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The future of the 150-year-old Royal Natal Yacht Club now lies in the hands of a Durban High Court judge, who will have to decide whether the city was within its rights to cancel the organisation’s lease.
Yesterday technical arguments were raised when the matter came before Judge Trevor Gorven.
The eThekwini municipality has brought an application to have the club placed on a monthly tenancy and charged that the previous lease had been properly terminated in December, 2008.
But the club is opposing the application and argues that its lease was extended in 1996 for 30 years.
The city’s legal adviser Samantha Mahadeo said in court papers that the monthly lease was needed as the area the club occupied was “important for development and planning” and that they wanted all sub-tenants, including other water sports enthusiasts, to be on the same footing.
Mahadeo also said that while there currently was no intention to terminate the lease, the need might arise later.
Of the 30-year lease, Mahadeo said it was agreed in a council resolution but never formalised because of objections raised by two councillors at the time.
One of the objections that was raised was that the club was “elitist”.
However, club commodore Richard Crockett said in his affidavit that it would be “unthinkable” for Durban not to have a yacht mole and associated water sports.
He vehemently denied that the club was elitist and said there were several yachtsmen who merely worked as crew and did not own expensive yachts.
Yesterday the club’s advocate, Julian King SC, said the monthly lease was unfair to the organisation.
“It is unfair for the municipality to say that there will be no leases and every organisation has to operate on this monthly tenancy,” King said.
“An organisation cannot be expected to maintain itself and thrive with a monthly lease, it is not fair administrative justice.”
King also asked whether there was any realistic prospect of development.
“It is not enough for the council to say that nothing happened with the matter of the extended lease.
“The process is not complete and until it is, the applicant (municipality) is not entitled to the relief.”
Advocate Maurice Pillemer SC, acting for the city, said the 30-year lease issue was a “non-starter”.
“There was no final decision on the issue, it fell through the cracks.
“It is untenable to rely on this resolution which was not followed through.”
Pillemer added that ultimately the court would have to decide whether the case dealt with contract or administrative law.
“I would submit that looking at it in terms of administrative law would be the wrong approach.
“Contractually, pro-per notice of the termination of the lease was given and the applicant is entitled to the relief it seeks.”