How to decide whether or not to rezone your property

Rezoning a property could be worthwhile, but bear in mind it is a lengthy process, says Paul Stevens, chief executive of Just Property.

With many areas in traditional single erf suburbs earmarked for higher density, for example various nodes in Rondebosch in Cape Town, more and more home-owners are considering rezoning their properties for higher density. Others, close to business nodes, are looking at acquiring a business zoning for their premises.

“If a property is in the structure plan to be rezoned for business purposes, generally this does add value. Similarly, getting a large property cleared for subdivision can also make it more attractive to buyers and developers. Generally, we find sellers in this position can stand their ground on pricing provided the price is market related.

“Rezoning can take six to 10 months, and sometimes even more,” says Stevens. “It carries a cost and should be handled by experienced professionals. Our agents can certainly advise sellers and liaise with town planning consultants and the council, but it’s usually better for owners to commission an attorney, architect or town planner to attend to the process.

“You can proceed with the rezoning yourself, but it is a tedious process.”

Stevens says the first step would be to phone your local municipality’s town planning department to establish whether your property is in a node earmarked for higher density development or falls under, for example, business zoning structures. If it doesn’t, you will need to apply for a zoning departure.

The owners or their consultants submit a motivation outlining the reasons for rezoning the property. It is good practice to address how the rezoning will be good for the city – for instance, discuss the need for the intended new use and the impact it will have on others.

“You will need to allow for public participation and must advertise your intentions in local newspapers and the provincial gazette, allowing a reasonable time for any objections to be lodged,” says Stevens.

If the municipality’s town-planning department is satisfied with the proposal, the application will be sent to the city council for a decision.

The cost implications depend on a variety of factors, says Stevens. These include advertising, plans documents, professional fees, the application fee and transport development levy payable to the municipality.

“Be aware that there is always a risk that your neighbours and the broader community will object to your proposed rezoning or subdivision plans, and that council will turn down your application. For this reason, it could really cost you if you begin converting a residential building into one that can house a business, or if you demolish a large house on a property you want to divide into smaller erfs, before you have approval.

Stevens concludes: “The process is complicated and for this reason buyers prefer property that is already rezoned – and they are prepared to pay more for that. If you are prepared to go through the rezoning process yourself, and if your are successful, you stand to make a significant profit on your original purchase price.”