The cape of good intentions
While Special Rating Areas are perceived as positive by most, dissatisfaction exists regarding the approval process, writes Anna-Marie Smith
THE city of Cape Town currently administers a total of 22 Special Rating Areas (SRAs) previously known as Central Improvement Districts (CIDs), comprising large commercial areas plus residential nodes, and in two cases residential areas only with an additional four residential SRAs in the process of application.
SRAs are the product of commercial and residential property owners’ initiatives on a voluntary basis, requiring intensive planning and business acumen to uplift, maintain and preserve areas within the framework of Section 21 companies, and funded by extra rates the city collects.
“Top-up” services provided by SRAs have produced phenomenal improvements throughout the city, including Cape Town Central, Sea Point, Green Point, Claremont, Maitland, Athlone, Muizenberg and Fishhoek.
Property owners benefit from
The city’s requirement of a 50% plus one majority vote is not viewed as ethical, whereas a 66% majority vote would represent a fairer base from where to calculate levies
the implementation of five-year business plans approved by the city, which remains obligated to sustain existing services. By working closely with city officials, extra services are determined, resulting in SRAs providing formal structures through which to finance services such as crime prevention in areas where contributions were previously optional, resulting in nonpayments and service lapses.
Individual SRAs are unique in nature due to geographical settings, population density, zonings and property values, and while perceived as positive by most, dissatisfaction exists regarding the approval process, determined by a majority vote of 50% plus one.
The recent approval of the Zeekoeivlei SRA within a stringent timeline, not allowing sufficient time for lobbying objections, produced a majority vote of 60%, with only 129 properties to pay for additional services. The remaining 40% — many of whom are pensioners, who will be liable for an additional R237 per R1m — either did not vote or remained indifferent.
Clive Byrne, chairman of the proposed Capri Village SRA, said an opinion poll measuring support on the additional rate budgeted at R159,76 per R1m per property (inclusive of VAT) resulted in a total of 378 out of 685 property owners participating, of which 326 (86%) supported the process.
Byrne said that, while winning the support of the remainder by lobbying and continuing the education process was vital, the committee would only go ahead with a majority vote of 66%.
In raising reasons for objecting to the voting process, Zeekoeivlei resident Roger Godwin said: “The city’s requirement of a 50% plus one majority vote is not viewed as ethical, whereas a 66% majority vote would represent a fairer base from where to calculate levies.”
He said Durban’s SRA bylaw required a minimum of 200 properties to justify an SRA, yet in a small SRA such as Zeekoeivlei, the 8% annual levy increase was not sustainable, nor did it include neighbouring communities such as Grassy Park from benefiting.
The successful one-year-old Vredekloof SRA in Bellville, the city’s first fully operational residential-only SRA, produced a 70% majority vote, resulting in residents benefiting from an immediate and steep reduction in crime, its main motivating force. Vredekloof SRA manager Leon Brynard said: “Although residents also benefit from increased ‘cleaning and greening’, the positive results in improved security prove the additional R163 per R1m as worthwhile.” He said the Vredekloof SRA could only increase property values, and possibly benefit from reduced insurance premiums.
The Constantia SRA initiated two years ago illustrates another unique profile in its geographical size, stretching from Constantia and Bergvliet to Diep River. Representing a mixture of income groups and property values, the residents petitioned against newly proposed levies that were considered unaffordable.
Constantia CID chairperson Penny East said while residents were satisfied with the services rendered by Cape Town, the steering committee felt that it had to supplement existing services by pre-empting “sleaze and grease” from setting in, and preserving the quality and beauty of this area.
She said that the originally proposed monthly levy had since been reduced by removing funding for 31 CCTV cameras, and instead retaining five patrol cars and 10 foot patrols to cover an area stretching from Dreyersdal farm to Doordrift Road.
Previously opposed levies for properties valued at up to R900 000 were reduced from R136 to R70, levies on properties valued up to R1,5m were reduced from R227 to R118, and on properties valued at R2,4m, levies were reduced from R363 to R189.
The city’s director of internal services liaison, George van Schalkwyk, said that residents who qualified for municipal rates relief, including those over the age of 60 earning no more than R8 500 per month, and indigent household monthly incomes of below R3 000, would automatically be relieved of SRA levies.
Van Schalkwyk said the city reserved the right to close SRAs not delivering, and residents could exercise their rights to call a special general meeting after one year of inception, providing the city approved the motivation and a majority vote was received.
The city confirmed the benefits of long-term SRAs to include increased property values and enhanced standards of living.