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Take down signage, or face R10 000 fine

Slowly recovering from financial losses after national lockdown, businesses in Kraaifontein Industria and Okavango Park in Brackenfell were left stunned when they recently received notices from the City of Cape Town to take down the signboards with their business names outside their premises or face a fine of up to R10 000.

According to the notices, the signboards were unauthorised and business owners had to apply for the necessary approval before erecting it again in terms of the specifications of the advertising and signage bylaw.

Application and approval fees are payable as determined by the municipality, the bylaw states.

Business owners, many of whom have traded in the area for more than ten years, say this bylaw has never been enforced, hence they are completely unfamiliar with it. “I opened my doors here in 2006, and in 14 years never had any complaints from the City about my signboard.

“It cost me R40 000 to have a professional sign designed and erected back then, and it has always been maintained to look clean and neat,” says Stoffel Olivier, owner of Tyre Sure in Kraaifontein Industria.

“I see no sense in this exercise, as my nameboard is attached to my wall and is in no way an obstruction to traffic flow or an intrusion in the area.

“It is just another way to make money, if you ask me,” he says.

Olivier and several other business owners have 21 days to take down their nameboards.

“We now have to apply to have it put back in the correct way ‘to remedy the bylaw contravention’ and pay additional fees.”

Eikestad Boeredienste received the same order and has to remove the name of their business that is neatly painted on the wall.

Owner Nicky Swart says nobody at the City consulted with him as to how the new sign should look like to comply to the bylaw.

“I am completely in the dark as to what to do next. I don’t know what is permitted and what is not,” he says.

“I understand that one cannot put up an outdoor advertising board anywhere next to the road, where it could affect traffic visibility, but how does the signage on my wall in an industrial area affect anyone?

Another business owner, Hannes Rheeder, says he has never received any notifications about signage in 30 years he has done business in Kraaifontein Industria.

“Has this City gone mad? Why do this now, when Covid has hit us hard financially and we are all battling to survive? he asks.

Ruy Garanito who owns a building in Okavango Park says his tenants received the same notice.

As is the case in Kraaifontein Industria, Garanito says these tenants have had their signboards up for many years, without any warnings.

A businessman in the area, who does not want to be named, says he suspects that the bylaw is being enforced here for the first time in very long, if ever, and that it “smacks of opportunism and a quick buck for the City”.

In response to this outcry, the City stated that owners have the right to reply and state their case to the City for consideration of the most appropriate way forward.

“In most cases, enforcement officers talk to the owners first and explain the concerns before serving notices.

“It could be that due to the current health risk posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, this important step was not followed,” says Marian Nieuwoudt, Mayco member for spatial planning and environment in the City.

She says the City of Cape Town continually monitors and enforces the outdoor advertising and signage bylaw in all areas across the city.

According to Nieuwoudt such cases only result in fines once all other reasonable avenues are exhausted and there is a prosecution in the municipal court.

She says City staff are required to place a contravention on record first, but then work with owners to achieve compliance with visual, traffic and other considerations to “protect and enhance Cape Town’s scenic beauty”.

“We invite these business owners in this case to please contact us and work with us to rectify their signage. Should we receive more specific information about the properties and owners, we will contact them directly,” Nieuwoudt says.

The object of the outdoor advertising and signage bylaw, as stated on Open Bylaw SA is, “to regulate outdoor advertising in a manner that is sensitive to the environmental quality ... and seeks to strike a balance between outdoor advertising opportunities and economic development on the one hand, and the conservation of visual, tourist, traffic safety, environmental and heritage characteristics on the other hand.”

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