Civic body opposes expansion of hotel

The boutique hotel is located in the low density, semi-rural area of Constantia.

A five-star boutique guest house’s zoning application to give it room to expand could pave the way for commercial creep in the heart of rural Constantia, says a local civic group.

The Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA) says it has no problem with the guest house in its current form, but it rejects any plans for it to expand, including its application to rezone from single to general residential.

Nova Constantia, on the corner of Welbeloond Road and Muscat Lane, has applied to the City to increase its guest suites from nine to 14 and to rezone from single residential zone 1 to general residential subzone GR2 (which allows for group housing).

According to the City’s valuation roll, the guest house, which is on a sloping half hectare in a low density, semi-rural part of Constantia, was last valued at
R12 million.

It is owned by Rosevean Investments 0005 (Pty) Ltd, whose directors are Jiri Batek and Edita Batkova. It has nine suites with kitchenettes in a landscaped garden with a heated salt-water pool, as well as tennis courts.

When the Bulletin visited the property, general manager Lee Dicks said the plan was to demolish the tennis courts and build more suites – but not anytime soon as tourism had been hit by the drought.

CRRA committee member Chris Rousseau, who holds the land-use portfolio, said the latest application was an amended version of a 2008 one the association had opposed after consultation with neighbours.

The CRRA had argued the 2008 application for a temporary land-use departure exceeded the (then) City zoning scheme bed-and-breakfast policy.

However, the application was approved on condition it operate as a guest house for five years and then reapply; that it display no signs or advertising; that no more than 10 people were to be employed; and that the operator of the bed and breakfast permanently lived on the property.

But Mr Rousseau said Nova Constantia had been operating for well over five years and was advertising on three road signs including an illuminated one; and that the owner did not permanently live on the property.

Brett Herron, mayco member for transport and urban development, said the owners had paid a R10 000 City fine in November last year, but he didn’t say what it was for.

“And now the guest house has applied for extra guest suites of a 75% increase in what was then considered by the City to be appropriate,” said Mr Rousseau.

The CRRA was not objecting to the four departures for buildings to be set back from the south-western and north-eastern boundary lines or for the widening of the carriageway crossing on Welbeloond Road and Muscat Lane, but it did not accept the application for general residential rezoning, because the guest house was in an area with large, landscaped properties.

“This over-bulked property will create a streetscape that is totally out of keeping with the neighbourhood,” said Mr Rousseau. Mr Herron said this part of Constantia fell under the municipal spatial development framework (MSDF) and the southern district plan. “Given the recent approval of the new metropolitan-wide spatial development framework, which has an inward growth vision, a new district plan will have to be developed for each of the planning districts. Work on this is expected to commence in September when we engage with the sub-councils, and the southern district plan is due to go through a review process shortly,” he said.

“However, this (application) is not a targeted growth area of the city. But policy rather aims to maintain, consolidate, and enhance a sense of place and character. This translates to limiting densification and commercial encroachment, and focusing on context, fit, design and interface,” said Mr Herron.

Mr Rousseau said on-street parking had been happening at the guest house despite earlier assurances to the contrary.

Neighbours had also noticed a lot more late-night traffic, including taxis, going to and from the Muscat Lane entrance. Mr Rousseau said the CRRA feared more buildings on the property would overburden existing sewer, stormwater and water reticulation systems.

“Most importantly, the City must take into account the very real current and future water supply crisis. Allowing additional development in an already stressed system would be totally irresponsible,” he said.

Mr Herron said the property had operated as a guest house since 2009.

“Rezoning is required, as a guest house is no longer permitted as a primary-use right in a single residential zone 1. Should the application be approved, the use of the property as a hotel for 14 guest suites will be a permanent right. The awarding of rezoning applications, like this one, would therefore need to ensure that any enhanced land-use rights that are granted fit in well with the City’s spatial design plan for this area,” said Mr Herron.

Questions were sent to Mr Dicks on Thursday June 14 but he said the owners were overseas and he did not have enough time to respond. We asked again for comment on Tuesday June 19 and Wednesday June 26, when Mr Dicks asked us to resend the questions, which he had already sent to his director overseas. He did not respond by the time this edition went to print. The closing date for objections to the application is Monday July 2 and can be sent to comments_objections.southern@capetown.gov.za