Questions over greenbelt zoning

A stretch of the circular walking route through the Spaansemacht, Grootboskloof and Pagasvlei greenbelts has been fenced off, blocking public access.

Residents of Constantia’s rural Strawberry Lane area want to know how land zoned open space (OS) 2, the same as other Constantia greenbelts, got into the hands of a foreign developer (“A greenbelt under threat,” Bulletin, February 24).

Deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews has confirmed that the greenbelt, which has Pagasvlei River running through it, between Strawberry Road and Willow Lane is privately owned.

Schumacher Real Estate bought the L-shaped site in September for R20 million. The company’s owners are German former racing driver Ralf Karl-Heinz Schumacher and Peter Tauber. They own the neighbouring five star-luxury retreat Villa Coloniale and Villa Lion View in Price Drive.

According to ward councillor, Emile Langenhoven, the land is a split zoning of single residential 1 (SR1) and open space 2 (OS2), and the open-space zoning could have been for conservation purposes and not necessarily to allow public access. We asked the City for clarity on what is permitted under OS2, and what is not, but they did not respond.

There was no evidence to suggest the zoning was a mistake and the previous owner had been advised to apply for rezoning, not for a zoning “correction”, Mr Langenhoven said, adding: “The file was closed at that point as no further information was forthcoming.”

Efforts to contact the owners have been in vain. Villa Coloniale staff previously said Mr Schumacher was overseas and only returning at the end of the year. Mr Tauber has not responded to emails and phone messages. When we phoned Mr Tauber on Monday, the person who answered said he was overseas.

On Friday March 11, we tried again to get Mr Schumacher’s contact details. But when we identified ourselves at Villa Coloniale’s intercom, a burly man came to the gate and threatened to call the police if we did not move the car from the driveway, which we did and he then went back inside without providing the owner’s details. While photographing the greenbelt, a Strawberry Security guard arrived and said he had received a complaint about someone taking pictures.

On the same day, Mr Schumacher wrote in German on Instagram that “a neighbour was in my hotel and blocked the exit so my guests couldn’t get out. Only the police could handle the situation”. There was no guest waiting to leave and the man called the security company and not the police.

The following day, we were copied in on an email from “KD” of Villa Coloniale to Nicolette Joubert at Gouws Attorneys, where he wrote that he “almost feels threatened”.

Town planner Tommy Brummer, who is advising the applicants, said they had been told that the application for the rezoning and subdivision of the land would be submitted to the City within the next week or two.

Mr Langenhoven said the property had been zoned incorrectly as OS2 instead of public open space (POS). “This public open space designation is very restrictive and does not allow for the developer to build over the entire area. This is not to say that OS2 is not restrictive, because it is.

Mr Brummer said the previous owners had allowed the public to enjoy the land for the past 30 years. “There is no obligation to keep the land open to the public,” he said.

Mr Langenhoven said that due to some administrative inaccuracies, this “poisoned chalice” had been purchased by Mr Schumacher and has resulted in the acrimonious contestation between himself and the surrounding residents.

“Mr Schumacher has little understanding of the history and culture of the Constantia Valley and would do well to establish that knowledge first before sending in the diggers,” said Mr Langenhoven.

He assured residents that any development will have to go through necessary processes and they will have a say in the matter, which will be a difficult and long process.

“If Mr Schumacher intends building in the area he should think long and hard about whether he is in it for the long haul and whether he wishes to expend the amount of time, energy and resources fighting for a development that may never see groundbreaking. He may know how to do laps at 300km/h, but this is not a race. It’s a marathon,” said Mr Langenhoven.

In his Instagram message, Mr Schumacher said this project had been co-ordinated with the authorities from the beginning, including the erection of the fence and removal of plants.

Colin Walker, chairman of the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts (FoCVG) wants the City to make public the property plan and how these zoning subdivisions are allotted.

“Surely an EIA (environmental impact assessment) will need to be provided because of the OS2 zoning? Will these plans be circulated for comment to concerned parties?” The City did not respond to questions regarding this.

Mr Walker said the Pagasvlei corridor was an important part of the Constantia greenbelts, and any development on the SR1 portion should be compatible with the character of the area.

Michael Janse van Rensburg, CEO of Heritage Western Cape, said the open-space-zoned plot was not formally protected in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA). “The NHRA does not place any restriction on the type of ownership of a heritage site. Where development is proposed on a site formally protected, such proposal must be submitted as an application to the responsible heritage resources authority for review and approval,” he said.

Architect Jaclyn Cattell has drawn up designs for a housing development of 13 double-storey houses, a clubhouse and gym, 26 parking bays and three swimming pools.
When we tried to get Ralf Schumacher’s contact details at Villa Coloniale, a burly man came to the gate, threatened to call the police and followed up by sending an email to a lawyer.
In his Instagram message, Ralf Schumacher said the project had been co-ordinated with the authorities from the beginning, including the erection of the fence and removal of plants.
The grey area is single residential 1 (SR1) for conventional housing and the dark green area is zoned open space 2 (OS2).