Fate of St Francis Bay’s canals and mansions now in the hands of canal home owners

By Bev Mortimer:

On Friday this week Kouga Municipality is expected to announce its decision on whether the municipality will raise a levy to meet the costs of sorely needed rock revetments for the most precarious dune Spit.  Rock revetments are the only option available to protect canal homes from the fierce sea storms expected as usual in Spring.

Home owners have been asked by the municipality to respond by Wednesday this week with comments about the levy and protection of their homes..

The facts basically are:

The canals need protection from severe sea storms as it is severely eroded in places.  There is an EIA, granted by the SA government department of Environmental Affairs at the end of last year, that allows rock revetments to be built along the spit to fortify it.

This EIA for rock revetments expires in August.  Any other solution for the beach will have to undergo another EIA which will take two years and cost about R300 000.  While there are many other solutions offered to protect the Spit from the ravages of the Indian Ocean in winter,  someone would need to offer to pay for another EIA, but no one (including the municipality) has any money to pay for this lengthy process in the foreseeable future.

Some home owners do not want rock revetments nor do they want to pay a levy, so there are two differing camps among canal home owners.

In the case of the majority of canal home owners advising the municipality that they do not want to pay the levy, the Spit could well be left unprotected and at the mercy of the elements as the SFBRHOA will have insufficient funds to place rock revetments along the whole of the ski canal to fortify it against destructive Spring waves.

Experts such as highly qualified marine scientists and engineers from Port Elizabeth, who know this St Francis coastline well, have warned that the Spit may be breached in Spring this year.

Many canal home owners are praying that common sense will prevail in the voting process as they say: “The levy is a small price to pay to protect our mansions – anything form R3-million–R20-million and upwards – from the merciless waves that could flood and destroy the canals and its stately upmarket homes.”

At a recent meeting with the municipality the committee said some canal home owners have questioned why the levy will only apply to those living on the canals when in fact all people living in St Francis benefit from the canals? “In response to this we can state that it is our intention to ensure that going ahead non-canal home owners will be required to pay a premium for their licence to use the canals,” the committee says on its website. “Additionally it was felt by the SFBRHOA Committee that the application of a levy across all SFB residents will be even more contentious and that we as canal home owners should take control of our own destiny.

“The outcome of our efforts is not ideal but unfortunately due to the untimely intervention of the process by certain opposing parties, we were forced to obtain a Court Order to facilitate the process and as a result have had to comply with municipal regulations that have in effect taken control away from your Association. Unfortunately we do not have an alternative option but with constant monitoring we believe we can still achieve a satisfactory end result.”

Deadline: Canal home owners are reminded that the Notice from the municipality gives all canal home owners the opportunity to make comment and raise objections to the proposed levy by writing directly to the Municipal Manager. These responses should be submitted to the municipality by Wednesday, 27 June 2012 and will play a large part in determining whether Kouga Council proceeds with the collection of the levy for revetments or not – after a vote by councillors. This issue will be decided at the Council meeting on Friday this week.

“Canal Homeowners should note that by objecting to the collection of the levy they are effectively rejecting the construction of revetments as the municipality has no alternative funding options available to carry out this work,” the committee also says. “This will leave the Dune Spit exposed to the well documented vagaries of the winter storms. “There is therefore much at stake and Canal home owners should think carefully about their decision as there is unlikely to be any other opportunity in the short to medium term to address this issue. We now await the results of the comments and objection notice period and urge all canal home owners to respond to the municipal notice to ensure that, whichever way it goes, it will at least be viewed as being the wish of the majority of canal home owners.”

The committee adds that all canal home owners have been notified by the municipality of the latter’s intention to include an amount of R4.5m in its Budget for the construction of revetments, which will be funded by the raising of a Special Levy on all Canal Home owners to cover this construction.

Invoicing of the Levy:    If approved by Council, Canal Home owners will be invoiced in the July 2012 billing period.

Amount of Levy:  The SFBRHOA reiterated that the levy should not exceed R10 000 per Riparian Erf. (Those who are facing financial hardship, such as some pensioners, can approach the committee with a request for exemption.)

Security of Funds: The Acting Financial Director has given her assurance that, as per the Court Order, all funds raised via this levy will be ring fenced and placed in an Investment Account pending the appointment of  contractors. The SFBRHOA expressed the concern of their members in respect of the municpality taking control of these funds and were categorically assured that under the Court Order these monies could not and would not be used for any other purpose.

 VAT:  The SFBRHOA believes that the levy should be Zero Rated for VAT and this is being reviewed by SARS following which a Directive will be issued.  

Appointment of Contractors:  Regrettably, due to existing Municipal Regulations and the fact that the Erf in question is Public Open Space owned by the municipality, the appointment of contractors lies in the hands of the municipality. The SFBRHOA expressed concern that unsuitable and unqualified contractors may secure the contract as was experienced previously. In response the municipality advised that it was still reviewing the regulations that might allow the possibility of streamlining the tender process and have undertaken to revert on this issue next week.  

EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) (EIA): This Approval is due to expire at the end of August 2012 and the municipality is requesting an extension of the ROD.

 

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