Grahamstown developer loses battle – but not war

SPARRING PARTNERS: Rob Beer, left, and Mark Shelton have been bickering in court for more than a decade Pictures: FILE
SPARRING PARTNERS: Rob Beer, left, and Mark Shelton have been bickering in court for more than a decade Pictures: FILE

A developer and a businessman who have been waging legal wars against each other for almost a decade yesterday settled their differences on one front while squaring up yet again on another.

Grahamstown Pick n Pay franchise owner Mark Shelton and his one-time close friend, developer Rob Beer, yesterday reached a court settlement on Beer’s endeavour to build more shops in the parking lot directly in front of Shelton’s supermarket.

Shelton, who leases more than 10000m² of space in Beer’s Pepper Grove Mall development for his supermarket, last year successfully took Beer to court to force him to remove boarding his company had put up to block off 23 parking bays. Beer had intended building another 300m² of shop frontage in the parking area which would host various restaurant and other franchises.

Shelton said taking away this parking went contrary to his lease agreement with Beer and his business turnover had plummeted when parking right in front of his supermarket was blocked off. He also pointed out that the number of parking bays in the mall was already deficient when measured against zoning regulations, and taking another 23 away had made the situation desperate, causing severe traffic congestion in the mall itself.

In yesterday’s agreement, made an order of the court, Beer’s company Clublink agreed to an interdict preventing it from constructing buildings in the disputed parking area directly in front of the supermarket. He also agreed not to reduce the number of parking bays in the mall.

Beer is now developing the additional shop frontage on a property adjacent to the parking lot. He said in court papers that the new development would bring R12-million investment into Grahamstown and create 40 jobs in the building phase.

Beer and Shelton were long-time friends whose development and retailing businesses throughout the Eastern Cape often dovetailed. The two fell out in about 2003 and have since taken each other to court on numerous occasions.

Beer, who has over the years sought in vain to develop land for a Superspar supermarket, has alleged in court papers that Shelton’s every court move against him was aimed at blocking this competition.

Shelton has denied this and pointed out that the Competition Commission had rejected each one of Beer’s complaints of anti-competitive behaviour against him.

Beer recently emerged triumphant on plans to develop land for a Superspar when the Makana municipal council approved the rezoning of a nearby strip of land he owns from special business and general residential to a special zone that permits a combination of land uses including a supermarket, bottle store and service station. There is currently a small Kwikspar on the land in question, which can now be expanded to a Superspar.

Shelton, who owns several flats around the land, appealed the rezoning decision, saying interested parties had never been notified by the municipality or been given the opportunity to make any input.

Executive mayor Zamuxolo Peter recently rejected the appeal.

It is understood that Shelton has now resorted to the high court, asking it to review and set aside or have declared as invalid the resolution to dismiss the appeal against the rezoning approval.

It could not be immediately ascertained when this latest court clash would be argued.

-Adrienne Carlisle

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