Bids for rezoning hampered

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The rezoning of properties stalled in Nelson Mandela Bay for a week, delaying developments across the city.
Two companies that represent dozens of residents and investors trying to rezone their properties to business use claim a “go-slow” has affected their applications to the properties and land planning divisions.
Property Scene Group owner Alon Rathbone, who deals with commercial property sales including rezoning, said the delays were a historic problem but had become worse recently.
“The rezoning plays a crucial part in a decision to purchase a property,” he said.
“You have to ask why development takes so long. The holding costs while waiting for a rezoning are astronomical.”
He said investors had started to pull out of Nelson Mandela Bay due to the long waits.
Municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki confirmed that some of the applications may have been affected by the go-slow.
Mniki said letters telling staff to return to work and open the office doors to residents had been issued.
“The doors are now open to the public.”
He said the municipality was unaware of the reasons for the current go-slow but earlier grievances were being addressed.
He said it was difficult to determine the exact number of applications affected.
Rezoning applications are first filed with the properties division which deals with advertising the requests and preparing reports.
From there they move to the land planning division, which considers if the rezoning is technically allowed based on the relevant legislation.
The municipal planning tribunal then gives its approval and sends the application back to the properties division.
Neville Daley, who is busy with 30 applications for Macroplan Urban Planning Consultants, said an application took on average about 12 months.
“But recently there was no action from the municipality’s side after several rezoning applications were submitted by Macroplan.
“The answer to my followup [question] was that Treasury had advised there was no budget for advertising, therefore applications have not been advertised,” Daley said.
“This needs clarification.
“Each application includes a payment to the municipality for application and advertising fees so the advertising is prepaid,” he said.
“There are also examples of lost files, lost [in] the administration process.
“I recently rescued an application submitted by another consultant in 2009.”
Daley resorted to writing to acting city manager Peter Neilson, after he visited the properties division at the Lilian Diedericks building this week.
“The floor was in darkness and without a receptionist.
“Eventually when I located a staff member, I was told that
Two companies that represent dozens of residents and investors claim a ‘go-slow’ has affected their applications nobody would be able to assist me.
“I inquired whether they were on strike and was told that it was not a union matter but an issue between the properties staff and the human settlements director.
“Surely the [executive] director of human settlements [Nolwandle Gqiba] and her staff can sort out personal grievances without punishing the ratepayers.”
In the letter, he said the financial ramifications of any delays in the applications process were huge. “What steps are you intending on taking to remedy the situation?”
Mniki did not respond to the claims in the letter.
A property developer, who declined to be named, submitted an application in July 2018 for the rezoning of a property in Walmer to build flats.
“But there has been no positive feedback enabling the development of the site even though it is line with the Walmer spatial development plan.
“The unnecessary delays are standing in the way of local development and employment opportunities,” he said.
“The end result is the property holding costs in [the Bay] are beginning to outweigh the return on investment.”

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