Orient units up for sale

Orient House on the corner of Silverlea Road in Wynberg.

The three Orient Road townhouses built for Austrian racing car driver and businessman Otto Dragoun and his children feature high ceilings with wood from Russia and double-glazed doors and windows from Austria, but for their neighbours they stand as a monument to the City’s arrogance.

Now, the man for whom they were built is selling them. He intended living on the property with his children, him in the main townhouse and them in the other two, but these plans fell through.

The land on which the townhouses now stand was the frontline in a bitter dispute between Wynberg residents who wanted to stop the development and the Protea Sub-council which ultimately approved it, in defiance of some 100 objections.

The townhouses were built after residents fought for two years to get Mr Dragoun to clean up his act after an abandoned house there fell into disrepair (“Wynberg home declared problem building”, Bulletin February 27, 2014). In April 2014, matters reached boiling point when Protea Sub-council chairman Ian Iversen pushed his fist into Wynberg resident Darron Araujo’s throat at an unrelated site inspection at a property in Claremont.

Mr Araujo asked Mr Iversen, a DA councillor, if he, or his party, at any time, had received a gift or donation in cash and, or kind, from the developer of the Orient Road property. DA councillor Liz Brunette, in whose Ward 62 the property is located, reportedly told Mr Araujo to “f*** off” during the incident.

About 100 residents objected to the application last year, but the sub-council granted the departures to build three townhouses and to narrow the driveway. Residents wanted two townhouses.

Yesterday, Wednesday August 3, Mr Iversen said a disciplinary hearing had followed the encounter with Mr Araujo. It had taken place over five days in April 2015; he had been charged with misconduct but found not guilty.

Ms Brunette would not comment on the fracas but said the decision by sub-council was perfectly correct and they had had no reason not to approve the application. “It was a problem building. The result is good, just look at it,” she said.

Mr Dragoun told the Bulletin last week that his girlfriend, Lenka Kubejova, bought the house in August 2012 planning to demolish it. Soon after, they had submitted plans to develop the property by building the three townhouses and narrowing the driveway.

In October 2013, neighbours opposed this with a 43-signature petition followed by a second and third petition in November 2013. They argued the development would eliminate the property’s garden, where the Cape rain frog, a near-threatened species, is potentially found.

A neighbour, who lives opposite the house, started getting worried when she noticed some exterior fittings had been stolen. On closer inspection, she found there was more damage with the toilets blocked, all fixtures smashed or removed, holes bashed through walls and the roof, the geyser stolen and the garden was overgrown.

By this time, neighbours formed The Concerned Residents of Wynberg, with Darron Araujo as chairman. Now known as Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (WRRA), Kristina Davidson is now the chairperson. She says the development at Orient Road led directly to the formation of the WRRA.

“Despite objections by almost 100 residents and the proposal of an alternative solution (two rather than three townhouses, given the size of the erf), the sub-council voted in favour of the development,” said Ms Davidson.

The problem worsened as the neighbours tried to get hold of the elusive Mr Dragoun. Eventually tracking him down, they held a meeting at which he told them he had bought the property for a bit of fun.

In November 2013, the Concerned Residents of Wynberg committee wrote to mayor Patricia de Lille’s office urging the City to enforce their Problem Building By-Law.

The City took action in late February 2014 issuing Mr Dragoun with an order to pay R5 000 every quarter for as long as the house was listed as a problem building (“Wynberg home declared problem building,” Bulletin February 27).

Early in August 2014, the house was demolished (“Problem house razed,” Bulletin August 14, 2014). All that remained was a yellow toilet, a bush, barbed wire and a mound of rubble.

Last week a friend of Mr Dragoun’s, who only gave her name as Chantel, asked the Bulletin to run a follow-up story now that the townhouses were complete.

Meeting onsite, Mr Dragoun took this journalist on a tour of the main house which he said he had planned to live in but had now changed his mind because his children did not want to live in the two neighbouring homes.

Following up with the WRRA, Ms Davidson said they are not against development or densification, so long as it acknowledges the suburb’s heritage; does not pose a safety risk; impair the value, view and privacy of adjoining properties; and is done within the existing property rights without the need to apply for further rights and benefits.

“The completed development has borne out the community’s concerns regarding inappropriate densification and is sadly another example of the City promoting private interests over public good,” said Ms Davidson this week.

Mr Dragoun has sold one of the townhouses and says he is in no hurry to sell the other two, the four-bedroom is available at R4 599 000, the three-bedroom house at R3 490 000.