Looking beyond the farmhouse row - Taipei Times
Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Looking beyond the farmhouse row

By Lin Yu-tzu 林育賜

The Yilan County Government on Jan. 23 published the county’s “Guidelines on Applications to Build Farmhouses on Agricultural Land” (宜蘭縣農業用地申請興建農舍審查作業要點). The guidelines provide farmers more flexible ways to build farmhouses than those permitted by the central government’s “Regulations for Constructing Farmhouses on Agricultural Land” (農業用地興建農舍辦法).

According to the regulations, farmers should build their farmhouses adjacent to the road and the borderlines between farmlands, and their area should not exceed 10 percent of the farmland where they are situated. Its purpose is to preserve at least 90 percent of the agricultural land for farming.

However, Article 5, Paragraph 2 of the county guidelines states that farmers “may” build farmhouses adjacent to the roads and borderlines.

Arguably, this paragraph seems to allow farmers to reduce the percentage of the land area for farming to 60 percent.

Yilan County Commissioner Derek Chen (陳金德) said that he would be to blame if the guidelines cause any bad results.

After the guidelines were published, Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said that they were not acceptable, because they violate the central government policy on use of agricultural land.

He interpreted the guidelines as an attempt to expand the land area for farmhouses.

Why is the council so concerned about the area occupied by farmhouses? The point is most of these farmhouses are not used for farming, but for living. People buy these houses to live on farmland and enjoy the spacious living environment in the countryside. Would it not be a good picture?

Actually, these ill-allocated houses are eyesores. If you drive on the highway from Taipei to the Yilan Plain, you will no longer see verdant farmland, but blocks of concrete buildings buried in the farmland.

Is the conflict between the central and local governments caused by a misinterpretation of the rules? Possibly, because the county commissioner has said that the guidelines do nothing more than follow the regulations and are stricter than the regulations in terms of farmland use.

Or is the Yilan County Government challenging the regulations for favoring mansion owners?

Article 5, Paragraph 2, Subparagraph 3 of the regulations states that minus the farmhouse area, the percentage of land left for farming should be at least 90.

However, the regulations also stipulate that farmers cannot use more than 40 percent of their farmland for setting up facilities and farmhouses.

The regulations seem to provide the county government a justifiable legal standing to increase the percentage of land area for non-farming to 40.

In this regard, the county government follows the central government’s regulations.

Even so, the county government might be challenging the central government’s policy by taking advantage of the loopholes in the regulations.

Shortly before the guidelines were published, Chen said that asking farmers to build farmhouses adjacent to roads and borderlines violates the Constitution, because it limits how people deal with their property.

He said that he would take this requirement only as “administrative guidance.”

Why then are both sides so concerned about the allocation of farmhouses? Farmers used to build their farmhouses alongside roads to keep the most of their farmland for agriculture and only use a small area for setting up facilities.

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