Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday remained ambiguous when asked whether his decision to honor Taipei Dome contractor Farglory Group’s request to relocate 33 trees to make room for the controversial project — the safety reviews of which are still in limbo — was a sign that he wanted to resume construction of the Dome.
Ko avoided giving a clear answer, saying only that the two issues were unrelated.
The Taipei Mayor’s Office, which suspended construction at the site in May 2015, this month approved a request by Farglory to relocate 33 trees on Guangfu S Road and Zhongxiao E Road to make room for “road adjustments” so it could lay the underground pipelines and cables necessary for the Dome’s operations.
The move has sparked speculation that Ko might want the project to be completed next year to boost his chances of re-election.
Asked why the office approved Farglory’s request even though reviews of the Dome’s fire safety and evacuation routes by the Ministry of the Interior seemed to have reached a stalemate, Ko said: “Relocating the trees is one thing. The city government has a standard operating procedure for that.”
He was only “following the rules,” Ko said, adding that he also wondered how Farglory was planning to pass the reviews with its proposed maximum capacity for the Dome of 60,000 people.
Ko denied having issued a letter to Farglory “demanding” that the trees be relocated, saying that he simply “approved” the plans.
Meanwhile, members of the Songshan Tobacco Factory Tree Protection Union have been guarding the trees for days, keeping a close eye as the city government’s digging equipment is parked nearby.
Union convener Arthur Yo (游藝) criticized Ko’s approval of the relocation, saying the mayor had shut union members out of the decisionmaking process and declined their requests for a meeting.
“Ko is either lying or has been manipulated by his close aides when he said the tree relocation and the resumption of construction are two separate issues,” Yo said.
He rebuffed Farglory’s claim that if Ko would continue to flip-flop on the tree relocation, the municipal government would have to shoulder all costs arising from the ensuing delay in construction and its infringement of Farglory’s rights to operate the Dome, producing a letter addressed to Farglory by the Taipei Department of Sport in September 2015 as evidence.
“While the contract states that the city government should complete the road adjustments before the Dome becomes operational, it does not set a date by which they must be completed,” the letter said.
“Whereas the company deviated from the construction blueprint, violating Article 58 of the Building Act (建築法), the construction has been suspended by the Taipei Department of Urban Development,” the letter said. “Therefore, it should be clearly stated that the city government has not breached the contract and cannot be held accountable for any delays in [Farglory’s] obtainment of the operating license.”
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