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City officials, Neihu residents welcome Tzu Chi's project pullback

2015/03/16 21:53:58

Taipei, March 16 (CNA) A Taipei City official on Monday welcomed the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation (佛教慈濟基金會) taking the initiative to withdraw a development project that had sparked controversy for a decade.

Deputy Taipei Mayor Lin Chin-jung (林欽榮), who also chairs the city's urban development commission, expressed the city's appreciation after the foundation said earlier in the day it was shelving the project because society has yet to reach a consensus on the issue.

Lin thanked the foundation for ending the controversy surrounding the project and said he respected its decision.

Once Tzu Chi formally notifies the city that it has removed the project from consideration, Lin said, the city will turn the issue over to the urban development commission for a review.

The commission passed a resolution in April 2014 stipulating that the Tzu Chi project should be assessed as part of Neihu's (內湖) overall development and would not be dealt with on its own.

With the foundation no longer pursuing its park, the commission will reconsider the northern Taipei suburb's development.

Lin expressed the hope that the land planned for the project will now revert back to its original purpose of promoting ecologically sustainable development.

At the core of the controversy has been Tzu Chi's efforts to develop a protected plot of land in Neihu District in Taipei since 2005.

Taiwan's biggest charity organization wanted to rezone the land on the northern side of scenic Dahu Park into a cultural and educational park that would cover 44,829 square meters and include a 10-story building.

Critics of the project have contended that the plot of land is located in an environmentally sensitive area and developing it would lead to a major disaster in the event of landslides or earthquakes.

Chang Yu-chih (張禹治), head of a former committee that advocated holding a referendum on the project, said that after having a "dog bark at a train" for over a decade, there had finally been a breakthrough.

Residents of Dahu ward held a referendum on the project on Dec. 5, 1998, with 5,303 residents casting votes, a turnout rate of about 70 percent. Some 4,562 votes, or 86 percent of the total, were against the project.

Chang said the referendum might not have immediately borne fruit, but he was gratified that after several years of local residents' efforts, Tzu Chi had finally shelved the project.

(By Ku Chuan and Lilian Wu)