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MEDIA REPORT: George Municipal Report Erf 15098, 10 May 2024

Rezoning application

On 3 September 2020, a pre-application form for the proposed development of Erf 15098, George was submitted to the George Municipality’s Town Planning Department by Jan Vrolijk Town Planner, acting on behalf of the owners of said property. Based on the outcome of the pre-application assessment, the development proposal was revised, and a new pre-application form was submitted on 23 November 2020.

In the pre-application document, the applicant expressed their intention to developing a 5-storey block of flats with a rooftop deck. The addition of the deck would result in the permitted 15m building height being exceeded by 2.17m. The parking ratio, building lines, coverage and floor factor had to be relaxed to accommodate the proposed development. At this stage as well as throughout the land use application process, the Municipality only looks at the development concept (the preliminary architect’s drawings) to get an overall idea of what the development may look like and the impact it may have the neighbourhood, the surrounding property owners, traffic movement, pedestrian safety, engineering services, and so on. The final detailed design is only addressed on the submission of building plans.

Jan Vrolijk Town Planner submitted the application in terms of Section 15(2) of the George Municipality’s Land Use Planning By-law (2015) for the Rezoning of Erf 15098, George from Business Zone IV (offices) to General Residential Zone IV (flats) as well as for certain Departures on 15 March 2021.

The public participation process was as followed in terms of the requirements of the bylaw and the closing date for comment was 21 May 2021. No comments or objections were received.

After assessment of the application, the Senior Town Planner recommended the application for approval on the following grounds:
1. The subject properties are located within walking distance from public transport facilities (“bus stops”) and supports the efficiency of public transport systems and transport orientated developments;
2. The development will provide for much needed housing opportunities within close proximity of work opportunities and social and economic amenities.
3. The proposed development supports densification in strategic areas, and optimizes the utilization of the existing resources and underutilized land within the CBD area;
4. The proposed development, in consideration of the need for densification in the CBD area, will not have an adverse impact on the adjacent neighbours’ amenity and right to privacy, views and sunlight.
5. The development can thus be deemed to be compatible with the spatial planning policies and guidelines for the area.

The recommendation was accepted, and that application was approved by the Acting Deputy Director: Planning, Mr Clinton Petersen, on 27 September 2021 in terms of the approved delegations and categorisation of applications, applicable at the time of approval.

The approval letter was issued on 01 October 2021. The Municipality notified the public of the decision on its website, advising parties of their right to appeal. The notice is placed on the website for the duration of the appeal period, which in this instance ended on 22 October 2021. No appeals were received and a letter informing the applicant of this was issued on 25 October 2021.

One of the conditions of approval for the implementation of the above approval, required the owner to apply for the approval of a site development plan. The SDP is not the detailed building plan, but rather intends to confirm that the building to be erected complies with the zoning scheme and conditions imposed with the above-mentioned approval.

The application for Permission in terms of Section 15(2) of the Land Use Planning By-law (2015) to approve the site development plan was submitted by Deon v/d Westhuizen Architects on behalf of the owners on 21 April 2022. The senior town planner found the proposal to comply with all legal requirements as stated in Section 65(2) of said By-law and the site development plan was accordingly approved by the Acting Deputy Director: Planning – Mr Clinton Petersen on 25 May 2022.

The approval letter was issued on 27 May 2022 with the 21-day appeal period also being applied. No appeal was received and a letter informing the applicant in this regard was issued on 20 June 2022.

Building plan application
The building plan application for Erf 15098, George, was approved on 6 July 2023 and issued to the applicant, Deon van der Westhuizen Architects. The outcome for approval follows two prior outcomes not to approve the building plan based on details required regarding services and outstanding contributions. The plans were only approved once the Building Control Officer (BCO) was satisfied that the requirements were met.

The SANS Form 2 for appointment of the Structural Engineer, submitted to the Municipality, accompanied the application and indicated the category of registration of the engineer as Professional Engineer and included the registration number. This registration number does not refer to the competencies the professional must hold, or the work reserved for this level of registration. The engineer was therefor deemed competent. In the submitted form the competent person confirms that he does have professional indemnity.

On the Form 2, the engineer, Atholl Mitchell, declared that he has the necessary qualifications, experience, and contextual knowledge to undertake the work proposed. The form stipulates the description of all applicable work responsibilities and the owner signed acceptance of the appointment.

The Architectural Professional Council has developed an IDOW (Identification of Work) Matrix which determines the exact type of work that can be perform by a Registered Architectural Professional in the category of registration. This IDOW is a guide for the Municipality to determine the work that can be perform by a Professional in terms of his/her category of registration and based on the information provided by the applicant, the architect was also confirmed to be competent to undertake this design.

The value of the development was estimated at R39,544,000.00 at the time of approval. The development consisted of a basement parking area, ground floor parking and four floors of residential apartments above the parking. There are 42 apartments proposed and approved on the building plans. The area of the site is 1228 square meters, and the total area of the development is 4943 square meters with a coverage of 877.4 square meters (71.45%).

Compliance during construction
At the time of the incident, construction has progressed up to and included the concrete roof with various other disciplines busy with service installations. The municipality has no record of previous safety violations by the developer within the George municipal area.

The developer with his professional team is not obliged to submit any compliance report to the municipality. The normal practise is that the owner and developer, together with their professional team will have weekly/bi-weekly or monthly meetings and inspections where progress reports are submitted to the owner/client. This practice is done with no input from the Municipality and current the applicable legislation does not demand that this information is submitted to the Municipality.