Development and land appropriation cases involving “special agricultural districts” will have to pass administrative hearings before receiving final approval, Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) said yesterday, adding that a hearing might be convened about the Tainan City Government’s plan to appropriate land to move a railway line underground.
“To the best of my knowledge, the Ministry of the Interior [MOI] has never held a hearing under the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法),” Yeh said, adding that formal hearings are an “important foundation for policy decisionmaking” and promising new guidelines to outline the procedures by November.
Hearings are to be mandatory for certain types of cases, with a focus on urban planning and land appropriation, along with automatic hearings for any cases involving “special agricultural districts.”
The Chang Pharmacy torn down during 2013’s Dapu Incident (大埔) was located on land within a “special agricultural district.”
The Miaoli County Government’s demolition of the building and several family homes to make way for an expansion of the Hsinchu Science Park sparked an uproar.
Yeh has called for the Chang Pharmacy to be rebuilt on the original site.
While any rebuilding would require Miaoli County to revise its urban planning blueprint, local officials have expressed a willingness to move in that direction in private meetings, Yeh said.
The ministry would retain flexibility in defining which controversial cases require hearings, he said, adding that hearings should not be viewed as a “cure-all.”
He added that while no new hearing would be held on the urban planning portion of Tainan’s plan to move a railway line underground, there is the possibility of a hearing on the appropriation of land.
The Tainan City Government’s decision to hold only “explanatory meetings” on the plans has drawn fire from local activists on the grounds that it has not taken their objections into consideration, while evading its obligation to answer questions and provide documentary evidence.
“When I took office the case was already at the urban planning review committee stage,” Yeh said. “Brashly demanding a formal administrative hearing would have created a lot of doubt and suspicions.”
The ministry would instead allow the activists to present their case at two review committee meetings.
“If necessary, administrative hearings can then be held,” Yeh said, adding that the land appropriation still needs to be approved by the ministry’s review committee.
He added there were often “gaps” in the review material submitted to the ministry by local governments.
Deputy Minister of the Interior Lin Tsyr-ling (林慈玲) said the ministry is also considering amendments to the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例) to require formal administrative hearings at a local level.
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