Residents question Palm House developers

A view of some of the palm trees at Palm House.

The 50 Kenilworth and Wynberg residents vehemently opposing the development of a five-storey luxury apartment block on the Palm House guest house site believe documents, some of which are 26 years old, prove that no such project may go ahead.

In the past few weeks both the owner and developer of Palm House and the objecting residents have stated their respective cases for and against the development, which would see 50 luxury apartments and an underground parking garage installed at the property (Residents in the dark about building proposal,” Tatler, August 11) and (“Apartment block to improve property values?”, Tatler, August 18).

While owner Paul Scarlett and developer Matthew Quinton last week sought to allay fears the development would lead to increased traffic congestion and bring down property values in Oxford Street and Tennant Road, home to some of Cape Town’s most stately homes, the residents claim they do not know the background of the property and its limitations.

This week the residents’ representative, Barnett Herdien, said he found Mr Scarlett’s comment last week, that the residents were not aware of the zoning rights on the Palm House property, “ironical”.

“It is very clear that Mr Scarlett has a dismissive attitude towards the objections of the residents affected, regarding their desire to maintain the ambiance of the area. It will serve Mr Scarlett well to note the background in which the initial R4, now GR4 zoning was permitted,” Hr Herdien said.

“The previous owners of what was then known as Himal House, as per (residents) Mr and Mrs Flack and Mr and Mrs Mervis, approached them and others in 1990 for permission to rezone the Himal House property in order to legalise the operation of a private hotel comprising of 10 units. In addition a request was made to build an additional building, that of a manager’s cottage.

“As per zoning regulations, the neighbours were informed about this application via registered post.”

According to this document, which is in the Tatler’s possession, the then City council had under consideration approved an application to amend its zoning scheme by the rezoning of Erven 66266, 66267 and 66268 from single dwelling residential use to general use, sub-zone R4 to permit the renovation and conversion of the main house into a private hotel, comprising 10 suites and the erection of a single-storeyed resident manager’s cottage adjacent to the outbuildings.

There is also confirmation from the City planners of the limitations attached to the GR4 zoning of the Palm House property.

“Listed under these conditions is the fact that Mr Scarlett cannot even build any other dwelling and none of the current dwellings must be higher than two-storeys high.

“The zoning conditions or title deed restrictions on a property is linked to the property and not the owner. It should also be noted that restrictions on a title deed supersedes the zoning rating of a property,” Mr Herdien said.

“It should be noted that if Palm House guest house ceases to function as such, the current zoning will revert to SR1. Under the zoning by-law of a provisional departure, non-use of such a facility for an unbroken period of six months will cause this provision to lapse. When this happens, then Mr Scarlett will be in breach of the SR1 zoning conditions as he will have more than two buildings on erf 148055.”

Mr Herdien said it should be noted that “Mr Scarlett does not reside in South Africa and he seems also not to appreciate the heritage of the area. It is all a business decision for him from which he wants to make as much profit as possible and move on.”

He added the residents were objecting on the ground that Heritage Western Cape, responsible for the heritage impact assessment, was not presented with the “complete facts” and were not aware of the “procedural flaws” regarding consultation. “We are in the process of requesting them to put their decision of approval aside,” he said.

Both Mr Scarlett and Mr Quinton had not responded to queries from the Tatler at the time of going to press.