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Casino for SW ‘not cast in stone’

The deadline for comments and objections for the proposed rezoning of a tract of vacant land earmarked for a casino has been extended.

The public participation process (PPP) will now close on Monday 3 September at 14:30. It was originally set for Monday 6 August.

The PPP is being conducted by the City of Cape Town, after it received an application for the rezoning of a section of Somerset West Golf Course on the corner of the N2 and R102.

The 22 ha tract of land, which previously formed part of the 18-hole course is currently not in use. The land is owned by Sun International Hotel Interests (Pty) Ltd.

The land-use application is to rezone a portion of the vacant land from Open Space 3 to Subdivisional Area Overlay Zone, with underlying rights for General Business 3 Zone and Utility Zone. The leftover portion will remain Open Space Zone 3.

In a notice issued by the City, it is envisioned that the land will be subdivided into five portions. It is proposed that these portions will house a casino, multilevel parking garage and a 120-room hotel.

However, it is not clear whether an application for a gambling licence has been submitted to the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board.

Greg Peck, councillor for Ward 15, says the development of a casino, parking garage and hotel on the land in question is not a foregone conclusion.

“Right now the developers and land owner have only applied to have the land rezoned for business,” he explained.

The PPP extension comes after a spelling mistake on the City notice released on Friday 6 July.

Peck said residents’ opinions and objections on the proposed rezoning need to be clear.

“Residents can’t just write one sentence and expect it to be seriously considered. Objections and opinions should be substantive, with reasons and opinions supporting why they are saying ‘no’ to this rezoning or development.”

Brett Heron, Mayoral Committee member for Transport and Urban Development, said council received application on Saturday 16 June and the public was informed through advertisements in the Cape Argus and Die Burger on Friday 6 July.

“The City also sent registered letters to the surrounding property owners informing them of the proposed development application and requesting their comments, should they want to participate in the process,” he relayed.

“A notice was placed on site informing the general public of the said development application.”

Herron adds that a number of specialist studies were conducted as part of the land use applications.

“These include, but are not limited to, a socio-economic assessment, traffic impact assessment, a botanical assessment and a visual impact assessment,” he explained.

“All this information will be considered and will form part of the assessment report when a recommendation is made by the Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) for consideration.

“These studies form part of the documentation which the MPT will need for them to have all relevant information when they consider and pronounce on this application.”

Furthermore, Heron said the land-use application and associated socio-economic assessment which was submitted, stated that 650 job opportunities would be created through the casino, hotel and associated restaurants.

It is proposed that the casino will comprise a floor area of 18 000 m², while the proposed hotel will have a floor area of 7 100 m².

Said Heron: “Sixty percent of the said property is earmarked to remain open space.”

When asked his opinion on the proposed development of a casino in Somerset West, Peck said he is not for or against it.

“I want to remain neutral and look at a balanced view. Such a big development could bring money to the Helderberg and be an economic benefit. At the same time, it could also be an economic drain for the community with people wanting to supplement their income by gambling with money which they would have spent on basic needs.”

Pieter Human, a Somerset West resident who holds a masters degree in the socio-economic impacts of gambling, said: “Somewhere in the local economy people are going to feel the impact of a gambling institution; there will be a lot of displacement of capital. Even other casinos will feel the impact because people who would have travelled to any of the other casinos won’t be going there anymore.”

Human believes casinos sell experiences and people spend more there to reach the reward.

“When I completed my studies in 2000 it was apparent that people with a lower income are more inclined to gamble,” he related.

“Should a casino be built here, it will be more accessible to locals in that income bracket – and easier for them to spend their money.”

The Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board failed to respond to DistrictMail’s enquiry about on whether an application has been submitted.

V Peck urged the community to deliver their opinions and objections to the City office in Andries Pretorius Street, Somerset West on weekdays from 08:00 to 14:30. Alternatively, send it via email to comments_objections.helderberg@capetown.gov.za.

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