A Lakeside church has until January 19 to remove nearly 100 storage containers in the facility after the City slapped it with compliance notices.
The containers at the Riverview Church of Christ premises drew outrage from residents opposed to an alleged lease agreement signed between the storage company and the church.
About the compliance notices, the City told the “Cape Times”: “The City served a notice in terms of Section 126 of the Municipal Planning By-law on the owner and user of the said erf in Lakeside on December 18, 2023.
“In terms of this notice the owner/user is instructed to cease operating the container site and comply with the Municipal Planning By-law and zoning of the property by January 19, 2024.
As such, those served with this notice are compelled to remove all of the containers from the site as it is not zoned for this purpose.”
The containers, belonging to Metric Storage, became the latest controversy in an almost decade-long battle between churchgoers, residents and the church board of trustees following what was described as a “hostile takeover” of the church in 2015.
Since November 30, residents have kept a hawk-eye on the privately-owned church premises when they were informed a lease agreement had been signed between congregant preacher Honore Makembe and storage business owner Dealtry Pickford.
Pickford confirmed that he had entered into a lease agreement with the church board of trustees – however, an application for a zoning departure at the premises has been submitted to the municipality but has not yet been presented at council for approval.
In the absence of and pending the application for the rezoning of the land – currently zoned as single residential/place of worship – the containers being stored on the piece of land were in contravention of land use regulations, said ward councillor Carolynne Franklin.
“This is an appalling set of circumstances and will take lots of time to resolve ... I have been advised that a temporary zoning departure application was submitted late in December 2023.
“It has not yet been presented to sub council - and as a result of the illegal nature of activities on the site, as well as the significant concerns from residents, any application will be robustly interrogated.
“As per usual a full public participation process will be undertaken and I will retain strict oversight of the process (as per my usual protocols),” said Franklin.
Franklin said prior to December 12, when the first container was delivered, there were no land use contraventions as Makembe insisted there was only “extensive clearing of land” happening on November 30.
“When the first container was delivered, we immediately issued contravention notices. The City was quick to respond by putting up jersey barriers at the premises so they could no longer access the premises.
“They have up to six compliance notices served on them now,” said Franklin.
Makembe referred questions to his lawyer, who had not yet responded by press time on Monday.
Assistant to the congregation, Derek Beukes, said Makembe “has assumed the role of trustee and is not a qualified pastor who is acting beyond his scope, which he has also been interdicted against by the court”.
According to Beukes, an eviction hearing - for the eviction of the Makembe’s and a group of people currently occupying the church building, will be heard in March.
“The transaction with Pickford has definitely not been authorised by the congregation in any way, shape or form.
We were not consulted in the process at all and would never have agreed to it. This is an absolute hijacking of the church,” said Beukes.
Pickford confirmed that a five-year lease agreement was signed to assist the church, who would benefit from leasing the land as they “are experiencing financial difficulty and in desperate need of funds.
“The information has been inflammatory... we have made an application to the City of Cape Town for a land use departure prior to moving any containers,” said Pickford.
Pickford confirmed the application had not been heard by council before moving the containers onto the premises but “we will be guided by the City’s decision”.
Resident, Graeme Glass, said: “As a resident, I find myself profoundly frustrated and disheartened by the ongoing situation. Numerous bylaws have been violated, yet there appears to be a lack of decisive action. It is akin to witnessing an active crime unfold and reaching out to the authorities, only to encounter neglect. The parcel of land utilised by Mr. Pickford is designated for residential purposes, raising legitimate concerns about the permissibility of operating a business in that zone.
“The disparity in treatment is evident when comparing the arduous process that ordinary citizens undergo for home alterations, requiring meticulous planning and council approval spanning months or even a year. It is disconcerting that such a transgression has persisted unchecked for an extended period, fostering a perception that those who flout the law enjoy preferential treatment,” said Glass.