Wangs lose Wenlin Yuan appeal

‘NOT IN VAIN’::The court ruled that the Wangs’ houses were not illegally included in the project. Further construction awaits a ruling on the family’s container home

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - Page 1

The long-stalled Wenlin Yuan (文林苑) urban renewal project in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林) was partially resumed on Monday, after the Supreme Administrative Court rejected an appeal by the Wang (王) family claiming that their two houses were illegally included in the project.

The July 5 ruling affirmed the legality of the developer’s inclusion of the disputed houses and dismissed the Wangs’ argument that their homes — which were demolished by the Taipei City Government to push the project forward — sat on a building line and can be rebuilt separately from the apartment complex. The ruling said that a building line is not the only factor in determining whether units should be included in a project.

The court also ruled that the Taipei City Government’s review of the project was based on correct information and that it has adhered to the law in its handling of the development.

Taipei Deputy Mayor Chang Chin-oh (張金鶚) yesterday applauded the ruling for affirming the legality of the urban renewal project and the city government’s handling of the project, and expected the ruling to facilitate the stalled construction.

“The ruling carries significance for us because it proves that negotiations over the project were not in vain. The project will proceed after we present an evaluation report,” he said at Taipei City Hall.

Taipei’s Construction Management Office on Monday approved the construction of diaphragm walls for the planned apartment complex, but still excluded the area where the Wangs’ houses used to be.

The houses’ forced demolition in March last year sparked waves of protest from the Wang family and their supporters.

The family has built a container house on the site to hinder construction and has filed a lawsuit against the project developer for damaging it. Taipei City Urban Redevelopment Office Director Lin Chung-chieh (林崇傑) said any further construction of the apartment complex will only be approved after the court makes a ruling on the disputes over the container house.

The city government approved the Wenlin Yuan project in 1999 and the construction firm planned to complete the high-rise apartment complex in 2015.

The Wang family is the only household out of the 36 affected households that refused to take part in the project.

Disputes between the Wang family, the 36 households and the construction firm over the project have generated debate on the city’s urban renewal developments and the rights of residents who do not want to be part of them.

After failed efforts to help the opposing sides find common ground, the city government launched a negotiation platform in April with the aim of restarting the project. The attempt failed again, with the Wang family insisting on rebuilding their houses on the original location and refusing to make concessions.

The city’s negotiation team suggested in an evaluation report released last month that the construction firm offer several apartment units on the first floor to the Wangs as an alternative solution, since rebuilding the demolished houses on their original sites is against urban renewal regulations and too time-consuming.

Chang said the developer’s offer still stands and called on the family to negotiate with the construction firm and seek a consensus.

The 36 households that took part in the project yesterday thanked the city government for approving partial construction and said they hoped the longstanding dispute would finally be resolved.

“We’ve been waiting too long to go home. Some of the elderly residents have passed away while waiting for their new homes and we hope the city government will speed up the construction,” the households said in a joint statement.

The Wangs’ lawyer, Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴), said the family respected the court ruling, but accused the city government of seeking to mislead the court.

There are several legal cases pending between the Wangs and the construction firm, and the family will continue to strive for its rights, he said.