The Control Yuan on Wednesday censured the Taipei City Government for granting permission for the construction of a 23-story building near the president’s residence. The permission was given in 2006 during President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) term as Taipei mayor.
The Control Yuan launched an investigation amid concern that the height of the apartment complex might pose security problems, as it provides a clear view of the presidential residence.
The investigation by Control Yuan members Ma Yi-kung (馬以工), Chen Yung-hsiang (陳永祥) and Lin Chu-liang (林鉅鋃) said the case was a “special project approved by chiefs of the Taipei City Government,” overriding a conclusion reached earlier by the urban design review commission of the city government’s Department of Urban Development.
The Control Yuan said the Department of Urban Development, and the city government’s Public Works Department were guilty of negligence for failing to turn down the application, as they had been entitled to do, but instead referring the case to higher executives of the city government.
“The Taipei City Government should investigate the case and punish the officials who are guilty of negligence in this case. It should then inform the Control Yuan,” Control Yuan member Ma Yi-kung (馬以工) said.
The Control Yuan also found that Frank Fan (范良銹), then-deputy secretary-general of the city government, had called a meeting to renegotiate the case on May 30, 2006, at the request of then-deputy mayor Chen Yu-chang (陳裕璋).
Chen on June 29 approved the project on behalf of then-mayor Ma Ying-jeou, the Control Yuan said.
Chen is currently the chairman of First Financial Holding Co, while Fan chairs the Public Construction Commission.
The building, named the I Pin Building (一品苑), is expected to be completed later this year. It is located at the intersection of Aiguo W Road and Boai Road, near the Boai Special District, where both the Presidential Office and the president’s residence are situated. It will have 23 floors above ground and five basement floors.
The building will be able to accommodate 57 households with each occupying an area of between 130 ping and 150 ping (430m² and 496m²), priced at between NT$1.2 million (US$37,660) and NT$1.4 million per ping.
The city government allowed the developer, Yuanta Group, to increase the total floor area by 558.1 ping after the group agreed to increase the number of parking spaces in the building.
“According to regulations, the site, with an area of 3,040m², could only be allowed to house a building of less than 10 floors. Furthermore, the National Security Agency had expressed concern to the city government that the height would present problems in protecting the safety of the president,” the Control Yuan said.
Yuanta Group could earn an additional NT$50 million from the increased floor area, the Control Yuan said.
Fan later yesterday defended the decision to grant permission for the building’s construction, saying it was made in accordance with regulations and that there were several precedents.
“From 2005 to 2008 there were seven cases in which contractors were allowed to increase the planned size of buildings within the special district in return for providing more parking spaces. The government should use the same criteria to review all applications,” Fan said.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the Taipei City Government would respect the Control Yuan’s criticism, but said the approval had been granted by the former municipal administration.
“The documents clearly show that the decision was not made by the current municipal administration,” he said when questioned by reporters at Taipei City Hall yesterday.
Hau said the city government would discuss the issue with the Ministry of the Interior to seek to recover the profit that Yuanta Group had made as a result of the deal, and would suspend the usage permit of the apartment complex until the issue has been resolved.
When asked about the interests of those who had purchased units in the complex, Hau said the city government would send an ombudsman to help protect the rights of future residents.
Hau dismissed allegations that he had a problematic relationship with Ma and said the documents related to the building’s approval showed that Ma had not been involved in the decision-making process.
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