Mayor to decide hotel’s fate

The three-storey boutique Purple Rayn boutique hotel in Bel Ombre, Constantia.

The fate of a Constantia “boutique hotel” that was built without planning approval from the City of Cape Town is in the hands of mayor Dan Plato.

In June, the City’s Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) refused the Purple Rayn hotel’s application for retroactive land-use approval.

According to Greg Wagner, the mayor’s spokesman, the hotel appealed the MPT’s decision with two parties commenting and opposing the appeal.

Mr Plato has the power to override the MPT’s ruling. At least one neighbour and the Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (CRRA) are determined that the MPT’s decision on the 9 105m² property at 9 Bellvue Avenue, below Rhodes Drive, should stand.

The owners applied to the City in 2017 for rezoning from single residential (SR1) to general business (GB1). This would have made permissible what is already on the property: a hotel, three restaurants with seating for 90 guests and visitors, a beauty spa, a 72-seat 250m² marquee and 81 off-street parking bays.

The property also has 12 luxury guest suites, two outdoor swimming pools, a hair salon and more.

The owners say that so far the only visitors to the hotel have been a troop of baboons that raided the kitchen last week. However, a neighbour, Nick Ferguson, disputes this.

Mr Ferguson said there had been noisy parties at the hotel, mostly on Sundays.

“They really don’t care and are carrying on as per normal,” he said.

On Friday December 4, the Bulletin met with the owners of the three-storey property, who said they had nothing to hide.

Mogamat “Riki” Carriem said he had grown up in District Six and had moved to Salt River with his family after they had been evicted under the Group Areas Act. He had later moved to Athlone but had aspired to live in Constantia.

With a Standard 8 education, he had become a fitter and turner and had gone on to become an entrepreneur and owner of three properties in the suburb, one of which they had recently sold.

He and his wife, Sara, had built the house in 2015 and had finished two years later. Deciding it was too big for the small family they had applied to the City for the property to be rezoned as a guest house.

In August 2018, they were slapped with a R10 000 fine for operating a guest house.

Ms Carriem said they had paid the fine but should not have done so because they had never operated the property as a guest house.

“Having paid the fine, we were allowed to operate as a guest house,” said Ms Carriem.

A further three notices were served during 2018 for unauthorised building work with another in February 2019.

In May 2019, a fine of R100 000 for illegal building work was served and paid.

Mr Wagner said two of the notices would go to court and the other two notices had been handed over to council’s legal services which would follow the court process next.

Meanwhile, Mr Carriem said they had shut down the hotel in March due to winter trading and had laid off 23 staff. A further 25 people, plus seven students training to be chefs, had been laid off due to Covid-19.

Mr Carriem said only Mr Ferguson had complained to him about the lighting and glare from a white wall at the rear of the property. The wall had since been painted grey.

Mr Ferguson had had numerous film shoots and events, such as a market, Mr Carriem said.

Many of the neighbours lived overseas or were swallows, he added.

“The immediate neighbours are happy with what we’re doing because it makes the area more secure,” he said.

The Bulletin tried contacting these neighbours, but only one, who was unwilling to be named, provided comment. He said he had no issue with Purple Rayn and that the hotel’s security guard included his property in hourly perimeter checks.

Mr Wagner said the City had received seven objections during the public-participation process one year ago. They had related to the impact on the character of the area, on traffic and parking, noise, security risk, the scale of the activity, hosting of events, the proposal currently being in operation, property values, and others.

CRRA manager John Hesom said they strongly objected to an amendment or removal of titledeed restrictions without the majority consent of the people of Constantia. A guest house would detract from the character of the area, he said.

Leroy Villet, an attorney representing one of the neighbours, whom he would not name, said the appeal was essentially determined by the mayor, who was advised by a panel.

Mr Carriem said he was confident they would win the case.