Review of a Yangmingshan development plan is to be halted for upcoming changes in the law, Taipei Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Liou Ming-lone (劉銘龍) said yesterday, drawing criticism from one official who said the department was shirking its responsibility.
The plan, which covers 335.5 hectares in Yangmingshan, began in 1979 when the Taipei City Government changed the land categories of 25 reservations into residential development areas.
The “Taipei Shilin District reservation-turned-residence 6-by-6 area” (台北市士林區保變住六之六) portion of the plan covering 54.76 hectares near the former US Armed Forces Network Taiwan in Shilin District (士林) has been contentious among environmentalists ,who say it has been exploited by the area’s 200 landowners and has an outdated, 21-year-old environmental impact assessment.
In a committee meeting yesterday, Liou announced that the review will be suspended until the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) amendment of the Standards for Determining Specific Items and Scope of Environmental Impact Assessments for Development Activities (開發行為應實施環境影響評估細目及範圍認定標準) is complete.
The amendment was announced on May 2 and includes a 60-day period for public feedback.
“Residential development on the hills of Taipei will not require an environmental impact assessment,” Liou said, adding that any resolution by the committee would be subverted once the law is passed.
However, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association lawyer Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅) said: “Given that the property developers’ application is here, the department can overrule it directly. There is no need to wait until the law is revised.”
A ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court in 2014 nullified the developers’ report of pre and post-development differences, she said, adding that the department should ask for an end to exploitation and a return of the land.
After the meeting, the landlords’ representative Kuo Wen-sheng (郭文生) insisted that they were acting according to the law and had received fines for their excessive exploitation.
“If you [the city government] are going to protect the reservations, you should not open them for urban development,” he said. “As for why the changes occurred, you should ask [then-mayor] Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).”
EPA Deputy Minister Thomas Shun-Kuei Chan (詹順貴) opposed the committee’s resolution, saying it should review the developers’ proposal in detail to decide whether they need undertake a new environmental impact assessment, rather than ascribing responsibility to the EPA’s amendment.
The old environmental assessment report would still be effective even if the new law passes, he said.
Chan, a former lawyer for environmental justice, said environmentalists had picked the wrong target.
“The battlefield should be on the Taipei Urban Planning Commission’s procedures rather than the committee,” he said on Facebook on Thursday.
“The commission can decide whether the residence areas should be changed back into reservations,” he added in an interview yesterday.
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