Mon, Feb 27, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Meiliwan Resort developer to seek new trial on project

STRIKING A BALANCE:The case has become a focus of ongoing debate over the proper mixture of natural resources and economic development

Staff Writer, with CNA

Taipei-based Durban Development Corp, the developer of Meiliwan Resort Hotel on Shanyuan Beach in Taitung, said it would seek a retrial after a court in Kao-hsiung ruled that the local government should order work at the controversial project stopped.

The developer said it plans to apply for national compensation of at least NT$1 billion (US$33.8 million), resort executive office deputy manager Chu Ying-chou (朱膺州) said on Saturday.

After eight years of construction on one of the most beautiful beaches in the southeast, the resort was scheduled for a trial opening in April.

However, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled late last month in a case filed by environmental activists that there had been irregularities in the local government’s review of the environmental impact of the holiday resort village.

The court found the review to be flawed, because five of the 15 members of the environmental impact assessment committee organized by the county government were government officials, including then-Taitung county commissioner Kuang Li-chen (鄺麗貞).

Those individuals should not have been involved in the assessment of the project, to ensure an impartial outcome, the court said.

On Thursday, the Kaohsiung High Administrative Court ruled that the government should order the firm to halt any development in light of last month’s ruling.

However, environmentalists said workers were still entering the construction site earlier this week and the sound of heavy machines could be heard on site, leading them to conclude that the developer is ignoring the court’s ruling.

In response, Chu said the company had stopped all construction after the county government ordered it to do so on Feb. 4, pending the ruling of the Kaohsiung court in a new trial.

The case has triggered heated debate over how the preservation of natural resources should be balanced with local economic development.

In 2004, the county government contracted Taipei-based Durban Development Corp to develop Shanyuan Beach in Dulan Bay (都蘭灣) under the build, operate and transfer model.

The project was originally limited to less than 0.9 hectares of land, a scale that requires no environmental impact assessment. However, in 2005 the developer applied for an expansion of the project to 6 hectares. It was then that environmental protection groups demanded that an environmental impact assessment be conducted. Three years later, the local government conditionally approved the assessment.

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