eThekwini council investigating irregularity

The eThekwini council is investigating how a developer who applied to build a block of 80 flats in Chatsworth got permission for 204.

Residents have raised concerns about the project and the environmental impact it will have on the Woodhurst Drive neighbourhood.

The municipality is investigating how special consent was granted to the developers, Alley Roads and Menk Civils, to increase the number of units.

The Cupido Gardens flats have all been sold and residents are worried the increased number will cause traffic congestion, strain refuse collection and compromise the safety of schoolchildren.

Woodhurst Secondary School is directly opposite Cupido Gardens.

Acting principal Prem Sewnarain said, "An increase in traffic is of concern, especially in the mornings when pupils make their way to school and residents from the complex head to their destinations.

"Yes, the new development has some benefits for the school and the community, but the safety of our pupils outweighs those."

The ward councillor for the area, Ismail Cassimjee, said the greater number of flats would cause problems.

"There is a shortage of houses, but the development should not create greater problems for the community. The increased number of units will place a huge strain on the flow of traffic, refuse collection and the environment," he said.

A cloud of uncertainty now hangs over the R100 million project, with the municipality unable to locate the supporting documents for special consent.

However, Alley Roads owner Ivan Pretorius is confident they're on the right path. "We are not worried at all - the necessary consent has been granted."

The developers were originally required to apply for special consent from the municipality before a trench could be dug at the site.

They made an application for 80 units in 2008.

Consent was necessary as the area was zoned institutional, not residential.

The developer's application, which included building plans, was successful.

But an informed source who asked not to be named claims the Cupido Gardens developers bumped up the number of units from 80 to 204 without the required consent from the municipality.

As part of special consent being granted, the developer must pay a compulsory levy, which is about R18 000 for each unit built.

Another requirement for consent is that each resident be allocated two parking bays.
"The people responsible for Cupido Gardens did their sums and realised 204 units was obviously financially more viable than 80.

"But they've expanded the project without gaining the necessary special consent. That is not legal," the source claimed.

Soobs Moonsamy, head of the municipality's Development, Planning, Environment and Management Unit, confirmed the matter was being handled by her legal department.
"The matter was directed to our legal unit and has been referred to senior counsel to prepare an application in the high court," said Moonsamy.

She said their system indicates that special consent for 80 units was granted and there is an approved plan for 204 units, but the supporting correspondence for the special consent cannot be found.

"We have an approved building plan for 204 units, but the building application is under investigation, given the fact that we cannot locate the special consent application."
Moonsamy also confirmed that the developers had applied to have the site rezoned as residential.

"An application was submitted to our department to rezone from institutional to general residential for the purpose of constructing 204 residential units. This application was refused due to the pending legal action.

"Should grounds for civil and or criminal action exist, then that will be the direction in which we will proceed," said Moonsamy.

When Pretorius was asked why they had attempted to rezone the site if they had special consent for the 204 units, his response was: "We have been advised that it is procedural to have the property rezoned. But all the necessary consent has been granted. We're not worried.
"There is a gentleman who is going around spreading rumours. We have taken out a court interdict against him regarding this."

On Friday, Pretorius offered to forward copies of documents to the Sunday Tribune to confirm Cupido Gardens was fully certified but none was made available at the time of going to print.
He also pointed out that he got involved with the project after the plans were approved and that Everitt Cupido of Menk Civils is more familiar with those aspects.

"Nothing illegal has occurred. We have all our ducks in a row. I have a whole file of documents for the various applications we've made," Cupido said.

"It is a malicious rumour spread by a certain individual that we don't have consent. It is a normal course of action for plans to change when you are doing construction, but we always seek permission.

"Opting to go for 80 units originally was an oversight on our part. We thought we could sell the apartments for R1m each, but we then realised they wouldn't sell. Therefore we decided to increase the number of units and lower the selling price to make them more affordable," he said.

(Sunday Tribune)

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