Levy to prevent canal homes flooding is on hold

Kouga Councillor, Ben Rheeder, questioned the legality of the St Francis Bay Riparian Homeowners Association (SFBRHOA) raising a R10 000 levy without a majority of homeowners consenting.

“As a result of Rheeder’s intervention the process of raising the levy was again delayed.” This was announced today in a ‘Status Report’ sent out of by the SFBRHOA committee secretary, Jacky Green. The committee hoped to have the raising of  the levies finalised this month. The funds are earmarked for building revetments (for which and EIA has been granted by government environmentalists) to protect the highly fragile dune spit against the late April and winter storms.

Rheeder’s intervention took place at a Kouga Council meeting on 29 February 2012. “Council was presented with the proposal for the raising of the levy during March 2012,” the Report states. “While the Levy was apparently approved, Councillor Rheeder, representing SFB Ward 12, questioned the legality of raising the levy without obtaining an absolute majority agreement from all homeowners.”

Aerial photos shows how precarious the dune spit is. It could breach in the next sea storm.

The fragile, badly eroded dune spit that is the only protection for St Francis Bay's canal homes against the winter sea storms

The dune spit is the only protection the luxurious homes on the St Francis Bay canals have from rough and stormy seas. Last month this paper published aerial photos taken which clearly indicate how precarious the spit is and how much it is in danger of being breached by another severe sea storm. Two are republished here online.

“Us home owners could lose our homes if the spit breaks in the next storm,” one canal home owner complained to St Francis Chronicle this afternoon.  He believed political in-fighting was putting canal homes at risk. “A R10 000 levy is a drop in the ocean compared to the value of canal homes ranging from R4-million – R25-million and upwards.”

Other canal residents who were asked to comment today echoed recent statements that that if the sea breaks through the spit and floods the canal homes, destroying the canal system, St Francis Bay will lose its appeal and become “just another resort.”

Legal counsel for the SFBRHA and Kouga Municipality’s legal counsel are currently in consultation to ascertain the legality of the former’s approach. A decision is hoped for by the end of March 2012.

“Our Legal Counsel believe our case is sound and if opposed by the KM further legal action will most likely be taken. The Committee regrets the delay but assures its members that we remain committed to achieving our objective,” the SFBRHOA states.

The committee further elaborates on the delay:

“As members are aware, a resolution was passed at the AGM of the SFBRHOA in December 2011 for the repair and establishment of revetments along the Dune Spit adjoining the canals along with the raising of a Special Levy of R10 000 per canal homeowner to cover the costs thereof.

“In January 2012 the committee wrote to Kouga Municipality requesting the collection of the R10 000 Special Levy from all Canal Homeowners in order to proceed with the work and ensure that it could be completed before the onset of the winter storms.

“Unfortunately the process has been extensively delayed principally as a result of objections raised by Dr Koos Vermaak to the Municipality, campaigning to overturn what had been agreed at the AGM and stating inter alia that:

* Protection of the spit was unnecessary as the situation had not changed in the last 50 years and as an “expert” in he believed that nothing needed to be done “for at least the next 10 years”.

* The process of passing the resolution and raising the levy by the SFBRHOA was “unconstitutional” and “illegal” as the raising of a special levy required an absolute majority of all canal homeowners as opposed to the majority of those who attended the AGM.

* The Section 21 company had no legal authority over the canals as it was improperly constituted.”

In 2007 there were great celebrations on the canals and headlines in St Francis Chronicle that read: “We run our own canals!” when permission was granted for canal home owners to set up a Section 21 company to run the canals.

Observers have pointed out that apparent attempts to derail the Section 21 company that was set up to be autonomous and run the canals – instead of being run by the Kouga Municipality – threatens to place the canal homes back under the control of the municipality. They point out the irony is that when the municipality ran the canals there were endless complaints that the canal systems were not being dredged properly and canal home owners were paying levies to the Council with “little or nothing to show for it”.

“Now some appear to be trying to take away the power from the Section 21 company. Do they really want the municipality to run the canals again?”