(Updated) – By Bev Mortimer
The battle to get all or most of St Francis Bay property owners to vote has begun in earnest.
Owners have been asked to vote if they are in favour of a levy to pay for repairs or replacements of infrastructure in St Francis Bay that is in the process of falling apart, or beyond repair and to improve roads, the river, beach and for other things in the area.
The Kouga Municipality is unable to pay for repairs or replacements for infrastructure; it can only afford to pay for maintenance, according to SRA committee members.
There are about 2150 properties in St Francis Bay (excluding private estates) so 1076 votes are required. Of the total only about 820 had handed in their ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote (after the February printed edition of the newspaper had gone to press). The ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ votes of the remaining property owners who have not voted and earnestly awaited by the SRA committee. Among those who have not voted,, some cannot afford to pay, others can but do not want to, while some are undecided.
So the SFPO is now going to endeavour to contact each one telephonically to get them to vote, and preferably to vote ‘yes’. According to some St Francis Bay residents it appears that many who have not voted appear to be currently unflinching in their decision to avoid victimisation by simply not voting. And this, observers further point out, is likely to be the biggest hurdle for the SFPO as residents cannot be forced to vote.
In order for St Francis Bay area to declared an SRA 51% of property owners in the area have to vote ‘Yes’.
Property owners, who wish to keep the value of their properties up, especially those owners on the canals and elsewhere in the area are keen on the “Yes’ vote and are encouraging everyone to give the ‘Yes’ vote. Proponents, the SFPO, spent last year travelling around the country on a fund raising drive and has raised more than R4-million already.
The SFPO formerly known as the St Francis Bay Residents Association says: “It is clear from the amount of donations received to-date (R4.3m) we will have to rely on the introduction of an SRA levy if we are going to raise the funds required to restore our infrastructure.”
The SFPO says Kouga Municipality agrees in principle to support its application for an SRA levy. (See full statement from the SFPO p9)
A St Francis SRA Business Plan was presented to the Kouga Region DA Caucus. Now the SFPO has asked property owners of St Francis to approve the SRA proposal.
A majority vote is required to allow the SFPO to submit its SRA application to Kouga Council for final approval. The SFPO has to provide proof the majority of St Francis property owners have voted in favour of the SRA levy. Then the municipality will implement a By-Law and Policy required for the introduction of a SRA arrangement and introduce the levy for the St Francis area at the start of the next municipal financial year starting on July 1 2017,” the SFPO says.
The SFPO says it received support for the SRA proposal from the property owners who attended its five public meetings during the past year. Meetings were used to survey the level of support for the SRA proposal.
The show of hands at all meetings, it says, has given the SFPO the mandate to ask Kouga Municipality to support its campaign to ‘Save St Francis’.
“In most cases those who had concerns with our proposal and voted against it subsequently followed up with us and discussed their concerns,” the SFPO says.
The SFPO has set up a an SFPO NPC (Not-For-Profit Company) to start restoring the St Francis Bay area’s infrastructure. On 25 November 2016 the SFPO received a signed MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) from Kouga Municipality mandating the SFPO NPC to manage the Spit and Beach repairs on its behalf.
The SFPO NPC will also manage the SRA levy and the restoration of the rest of the infrastructure – if it receives a majority vote in favour of the SRA levy. This company has been operational since July this year. Greg Miller was hired as Project Manager. Donations received to-date have allowed the SFPO to start infrastructure restoration operations and do a lot of the preparatory work required to calculate what an appropriate levy should be to accomplish this restoration work.
The yeas maintain that improving St Francis Bay will encourage more people to come to St Francis to live here. This will mean more business and income to the area. The opposite , they say, is too ghastly, it will lead to further deterioration and less people living here and property values will rapidly decline, so that many could lose on their investments,
If the SRA is not granted it is likely that certain areas/suburbs of St Francis Bay may implement a SRA so just their roads and systems etc will be kept pristine..
If approved , the levy will apply to all areas of St Francis Bay except Sea Vista and the private residential estates, such as St Francis Links, the Kromme River share blocks etc…. These private estates can join the St Francis Bay SRA or they they can create their own SRA – but the levy could be higher for individual estates – as much as 50%
There are about 42 private estates self governed in several respects . The SFPO is negotiating with them to participate.
Cape St Francis is also excluded. Its Civics Association indicated it is unwilling to join this levy proposal.
The SFPO thanks all property owners who have donated generously to its ‘Saving St Francis’ campaign. “Without their contributions we could not have made the progress we have to-date,” the SFPO says..
The SFPO asks anyone with concerns to contact it.
The SFPO has now completed the St Francis Vision 2030 of what local property owners and some businesses want St Francis Bay to ideally be like in 10-15 years’ time, by 2030. This document, a living Vision, will be updated periodically. Its primary purpose is to attract investment to St Francis Bay, to create employment and uplift Sea Vista Township. The Vision holds that: “We want St Francis area to be a World Class Lifestyle Destination. We have the assets in St Francis that are both unique and abundant enough to make this vision achievable in the next 10-15 years.”
Donations to repair St Francis Bay’s infrastructure received so far have reached R4.3m from 89 donors. The list of those who have donated is on the website.
Funds raised through the SRA will according to the comittee, be used for the following…
River 32%, Sewerage 28%, Roads: 26%, Security 7%, Groynes 4 % and Overheads 3%.
Read more info on the SRA issue (including the comments of property owners obtained through a snap survey) in the printed edition, now out – or the online edition – out this weekend.