Several residents in New Taipei City’s (新北市) New Banciao Special District project area yesterday protested in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) against an the expansion of a hotel project near their apartments that they say will block sunlight and create safety hazards due to narrow fire lanes.
Before the fourth Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) specialist meeting to review the project took place yesterday afternoon, several residents from the local community gathered to implore the EIA committee members to halt the expansion of the project.
Peng Yang-kae (彭揚凱), secretary-general of Organization of Urban Re-s, an NGO focusing on urban policy and community based reform, said the build–operate–transfer project by a development companies and the New Taipei City government would see the construction of two hotels and a banquet hall in a 9,240m2 area near the Banciao Station.
However, while the original plan was set at a 450 percent floor area ratio, the city government has since offered the development companies more floor area after they proposed to construct certain facilities, such as a skywalk and more parking spaces, he said, adding that the floor area ratio now amounts to nearly 780 percent.
“The original plan was to have about 300 hotel rooms, but now it increased to about 1,100 rooms, and the number of hotels has also increased from one to three in the same size area,” a resident surnamed Kuo (郭) said.
“We are worried that providing such crowded accommodation to so many people in such a small area will only cause the environment to deteriorate,” Kuo added.
A local resident surnamed Wang (王) in her early 60s said: “We have three generations living under the same roof, and I am worried that the construction of the hotel project could prevent fire engines from reaching our apartment if a fire breaks out.”
She also said that the planned hotel buildings would be 32 stories tall and would block all the sunlight and wind.
Most of the residents are not against the hotel project in itself, but what they see as its overexpansion, and are also concerned about potential fire safety problems, as well as environmental damage, Peng said.
Since the project is on public property, the government should also consider the public’s interest rather than only trying to maximize the benefits to companies, Peng added.
The project gained conditional approval at the EIA meeting. Conditions included leaving a 6m- wide space between the new buildings and the existing apartments, which must be kept clear, and a pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent.