St Francis Property Owners update

We have included some comments from readers at the end of the press release

We have had a busy month gathering the Consent forms to determine if the majority of St Francis Bay property owners support or oppose the SRA levy proposal. We have received, as at 22 February, 959 consent forms to-date with 78.4% supporting the SRA levy. We are reaching property owners across the country and elsewhere in the world. We have met with many of the Private Estates’ governing bodies to request their support for the SRA levy and establish any levy overlaps with their own internal levies. We are now gathering consent forms from the property owners in these private estates.

We have done a lot of work to calculate valuations and levy revenue projections for each suburb and private estates in St Francis, as this information has not been available from the Municipality. We need accurate levy revenue projections to finalise our detailed Business Plan which we will submit with our SRA application to the Municipality once we have the required majority of consenting property owners. We also need this information to explore the possible sourcing of loans to enable us to restore the infrastructure in a shorter period of time rather than a 10 year period and get the benefit earlier, but then use the levy to pay off the loan over a 10 year period.

There is a perception that the SRA levy proposal has been created by a few individuals. There is in fact a large group of people who have contributed to the formulation of the SRA proposal. We have nine SFPO Association committee members, three of these members each represent the St Francis Bay Riparian Home Owners Association, the Kromme Joint River Committee and the Kromme Enviro-Trust Committee; five SFPO NPC Directors; three Technical Committee members; a group of five people who drove the St Francis Vision 2030 process, and some fifty people who participated in this project. We have another twenty or more people dedicating their time to collecting consent forms.

We also have a group of eighty people who have donated R4.5million to the Saving St Francis Campaign allowing us to hire a project manager, repair Anne Avenue car park and upgrade the beach access facilities, complete the design of the George Road car park and access to the beach, hire Consulting Engineers to survey our roads, map the storm water drainage system, identify drainage hotspots for the Kouga Municipality to resolve i.e. Grand Comores/Aldabara intersection, Lyme Road North/Linkside Road intersection, Church dip, and Lake Geneva (Department of Public Works), source the water borne sewerage plans and solicit estimates for implementing these plans, requesting quotations for Phase 2A of the River, Beach and Spit long term solution, and submit a comprehensive Maintenance and Management Plan to DEDEAT for the ongoing maintenance of the dune on the Spit. The SFPO NPC also has a MOA in place with Municipality for overseeing all revetment repair work on the revetments protecting beach front properties on behalf of the Municipality. Some of this repair work has been completed (e.g. Anne Ave and George Road revetments) and some still to be done (e.g.  Aldabara and Ralph Road revetments).

The SRA proposal is all about giving St Francis a future that meets the expectations of the majority of property owners, residents and business owners.

There are a number of our retired community who are fearful of the additional financial burden that the SRA levy would mean to them. We fully understand their concerns. We have formulated a set of exemption criteria that we would apply to those who genuinely could not afford the levy. We are engaging with independent financial planners, who assist their clients with managing their investments and financial affairs, to see how they can help with the exemption application process and make recommendations based on the exemption criteria. All financial information shared is between the homeowner and financial planner and remains confidential.  However, there would need to be a way of ensuring that the exemption process is not abused, perhaps using independent audits and testing. We can leave this to be managed by the Municipality or we instead manage it through the SFPO NPC which will manage the SRA levy revenue, expenditure and restoration projects.

There are concerns that this levy is solely for the benefit of the Canals and Spit. The Spit is actually a minor part of the total cost. The big ticket items are the Roads/Streets (R97million), the de-silting of the River (R119million), and the Sewerage (R106million). The sand from the river will be used to re-build the beach and the dune on the Spit. Groynes will be used to hold the sand on the beach (R15million). Finally the Security Cameras (R25million) is the running cost of a 24 hour monitoring centre with cameras installed around the town (R2.5million per annum extended over 10 years). The roads and streets will be our most visible improvement in St Francis and so have to be our priority. We cannot start work on de-silting the river until the final solution is designed and the EIA is submitted to DEDEAT for approval, which we understand will be a 12-18 month process.

Opinions are for free, facts take a little longer to establish. Please don’t make the mistake of judging this proposal until you understand the facts. You are dealing with the future of one of your more important assets you own, your property in St Francis. Come talk to us at the SFPO if you wish to understand the facts, so that you can make an informed decision about the SRA proposal and levy.

Comments from readers:

“Thank you once again for all your effort, time and enthusiasm!  May this project be BLESSED and may the people from St Francis support and carry this committee forward and strengthen their hands! I think your latest newsletter explains everything very clearly.  I would like to suggest that it should be stated very clearly in your campaign that the levies are NOT to protect the beach front properties. Not everyone realizes that the home owners are busy with revetments (hopefully pretty soon!)  costing R400 000 – R500 000 per owner.  We have a beach front property and still encounter people (even friends) who comment on that!”

“Thanks again for all the hard work you are all putting into this save St Francis project. I know your patience is being tested every day, but please don’t give up on this so important vision. Keep up the good work!”

“I am sure that you continue to pick up flak from time to time despite your good intentions so just wanted to counter that with some encouragement :). Thank you to each of you for all that you are doing! In due course I think we (or our descendants) will all look back on this time as a pivotal point in the history of St Francis. Probably one just as important, if not more so than Leyton Huletts original establishment of the place. There is so much for everyone to loose if we all let the place decay. You are all doing a fantastic job. I commend you. Thank you.”

“Excellent newsletter. Thank you to all for the tireless efforts and the great work to date.”

“The FACT IS that you are still not FAIRLY REACHING ALL property owners and are thus if effect trying to railroad the SRA proposal through. The MAJORITY of ratepayers are not in St Francis Bay and may are not necessarily connected to your means of information distribution. ALL property owners should be given a fair chance to vote by being COMPLETELY informed with ALL the relevant information ATTACHED to their monthly property rates and utilities account otherwise this whole process will be completely UNFAIR!”