THE controversy over the illegal occupation of land at the intersection of Stephen Dlamini and John Zikali Roads is not over, says ward 31 councillor Chris Pappas.
Developments at the property have been highlighted by Berea Mail over the past month, which reported that the original building on the property had been demolished and the land tarred.
Pappas said an entrance gate on Stephen Dlamini Road had been installed, something which had not been approved by the municipality.
This land is also zoned residential and is not for business purposes, and a section of the property has also encroached on municipal land.
A municipal official reported at the end of the month that he had observed kerbs being installed and had instructed the contractor to cease with all work.
He said the owner had confirmed the fence which was encroaching on municipal ground would be removed and relocated on his boundary, and the tar macadam would be removed and replaced with grass as per the original condition.
ALSO READ: Enforcement needed at Musgrave property
However, this week Pappas reported that the owner of the property had done none of this, instead he had created a small lawn and garden on the premises in what he said could only be assumed to be an attempt to appease residents and the collective uproar.
“The owner seems to have missed the point. The fence must be removed completely, the entrance to the site from Stephen Dlamini Road removed and the municipal land restored to its original state. This also means replacing the aloes that were removed which cost in the region of R6 000 per plant. The exotic palms that have been planted are far shy of what needs to happen. One can see by a map of the area that there is a clear violation and illegal use of municipal property,” said Pappas.
While visiting the site on Friday, a resident approached Pappas and Berea Mail to express his disdain with what was happening at the property.
“I sent a letter to the Parks Department, Chris Pappas and the Mayor’s office when this first started as I can’t believe people can be so brazen in this day and age. It is crazy! Business has to be done legally, as this sort of thing just sends a bad message. The aloes and plants on the land were planted only three years ago and need to be replaced. The entire Berea is changing. We bought here 15 years ago as we loved the culture of the area, it is a beautiful, family, residential area but now this business is ruining everything. If the municipality can allow this, they will allow anything,” he said.
Pappas said there also seemed to be some clear misunderstanding on what could and could not happen on the property.
“Since the first story in the Berea Mail we have learned that the owner will be leasing the property out to someone who will be starting a car sales dealership. The property is zoned general residential 1 and this means that no commercial activity should be taking place on this site. This is not a matter of getting signatures from neighbours. A full rezoning application would need to be submitted,” said Pappas.
He said the municipality had been found wanting and there was a complete lack of commitment to enforcing the law.
“The Building Inspectorate is unable to protect residents from this type of behaviour. It seems that the Land Use Management Department is also full of excuses. Illegal developers, unscrupulous land use and illegal building practices will not be tolerated. If the City will not protect our rights to live in an orderly and well managed urban space then as residents, we need to start thinking of new ways to get their attention. At the end of the day we pay thousands of Rands to keep the city going but more and more we see that the city cannot, or will not, protect us from those who openly break the law and get away with it,” he said.