Contentious guesthouse gets the green light

Constructing a guesthouse in an affluent neighbourhood has proven to be very challenging.

13 August 2018 | Government

"Every person has the right to use their property to their personal preference..." Town Council

Jessica Botes

Even with numerous objections by neighbouring property owners, the Swakopmund town council has approved an application for the development of a residential guesthouse in Nord Strand Street.

The guesthouse, which will be located on erf 546, will feature six guestrooms and will be operated from a private dwelling. As such, the town council’s accommodation establishment policy stipulates that the owner or manager will be required to reside on the property permanently and only 40% of the floor area of the house may be used for guests. The appearance of the building must also be residential in character.

Van der Westhuizen Town Planning and Properties, on behalf of the developer, made an application for consent to construct and operate a residential guesthouse on the property to the town council in 2011. This application was first approved by the town council in March 2011, but the decision was appealed by the objectors’ legal representatives to the ministry of urban and rural development. The ministry subsequently requested comments from the town council in terms of the appeal. After the matter was considered by the ministry, council’s initial decision was upheld.

As a result of the delay in the process, another application was made for council to grant a renewal of the consent as the initial consent granted by council in 2011 has lapsed in terms of clause 6 under section 6.3.1 of the Swakopmund Town Planning Scheme.

The proposed consent was advertised in a local newspaper in February 2018 where after numerous objections were again received by the neighbouring property owners.

One of the objections raised was that the guesthouse would inextricably change the character of the residential area into a mixed use area which would also detrimentally affect the property values of all neighbouring properties.

During a discussion of the objection, council said that no evidence exists on such devaluation of property.

“In fact, the presence of such guesthouse in an area immanent to change in future due to expansion of the business and mixed use area, will make these areas more sought after for similar uses. This will have the opposite effect as expressed by the objector.”

Another objection raised was that the development would cause a disruption of traffic in Nord Strand Street due to additional traffic in the area.

Council responded by saying that this objection cannot be supported as there is no proof to this.

“All over Swakopmund there are similar establishments but traffic flow seems to be normal. The reconstruction of Nord Strand Street in fact makes conditions even more favourable for such a guesthouse as traffic speeds are reduced considerably.”

One objector requested a copy of the proposed draft plans of the guesthouse. According to the objector, the planned building does not sufficiently resemble residential character as required by the policy.

Council said that there seems to be no guideline in terms of what constitutes a residential character.

“Every person has the right to use their property to their personal preference as long as it is in accordance with and conforms to the provision of the town planning scheme. The proposed guesthouse does in no way differ from Indongo guesthouse situated in close proximity. What is the objector referring to here? Which criteria were used to determine that the proposed development does not resemble residential character? The current design reflects a nautical appearance that can be associated with a coastal town and the owner has the right to choose his own design.”

In light of the approval already granted by the ministry, council took note of these objections and proceeded with the approval. According to council, the approval from the ministry does not lapse, however should objections still be received from neighbours, this approval takes precedence as the ministry is the highest authority and their approval stands.

In its recommendation, council granted approval for the application by Atlantic Detour to operate a residential guesthouse on condition that the Namibia Tourism Board grants permission and the applicant registers with the municipality’s health services department.

Final approval will only be granted by council if the applicant adheres to council’s accommodation establishment policy at all times and that the final building plans adhere to the provisions of the policy.

Council also reserved its right to cancel the consent should there be valid objections. Council also informed the objectors of their right to appeal to the minister against council’s resolution within 28 days.

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