Treasure Hill plan vexes councilors

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 - Page 4

Plans by Taipei to build a youth clubhouse at Treasure Hill (寶藏巖) that will offer short-term accommodation were challenged yesterday, with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors questioning the legitimacy of the accommodation plan and the building’s fire safety.

The “Treasure Hill International Youth Clubhouse” is a project initiated by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs to promote the history and culture of the artist village by providing accommodation to people with arts and cultural backgrounds.

The three-story clubhouse, built with a budget of about NT$20 million (US$670,000), is scheduled to open later this year. It features seven rooms with a total capacity of 20 residents.

During an inspection visit, DPP Taipei City Councilor Mark Ho (何志偉) accused the department of avoiding fire safety and other construction regulations by defining the accommodations as a clubhouse, and warned that the clubhouse could become an unlicensed hotel if the department failed to follow regulations.

“If the clubhouse offers accommodation, it is by definition a hotel, and the department should obtain an operating license and follow fire-safety regulations. Trying to disguise the hotel as a clubhouse and avoiding related regulations will put visitors’ safety in danger and damage the reputation of Treasure Hill,” he said.

Lee Ping-chen (李秉真), a supervisor at the department, said Treasure Hill is a historical site in Taipei and protected by the Cultural Heritage Conservation Act (文化資產保存法).

The department has full authority over the hill, and has established regulations on the clubhouse in accordance with the Statute for the Development of Tourism (發展觀光條例) of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which states that an authorized body of venues that are designed to accommodate a specific group of people for non-profit purposes could set up its own regulations, she said.

“The clubhouse is open to people who are interested in arts and culture, or who visit Treasure Hill for cultural exchange activities. We expect the clubhouse to serve as a platform for cultural and historical experiences, and it’s not just a hotel or hostel,” Lee said.

Lee defended the legitimacy of the clubhouse and promised that the department would not open the clubhouse to the public until all the fire-safety facilities are completed and fire passages are cleared.

However, Department of Tourism and Information Division head Chen Yu-yen (陳玉艷) said plans for the project should be sent to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs for final approval.

Lee said the department will consult with other departments over related regulations and would invite the Fire Department to examine the fire-safety facilities before launching the service.

Treasure Hill, a former veterans’ community in Taipei’s Gongguan District (公館), was designated a historical site in 2004.

The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs started a renovation project in 2007 and turned the area into an artists’ community, with 20 households of original residents still living in the community.