Taipei mayor under fire over Taipei Dome permit approval

06/24/2020 03:54 PM
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CNA photo June 23, 2020.
CNA photo June 23, 2020.

Taipei, June 24 (CNA) Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) came under fire from city councilors across party lines Tuesday after his administration approved changes to the Taipei Dome's construction permit, meaning building may soon resume after a five-year-hiatus.

Ko ordered the project's main contractor, the Farglory Group, to suspend the dome's construction in 2015 due to safety concerns, but councilors from both the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and opposition Kuomintang accused him of doing an about face five years later.

Defending himself at a city council hearing, Ko said the city's decision on the construction permit for Farglory related to the Taipei Dome project only meant that construction on the suspended project would be allowed to resume.

"Allowing the dome's full construction does not necessarily mean the city government will ultimately approve the dome to operate once it is completed," Ko said, stressing that the dome still has to meet all safety requirements before it opens to the public.

Construction on the 40,000-seat Taipei Dome project began in 2012, but it became the focus of controversy after Ko made it a campaign issue when he ran for mayor in 2014, saying it was plagued by corruption and mismanagement by his predecessors.

Less than five months after taking office, on May 20, 2015, Ko and his administration ordered a halt to all work on the dome after charging Farglory with violating safety standards and making unauthorized changes.

On Monday, however, the Taipei City Construction Management Office approved changes made to the construction permit and said a new permit would be issued by as soon as the end of the month after the Farglory Group provided additional required documents.

That would pave the way for the stadium to resume full construction, as only safety-related construction work on the project has been allowed since 2015.

At Tuesday's city council hearing, councilors questioned why a new permit would be issued, given that Farglory has made little progress in making changes to meet the safety requirements demanded by the city government over the past years.

They argued that the dome's building plan still failed to meet requirements as stipulated in Articles 97 and 127 of the Building Technical Regulations.

According to the regulations, an indoor stadium such as the dome has to have all of its emergency exit stairs lead directly to the ground floor.

The regulations also require the lowest seat level for a concert to be no lower than seven meters below the outdoor ground level, but the main floor in the Taipei Dome is set 10.5 meters below ground level.

The Taipei Dome project has so far failed to meet those requirements, the city councilors argued.

Taipei Dome and its surrounding area. The project includes the two buildings to its right, and the building with the yellow rooftop is the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. / CNA file photo
Taipei Dome and its surrounding area. The project includes the two buildings to its right, and the building with the yellow rooftop is the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. / CNA file photo

In response, Ko agreed that the existing construction plan failed to meet the requirements as stipulated in the regulations but said it was something Farglory needed to resolve after resuming the dome's construction.

The mayor said his administration was simply "cleaning up the mess" left by his predecessors.

"It (Taipei Dome) is already there, and it would be impossible to tear it down at this moment," Ko said. The only option left to his government was to make sure the dome was safe to use before granting it an operating license.

Meanwhile, Farglory Group spokesperson Jacky Yang (楊舜欽) said Farglory will soon apply to continue construction of the project once it receives official notice from the city government clearing it to do so.

Farglory had already completed 80 percent of the work needed to complete the multi-purpose stadium when it was ordered to suspend the dome's construction in May 2015.

The company said earlier this year it would still need another year-and-a-half before the project could be completed.

This means that if Farglory obtains the permit by the end of June, the stadium could be completed by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

The Farglory Group won a build, operate, transfer (BOT) contract for the dome project in 2006 during the tenure of former Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). The construction of the dome began during the tenure of Ko's direct predecessor Hau Lung-pin (郝龍斌).

(By Huang Li-yun, Yang Pei-chi and Joseph Yeh)

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