Constantia civic group under pressure

Seen with outgoing ward councillor Liz Brunette, second left, at the Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association’s AGM in October last year are committee members Gordon Chunnett, Robert Thorp, Clive McDowell, chairperson Sheila Camerer, manager John Hesom and Mike Eayrs. Izabelle Franzen and Claire Lester are missing from the picture.

The future of the Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association hangs in the balance as it struggles to get members to pay their annual fees of R650, says the group’s manager, John Hesom.

Apathy and a lack of awareness are more likely to blame for this than affordability, he suspects.

CRRA chairwoman Sheila Camerer said they had sent out reminders that the voluntary non-profit organisation needed the contributions to stay afloat, but the response had been sluggish and the pandemic could be partly to blame.

The civic association’s latest newsletter lists some of the key issues it has dealt with, including requests for a dedicated City unit in the area to help street people; the need for an alternative garden waste drop-off site closer than Retreat; protection for heritage sites; a project that hires people to clean and patrol the Constantia valley; baboon management; cooperation with the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts; and land use.

Ms Camerer said the association had been in a lengthy showdown with the owners of the Purple Rayn hotel, at 9 Bellvue Avenue, whom she accused of continuing to use the residential site illegally for commercial use as a hotel and conference and party venue – despite paying two admission-of-guilt fines for illegal land use – and selling liquor without a licence (”Mayor to decide hotel’s fate,“ Bulletin, December 10, 2020).

Asked for comment, Sara Carriem, chief executive officer of MFC Holdings (which owns Purple Rayn) said, “It is my home; we live there with our kids. Please stop bothering me. Purple Rayn doesn’t exist anymore.”

Ms Camerer said she had sought a meeting with mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews to discuss Purple Rayn but no date had been set so far.

Committee member Isabelle Franzen said preserving the valley’s character for future generations was one of the association’s core aims, but legislation that the City brought in during 2020 and which allows three buildings on a 700m² plot threatened that character. And here she referred to plans to build 13 double-storey houses, a clubhouse and gym, 26 parking bays and three swimming pools in the greenbelt that has Pagasvlei River running through it, between Strawberry Road and Willow Lane. Mr Andrews has confirmed that the site is privately owned (“A greenbelt under threat,” Bulletin, February 24).

Ms Franzen also accused the City of going through the motions when ticking the civil-engineering section for land-use applications.

“It is always ticked despite bi-monthly leaks and no major upgrade of sewer and water systems for many years,” she said.

The City did not respond to questions we asked about Purple Rayn, baboons, heritage zoning and concerns about civil engineering to go with planning permission.

Instead, by deadline, it only responded to our question about street people in Constantia and the CRRA’s request for a dedicated unit to help them, saying its law enforcement department has area-based teams that respond to matters relating to street people, in conjunction with the specialised displaced persons unit, but law enforcement does not have a dedicated presence in any particular suburb.

The City’s street people programme unit within the social development and early childhood development department, too, was deployed by geographical area and not by suburb.

Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association has been in a lengthy showdown with the owners of the Purple Rayn hotel. Sara Carriem, chief executive officer of MFC Holdings (which owns Purple Rayn), says the property is her home and that Purple Rayn does not exist anymore.
Richard Fienberg, a resident of Strawberry Lane, shows where the fence has been built across Pagasvlei stream in the greenbelt above Willow Road which is privately owned. Plans to build a housing development there have the CRRA concerned.