Ace Magashule's home causing a dispute

A disagreement about a double storey home worth millions in the exclusive Woodland Hills Estate, Bloemfontein has intensified due to the involvement of Free State premier Ace Magashule.

The disagreement stems from whether or not national building regulations were contravened. 

Image via Netwerk24

Magashule told Volksblad he confirmed that he financed the home "by a mortgage from the bank", but denied any irregularity. He believes the problem lies with Woodland Hills committee that first approved and then reneged.

According to him, it is just about a wall.

According Woodland Hills there are "certain aesthetic issues" which came to light after building had commenced, it was presented to the owner who had undertaken to amend it.

The Free State government and the Mangaung Metro also denies any irregularity and also questioned inquiries about the house, because it goes against "Magashule’s privacy.”

Protesters in Woodland Hills and professionals in the building industry now ask if double standards are being applied, and if that is not the case did the owner deviate from the approved plans?

Building professionals, including an architect with whom Volksblad spoke, said the home which is situated on a main road in Woodland Hills, exceeds the Mangaung metro’s building lines, as stipulated in the city’s urban planning scheme and the rules and regulations of Woodland Hill’s homeowners’ association’s manual, on all four boundaries.

This includes the street which is a "statutory" line. The building line restriction in Woodland Hills is 5m from the street boundary. They feel that there has been an extraordinary leniency granted by the city planners to the owner due to the allowance of a “porte-cochere” which stretches out to only 1.54m from the street boundary.

A porte-cochere is a luxury covered entrance where visitors can get out of their cars whilst under a roof.

As far as can be determined, there are no previous cases in Woodland Hills, where leniency has been granted to this degree, so much so that even laymen describes it as "highly unusual" and "unsightly.”

This raises questions about favoritism, say the experts and protesters.

Volksblad determined that a female name has been given on the deed as the name of the owner of property 28,731.

Residents of Woodland Hills have said that they find it very strange that permission had been given for the property to exceed building lines on the main route of the security estate.

Freek Meyer, CEO of Woodland Hills, responded to the inquiry saying: "After construction of the house on plot 28 731 is started, the aesthetic committee identified certain aesthetic issues.

"It has since been discussed with the owner who undertook to amend the issues as stipulated in the association's rules."

Qondile Khedama, the spokesman of the Mangaung Metro, has denied any negligence by officials or deviation from plans.

"The city treats everyone the same and no exception is made for the premier.

"The city will not change its building regulations or rules just because the prime minister was involved."

Mondli Mvambi, a spokesman of the Prime Minister, has not responded to questions despite repeated requests. 

Building professionals says:

They believe it can hardly serve as motivation that the owner would be very inconvenienced if the porte-cochere structure is smaller or shorter to meet the building line.

Although the metro can grant leniency of the current building line restrictions if the owner is severely compromised, it may never be closer than 3 m to the street boundary. In the case of the house in question, the leniency extends to 1.5m from the street boundary in a very busy street.

The site does not qualify for the concessions of a corner stand.

More leniency can be granted to only one of the two street frontages. Street building line relaxations are not easily granted, as it could influence later widening of streets, sight distance and the overall picture of a town.

The professionals further questioned stated that besides the seemingly "highly unusual street-leniency", the leniency was extended to three boundaries. On one side to 0m, no double-storey structure may be constructed closer than 3 m to a lateral boundary without an approval letter from the adjacent owners affected by the building.

The reason for the letter of approval is due to the curtailing of privacy and also the impact it will have on the amount of direct sun and natural light in his home, they say.

The name of the town planner who granted the leniency is not known, but documents were presented to Volksblad as "evidence" that the owner of the property had been granted extraordinary leniency.

This unsightly structure will probably remain as such because it was "approved.”

Woodland Hills said:

Because building lines are part of the rules that architects and owners (as defined in the manual for community participation of the homeowners' association) are applicable, Volksblad also asked Freek Meyer, CEO of Woodland Hills, for comment.

Meyer said the approval process of the homeowners association's aesthetic approval committee only relates to the aesthetics of a home in accordance with the association's rules (in the manual for community participation).

This includes the connection of a residence to the services provided by the association. The aim is to ensure all homes meet the aesthetic requirements of the estate.

Meyer said: "The review of building plans to determine whether the national building regulations (with particular reference to building lines and building area) are met and the approval of the plans, is the sole responsibility of the metro."

The building professionals whom Volksblad spoke to said it should be mentioned that all the specifications in regards to the building lines are contained in the rules and regulations of the Woodland Hills homeowners association.

Therefore, it should be pointed out to the architect at an early stage, as per usual when the aesthetic committee is judging plans.

These sources said that various plans were previously referred back to the architect when building lines were exceeded 

Mangaung Metro said:

Volksblad wanted to know from Qondile Khedama, Mangaung Metro's general manager of communication, whether there were carelessness and / or negligence with the approval of the building plans; how Premier Ace Magashule is involved and how the plans were approved with the building line leniencies.
Khedama maintained that there was no carelessness or negligence and that no irregularity has occurred.

On the question of Magashule he replied: "The document in our planning department did not reveal the name of the Prime Minister, but that of the female owner. We as the city finds it unfair that if the Prime Minister is somehow involved, he is singled out for special treatment. The city treats everyone the same and no exception is made for the premier. Khedama also said the plans are approved by law section 3 of Act 44 of 1977.

"Any deviation can be corrected by submitting revised plans."

He remains adamant that construction on the site was constructed according to the approved plans.

"The approval and leniency has also been approved without objection by the aesthetic committee of Woodland Hills for other developers in the area.

"According to the builder on the site an 'aesthetic objection' has been submitted to the committee over a wall that the objectors believe has to be 1.8m high. It would be discussed at a meeting. 

"There are no deviations from the approved plans."

Khedama denied on behalf of the Mangaung Metro that any municipal official requested for the "accelerated approval" of the plans.

On a question about how long it took to approve those plans, he referred to the enactment of plans covering an area of ??less than 500sqm in length, must be approved within 30 days and for buildings larger than 500 square meters within 60 days. "

He did not directly respond to the question about how long it took to approve this particular plan.

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