The developer of a block of flats has agreed to pay for a second storey to a Wynberg woman’s home after a high court judge found it and the City had contravened building and planning regulations.
Working single-mother Kathy Hull lives in Bayview Road and her semi-detached house is within kissing distance of The Aldro, a block of flats being built in Wellington Avenue for developer Karma Properties.
A derelict house once stood on the plot and when it was demolished in September last year, Ms Hull and other residents were happy to see it go.
But they say their efforts to learn what would replace it hit a brick wall until concrete was poured and a board was posted advertising a 15m high block of six upmarket flats called The Aldro. The Aldro is one of many three- to four-storey blocks that have mushroomed in the area over the past three years (“Flats come under fire,” Bulletin February 8). The building went up fast, and on Thursday February 8 Ms Hull came home to find a column 11cm from her bathroom window and a car park 11cm from her bedroom window. “Neither council nor Karma Properties and Cape Dutch Construction felt the need to inform me,” she said. She took them to court.
According to the March 27 judgment, which the Bulletin has a copy of, Acting Justice Fiona Gordon-Turner found the respondents guilty of contravening numerous building and planning regulations and ordered them to stop building pending Ms Hull’s court application to request council to review the approved plans.
On the day after the stop order was issued, prior to Easter, the developer ignored the judgment and carried on building, according to Grant Chapman, an engineer who runs a practice from a converted heritage house overlooking the building site.
Mr Chapman said City planners had told Ms Hull that they had regrettable “oversights” in passing the plans for The Aldro but weren’t prepared to stop the development.
Ms Hull said she had subsequently withdrawn her application and work on the block was continuing after she had reached an agreement with developer.
“Because I could not afford financially and emotionally to continue,” said Ms Hull.
Richard Bryant, a colleague of Ms Hull and someone who has been involved in the same type of planning issues in Kommetjie said the developer was within his rights.
“The property is zoned general residential (GR)3, which allows up to three storeys and multiple residents. Basically to saturate the area with concrete,” said Mr Bryant.
“The developer did not need to consult with the neighbours.
“However, the City passed the plans and when Ms Hull asked them to be fixed, their planning official (whose name is known to the Bulletin) said they will never review a decision they’ve made. Ms Hull had no recourse other than to take the developer to court,” said Mr Bryant.
Ms Hull said the building control officer, who makes recommendations to approve a plan or not, said he had been under the impression that the boundary was a metre back from her property.
“When asked if they (the council) would review their decision as the building was 11cm away from my house blocking habitable rooms – as there are windows – he said that they would never review their decisions and it was something we, myself and Karma Properties, would need to ‘remedy’ ourselves,” said Ms Hull.
She said the next step was to have the plans set aside which meant shelling out more money.
Instead, on Friday April 13, Ms Hull met with Karma Properties and agreed to a settlement, where the developer agreed to pay for a second level to be built on her house and part of her legal fees.
Grant Berold, a director at Karma, said the matter had been amicably resolved.
“The architect designed them (apartments) with no departures and fully compliant with all aspects including heritage and all legalities. No work or foundations was done on site prior to a fully approved plan which allows a boundary to boundary build,” said Mr Berold.
Adrienne Botha, who lives on the corner of Bayview Road next to Ms Hull, said the block of flats had closed off her spare bedroom.
Ms Botha said Karma had offered to install a skylight in that room.
Nadine Gotlieb, a teacher, lives on the opposite side of The Aldro and says her house will be dwarfed by the building.
She said in November last year the developer had sent her a notice that her wall would be knocked down. “I allowed them to do it because I don’t know what my rights are,” she said.
However Mr Berold said they would never demolish a neighbour’s wall without their consent.
Ms Gotlieb said she had arrived home in March to find large pieces of cement in front of her house, rusty nails and other debris. Some of the cement was wet and had now set and could not be swept away. On another occasion, she said, her roof had been used for a week as a support structure for the new building.
Ms Gotlieb said she had no light, no privacy as the new building was right next to her bedroom and kitchen.
Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (WRRA) chairperson, Kristina Davidson, said developers did not need to inform anyone if their plans did not require departures.
“And yet the City’s procedures require the WRRA to sign off on people’s plans to effect minor changes, such as changing a window or adding a carport but not when it comes to large developments,” said Ms Davidson.
She said developers knew how to avoid having to ask for departures.
Ward councillor Liz Brunette said she had received queries about The Aldro but there had been no land-use planning application. “I was not notified about the building development and neither were the neighbours. Properties with a GR2 zoning allow multi-storey buildings to be built up to the property’s common boundary as of right,” she said. On April 19 the Bulletin asked the City how planning regulations stand regarding building on boundaries; if and when the development was inspected; if neighbours were advised of the development; and what the City had done regarding reviewing the plans after the high court judgment.
On Wednesday April 25 they responded saying they were notified on Monday April 23, that the applicant had withdrawn the application to the Western Cape High Court. The statement said only that the building had been constructed in accordance
with the correct zoning restrictions, but did not address the accusation that
City officials had passed flawed building plans.