Review of contentious project adjourned

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 - Page 4

The Taipei City Government’s Urban Planning Review Committee yesterday failed to complete the review of a long-stalled development project in Neihu District (內湖) proposed by the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation due to continuous disputes over its environmental impact.

The project, initiated by the foundation in 1997, is to build a social welfare park within an environmental conservation area near Dahu Park in the district. Its plan to change the land’s status led to ongoing opposition from environmentalists and local residents over concern that the fragile geological features of the site may not be appropriate for a large-scale development.

Supporters and opponents of the project yesterday continued to disagree, as supporters defended the foundation’s efforts to expand the scope of its social welfare services, while opponents said the foundation’s plan would damage the local environment.

“Tzu Chi has established an international reputation for its humanitarian work and its new service center would bring a positive influence to the neighborhood. Besides, the district is highly developed with hillside houses and high-tech industries. It’s not fair to ban the foundation from building a center there,” a Neihu resident surnamed Chu (朱) said yesterday at the review meeting at Taipei City Hall.

Lu Shih-wei (陸詩薇), an attorney with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Foundation, said the foundation was incorrectly citing article 27 of the Urban Planning Act (都市計劃法), which requires urban planning projects to promote national security or economic development, to argue that the “social welfare park” would promote economic development in the area.

“The review committee should clarify the legitimacy of the project before starting the review process,” Lu said.

Review committee member Lee Yung-chan (李永展), a researcher at Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, suggested that the foundation should take the longstanding opposition to the project seriously to avoid continuous confrontations over related issues and present an alternative plan if it still seeks to facilitate the construction of a social welfare center.

He also called on the two sides to improve communication over the project and to work to reach a consensus.

Committee chairman Hsin Wan-chiao (辛晚教), a professor at Taipei University, asked the Taipei City Government’s Urban Development Office to provide more information on the legal procedures regarding the project as a reference and asked the foundation to include flood prevention plans and other disaster relief measures to address the concerns of local residents.

The review committee plans to hold another meeting to review the project after the required information has been provided, Hsin said.