New development woes

The property where the block of flats is being built.

Residents of First and Second Avenue are considering legal action to put a stop to a block of flats going up in one of Fish Hoek’s oldest areas.

If allowed to continue, Erf 10618, or 47 Second Avenue, will soon be home to a
13.5 metre high, four-storey block of 10 flats.

And while this is in line with the City of Cape Town’s densification policy, neighbours feel the aesthetic impacts on the adjacent properties are not in line with the urban character of the neighbourhood, which is home to some of the first houses in Fish Hoek.

The property, a former park, is zoned for general residential 2 (GR2), which allows for group housing, boarding houses and flats, among others, up to 15 metres high.

According to the City’s cadastral map, all properties from De Waal Road up to halfway between Recreation and
Kommetjie Roads are zoned as GR2.

The plans approved by the City in April are in line with the Development Management Scheme (DMS) rules and therefore did not require the City to consider the impact on neighbours or the neighbourhood.

According to mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, the rules changed in 2015 when the DMS replaced the Integrated Cape Town Zoning Scheme of 2012 for which the maximum height for buildings on GR2 zones was 11 metres.

She confirmed that there was no need for the developer or the City to consult affected parties as the developer was within his rights to develop the property.

However, Mr James Ricketts who is a direct neighbour to the development at
45 Second Avenue feels the City failed to properly consider section 7 of the National Building Act before approving the plans.

Section 7 says local authorities should not grant approval of a building application if it disfigures the area, if it is unsightly and objectionable and if it may diminish the value of adjoining or neighbouring properties.

Mr Ricketts bought his house, which is a historic cottage, in 2013 and made several changes to the property, including an office, a deck and swimming pool.

The new development will be on the boundary of his property, which means his large north-facing office window, kitchen windows and half his deck will be completely blocked by the building.

It will block sunlight, and, according to Mr Ricketts, the height and proximity of the development will constrict the outside living area, invade privacy and hide the view of the mountain range above Clovelly and Fish Hoek.

The new building will change the topography of the area, and neighbouring properties on elevated land will look up to it.

Neighbours, Paul and Hazel Smith at 49 Second Avenue will also be affected by the development and have their privacy compromised. They bought the property in 2016 and plan to retire there.

“I reached out to the developer to discuss his plans with the designer and offered to pay for any changes that would accommodate the objections made by at least five neighbours, and the Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association. His response was to suggest that I pay for the potential loss of revenue that would result from a more appropriate building for the neighbourhood,” he said.

Another neighbour, Tim Churchill, who lives in one of the first houses in Fish Hoek and the childhood home of author and former editor of the Fish Hoek Echo, Cedryl Greenland, is also affected. His house, which is opposite the development, was built by Ms Greenland’s father and named Sandhills due to its location on a dune. It celebrates its centenary this year.

Mr Churchill said the development would invade his privacy as it would tower over his home looking onto his swimming pool in the front yard.

He is also concerned about the increase in traffic the new development will bring.

He said he was disappointed with the consultation process and he had expected someone to contact him to discuss the matter and how it would impact him.

Developer Mark Trueb said he had bought the property on auction from the City in 2018 and had never made it a secret that he was planning to develop it.

He said he had given Mr Ricketts the opportunity to purchase the property with him and develop it together, but it never happened. He said the entire consultation process with Mr Ricketts had delayed construction by a year, although Mr Ricketts disputes that.

Mr Ricketts said Mr Trueb had told him delays were due to getting fire-department approvals and associated redesigning, and there had been no discussion about the two of them developing the property.

Mr Trueb said the development comprised two four-storey towers including a first-floor parking area accessible from First and Second Avenues. The flats were designed with a flattened space in the middle to preserve the view, he said.

“I specifically designed it that way for myself and Mr Ricketts, as I own a property on First Avenue,” he said.

The parking under the building was a City requirement, and tenants could not use nearby public parking, as suggested by residents, in order to lower the height of the building, he said.

Brian Youngblood, chairman of the Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (FHVRRA) said if the matter went to court the association traditionally supported neighbours in their actions, especially against indiscriminate developers unwilling to find a compromise acceptable to all parties.