proposal in October, 2005, detailing an integrated and sustainable land-use strategy using a links course as a catalyst for the development of land between Hawston and Fisherhaven.

Overstand municipality spokesman Fanie Krige said the initial proposal was not considered because it had been unsolicited.

"The Overstrand municipality only issued a request for proposals this year, for the purchase and development of portion three of the farm Middelvlei. We received a proposal and it is still being evaluated.

"Once the evaluation is completed it will go before the council for a decision."

Some Hawston residents say the deal would not benefit the impoverished community.

Community leader Jan Gelderblom said they would not oppose the deal if the community benefited from it.

"We we would prefer that the community is kept up to date with the plans. We cannot have a situation where millions are spent on a golf course while our housing waiting list grows bigger and bigger."

He said the community had hoped the land would be used for possible low-cost housing to alleviate the backlog.

"We want the municipality to play open cards with locals. We are not going to allow this to turn into another Schulphoek where municipal land is sold for a song to developers.

"The people of Hawston will not be bullied, we will not allow anyone to walk over us. This is about 206ha that will be sold, and you can fit an entire town on to that much land."

Bobby von During, who is part of a community task team set up to look into the deal, said the proposal from the Rupert group was the only bid they had had for the tender because others had not been able to submit proposals in the short time stipulated. They had had only a month to submit proposals competing against the Rupert group, which had been gathering information since 2005, he said.

Von During was also concerned that the development would hold no benefit for the community.

However, Rupert has given his assurance that the plan will not go ahead without the backing of the community.

"We have absolutely no intention of going forward with anything without the total buy-in by Hawston's residents."

He questioned claims that the community was not pleased with the golf course plan, saying he had been contacted by various community leaders who said that they were in favour.

"Should this not be the case we will certainly not proceed. After all, it is being done to improve the lives of the residents. The initiative is aimed at using golf as a tool to uplift the community. It is not a profit-driven proposition, as the residents of Hawston - many of whom have known me for over 40 years - know."

Du Plessis said they were not property developers and the plan was not to build a gated golf complex with a profit motive.

"It is an ambitious plan for making golf sustainable and affordable for more people, and of some economic value to the people of the area.

"We believe that our tender has been accepted, subject to council considering the transfer of the asset in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act 2003.

"This we believe now needs to be publicly advertised for public comment and objections before a decision can be made by the council.

"We are also required to submit for public scrutiny and comment, an economic and community value assessment by independent professionals. This process is in progress."

Du Plessis added that they had commissioned an independent valuation of the land and the amount they had offered was at the top end of the recommended valuation.

"Furthermore the proposal is subject to the successful achievement of the required planning approvals."

He confirmed that they had had some interaction with community groups in Hawston and had assured them they would withdraw from the process should the people of Hawston and Fisherhaven not want the proposal to go ahead.

He pointed out that housing was a municipal and government decision and responsibility.

"We will also happily stand aside should there be a more effective proposal for the use of the land.

"Our only concern is that we may run out of time as the years fly by to give this a chance.

"We are going into the sixth year of this discussion and we are not getting younger," said Du Plessis.

Sunday Argus


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