TTL wins historic building case

By Huang Hsin-po and Yang Kuo-wen  /  Staff reporters

Sat, Jul 08, 2017 - Page 3

The Kaohsiung City Government lost a legal battle for the preservation of historic buildings along the city’s harbor front, as the Supreme Administrative Court yesterday ruled in favor of Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp (TTL) over commercial development at the city’s Pier-2 Art Center.

The judges said the city government failed to follow legal procedures when placing a number of old warehouses at the art center under protection as provisional historic sites.

The row began in October 2014 when the company applied to register its buildings and properties along the harbor front as “cultural landscape.”

The city subsequently established a committee to evaluate cultural heritage sites and historic buildings, as some officials and cultural preservation advocates were concerned about TTL dismantling three of the warehouses at the art center.

The committee designated the warehouses as “provisional historic sites” — historic buildings or cultural heritage sites listed for preservation.

Believing the designation would prohibit the company from making renovations and upgrades, thus preventing their commercial use and reducing financial benefits, TTL filed for litigation against the city.

It was the first time that TTL had filed a lawsuit against a local government over a commercial land development project.

The Kaohsiung High Administrative Court dismissed the case, saying that the time frame for administrative sanction for “proposed monuments” is one year, which had expired during court hearings.

TTL later appealed the decision to the Supreme Administrative Court.

In yesterday’s ruling, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the city circumvented the law, as the evaluation committee must be composed of experts and researchers in related fields, according to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Conditions and Procedures Act (暫定古蹟條件及程序辦法).

The city had no legal basis to “morph” an earlier committee into the committee dealing with “provisional historic sites,” the judges said.

The city also failed to invite experts and researchers, and did not notify TTL so it could send representatives to the committee, they said.

Legal practitioners said that the ruling allows TTL to file for compensation from the city, if the company can prove that its rights have been violated.

Kaohsiung Bureau of Cultural Affairs officials said the ruling would not affect preservation efforts at Pier-2 Art Center.