Developer rejects concerns raised by Baakens Valley eco-watchdog

Moffett complex building site piercing green lung, trust says

The contested building site is on the northern side of the William Moffett Retail Park above the expressway
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The contested building site is on the northern side of the William Moffett Retail Park above the expressway
Image: WERNER HILLS

The Baakens Valley Trust has raised concerns about building activity on the north side of theWilliam Moffett Retail Park, which it says is outside the boundary of the property and spilling into the city’s premier green open space.

Baakens Valley Preservation Trust representative Ross Zietsman, a former senior municipal engineer, said the building site behind Sportsman’s Warehouse seemed clearly to have extended beyond the boundary set down in plans at the time of the controversial sale of the land in 1998.

“The landscaping plan shows that a berm landscaped with indigenous plants was going to be erected along the property’s north boundary, inside the perimeter fence.

“There’s still no sign of this berm and now the dumping of building material seems to be pushing out way beyond the boundary in terms of the plan, which we have a copy of.”

When The Herald went to the site on Monday, judging by where the perimeter fence presently ends diagonally behind Sportsman’s Warehouse, it appeared that the building site extended some 30m past this point down the hill into the valley.

However, project manager Shawn Elkington, of Synergy Property Solutions, said later that day that the boundary line took a right angle turn at this point.

“Our building material has perhaps spilt 1m over the boundary line.

“Starting Wednesday, we will be raking that material back and rolling it hard to create a solid foundation for the section of the boundary wall that still needs to be built.”

Neither the survey plan nor the landscaping plan, which The Herald has seen, appears to show this right angle, however.

The stub of the existing perimeter fence is positioned on the top right hand side of the site
FENCELINE FRACAS: The stub of the existing perimeter fence is positioned on the top right hand side of the site
Image: WERNER HILLS

The land on which William Moffett Retail Park is built, a fynbos-covered slope in Fairview on the southern bank of the Baakens Valley, first came under the spotlight in 1998, when the city council agreed that it should be sold to an applicant developer.

The trust, supported by the DA and a public petition, argued that the valley was protected and that the site fell within the Metropolitan Open Space System or “green lung” which had been approved by the metro just a year earlier.

They called for an environmental impact assessment to be done so that the valley’s full recreational, tourist and environmental value to the metro could be properly assessed.

Despite these calls, no environmental impact assessment was done and the land was sold to Summerlake Investments and subsequently to property tycoon Ken Denton’s Ummi Properties.

After the complex was built, the trust continued to monitor the area and the implementation of environmental conditions set down in the sale, and in July 2004, Zietsman, who was then chair of the organisation, met representatives of the developer in this regard.

According to a letter from Architectural Project Management Studio, sent to Zietsman after the meeting, the developer accepted the call for “a berm ... landscaped with indigenous planting ... in consultation with yourselves”.

Looking across the lower edge of the building site and over the Baakens Valley towards Glen Hurd
APPARENT INGRESS: Looking across the lower edge of the building site and over the Baakens Valley towards Glen Hurd
Image: WERNER HILLS

Trust member Gwynneth Marmetschk said the piles of building material and the position of the site above the expressway, also posed a danger in her view.

“If big rains come it will mean serious problems on the road.”

Julie Mundell, of Gutsche Investment and Management Company (Gimco), which manages William Moffett Retail Park for Ummi Properties, said the clearing work being done extended to the boundary line behind Sportsman’s Warehouse.

“It has been cleared to complete the boundary wall.

“No construction will take place outside the boundary line but the site does extend into this corner.

“A large historic stockpile was in this area and the municipality requested that this be removed, which has now been completed.”

Mundell said all construction at the shopping complex including the present work on the boundary wall had been through a spatial development plan process and each part of the project had been approved.

She said Gimco’s assessment was that the site was safe.

“The material has been heavily impacted and the major stockpile has been removed.

“We have experienced various heavy downpours recently and no evidence of subsidence was noted.”

Looking east across the top edge of the building site next to the service road, with the end of the existing perimeter behind. According to survey plans, the boundary extends in a straight line from there, parallel to the road, to join the fence on the other side of the site. The site extends left downhill to the valley bush
STRAIGHT FORWARD: Looking east across the top edge of the building site next to the service road, with the end of the existing perimeter behind. According to survey plans, the boundary extends in a straight line from there, parallel to the road, to join the fence on the other side of the site. The site extends left downhill to the valley bush
Image: GUY ROGERS

Metro spokesperson Mamela Ndamase said on Monday the municipality had been alerted about the matter.

“Building inspectors will investigate.

“The city has engaged with the project managers and they have committed that on Wednesday they will start to excavate and compact the building sand to ensure that accidents do not occur in the area.”

On Friday, after a follow-up visit by a Weekend Post reporter, site manager Shawn Elkington said the rubble and material spill-over had since being cleared.

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