Worth the wait

WITH the property market being as buoyant as it is, many property owners are contemplating subdivision of their stands and to change land use rights, which can have lucrative benefits if rezoning permission is granted. On the other end of the spectrum, it can also decrease the value of your property if the proposed plan, for example, obstructs your view from the home or transforms your spacious suburb into that of a densely built-up spot.

Thankfully, the process has many procedures in which to go through before it can be approved. These restrictions are set in place so that everyone involved can be content with the outcome.

Rob Stefanutto, of Sotheby’s International Realty, says: “The process of rezoning can be quite laborious and expensive with costs involved every step of the way. However, for developers and property owners wanting to subdivide, it is often worth the wait.”

Information sourced from www.joburg.org.za says that every property in the city has a set of regulations to control development. These are determined by the zoning of the property and are set out in the applicable town planning scheme, which determines the rights of a property such as possible land use, floor area, coverage, building lines and parking provisions. Depending on where the property is situated, these restrictions will vary as each area of the city has a different scheme. For example, a property situated in an area with sea views will be height restricted and properties closer to the CBD will be allowed a higher percentage of stand coverage. Therefore, it is important to establish which scheme applies to which area.

Each region has a Regional Spatial Development Framework (RSDF) document, which is the relevant council’s development policy. This document provides a guideline as to what land use and development change will be acceptable. Generally, if a proposal is in accordance with the RSDF, it is likely to be supported. www.joburg.org.za says that information regarding these policies can be obtained from the Land Use Management Department as well as from the Development Planning and Facilitation Directorate.

“The first port of call for anyone wanting to rezone is a town planner who will appoint an architect. Together they work out the most feasible manner in which to subdivide,” says Stefanutto. At this stage, registered letters need to be sent to neighbours informing them of the planned rezoning and adverts placed in the press.

Stefanutto notes that this is usually where the hitch comes in as neighbours and local rate payers may object to planned structures blocking their views, disrupting privacy or similar effects. This generally results in the architect having to redesign the proposed plans.

How long the proposal will take to be processed will depend on the application and the Johannesburg city council says that a decision may take as long as 12 months. Stefanutto says that the process can take anything from six months to four years.

The reason that the process may seem drawn out is because after the application is submitted, it is circulated to the relevant council departments and agencies for comment. The application is then processed by a planning officer who makes a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved or not.

If the official’s decision opposes the application and interested parties have lodged objections, a tribunal hearing is scheduled and the applicant, objectors and council officials are given the opportunity to argue the case. If any party is dissatisfied with the tribunal’s decision, they may appeal to the provincial authority or, as it is currently known, the Townships Board, which can delay the process even further.

There are numerous costs involved in the process and not only the cost of preparing the application, which involves advertising, plans’ documents and professional fees, but also an application fee payable to the council. In addition, if a development application is approved, it may involve the payment of monetary contributions to the council for additional services such as sewers, electricity and water supply and road improvements.

When asked whether estate agents can help in the process, Stefanutto replied: “Although agents cannot help directly with the rezoning process they can often advise clients as to what the local rate payers in a particular area will tolerate without putting up too much of a fight. They can also obviously help in the marketing of the additional units.”

Ian Slot, national committee chairperson of Seeff, says that he welcomes the effort of the planning authorities trying to standardise systems and some of the measures being taken in order to protect areas, but he is concerned that some of them have not been properly thought out.

“Sellers, particularly in the areas where some of these regulations are going to affect them, need to get advice from an experienced agent in their area, or from an architect. If the regulations affecting the bulk buildings come through, then obviously this will reduce the value of the land to a seller who is doing a business deal with a developer, because the developer will be able to do less with it.”

Residential rezoning is necessary because of the type of lifestyle that most people in the metropolitan areas of SA have. To avoid our cities becoming like some parts of Europe, which are densely zoned together, it is necessary to be careful and considerate in the rezoning process. “We need to preserve our spaciousness so that we do not end up with unattractive and crowded living conditions,” says Stefanutto.

Article from: www.businessday.co.za