Taitung County ordered to repurchase controversial hotel development
Taitung, Oct. 24 (CNA) An arbitration tribunal on Friday ordered the Taitung County government to repurchase the Miramar Resort Hotel from its developer for NT$629 million (US$21.96 million), bringing an apparent end to a dispute that has dragged on for more than 16 years.
The issue dates back to 2004, when Miramar Resort Hotel Co. signed a 50-year land use rights contract with the county government to build a beach resort on Shanyuan Bay north of Taitung City.
Although the building itself was completed in 2007, the project faced repeated legal challenges from local environmental groups, culminating in a March 2016 decision by the Kaohsiung High Administrative Court to invalidate the results of its environmental impact assessment.
In response to the delays, Miramar filed a request for arbitration in August 2018 to dissolve the contract, and it sought NT$1.2 billion in compensation from the county.
In a ruling Friday, the arbitration tribunal dismissed Miramar's compensation claims on the grounds that it bore responsibility for its profits and losses, but ordered the county government to repurchase the property from the company at its current appraised value of NT$629 million.
At a press conference on Saturday, Taitung County Magistrate Yao Ching-ling (饒慶鈴) said the county accepted the decision, and announced three proposals to protect public rights over the land now that it will be back in the hands of the county.
First, she said, the county will immediately cease the use of the name "Miramar" and will restore the place's rightful name of "Shanyuan Bay."
It will also begin drawing up plans to divide the six-hectare property, transferring part of it to local indigenous groups and maintaining another part of it for use as a public beach, she said.
As for the building, Yao said her administration would hold talks with local residents, scholars, environmental experts and other stakeholders to determine how it could best be used.
The Hualien-Taitung office of the NGO Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, which had long opposed the development, put out a statement Saturday calling for the arbitration proceedings to be made public and for the hotel building to be torn down.
Another prominent opponent of the project, environmentalist and National Taitung University professor Jesse Liu (劉炯錫), struck a softer tone, saying he respected whatever settlement would bring the most benefits to the county's residents.
Chen Shih-yueh (陳世岳), a resident of the area, told CNA on Saturday that he was worried the building's demolition would cause pollution, and suggested that it instead be used for oceanic and environmental education purposes.
The Miramar Resort Hotel had not issued a statement on the matter as of 8 p.m. Saturday.
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