Thursday, February 17, 2011

Zoning Law Set to Spark a Battle Royal

DENPASAR

Governor I Made Mangku Pastika and the Badung and Gianyar regents could be headed into a public row over the moratorium on new hotels in south Bali — which Pastika announced late last year and formally issued in January — and demands from the governor that regencies apply the new zoning laws.

And the governor upped the ante this week by formally asking district administrations to demolish unlicensed commercial villas, saying that if stern action was not taken the problem would only grow.

The problem with Bali’s new zoning law, which also prohibits building within five kilometres of a major temple – directly affecting a large number of existing properties in the Uluwatu area of the Bukit, for example – is that under the devolution policy the central and provincial governments set environmental rules and districts (regencies) administer building permit regulations.

Governor Pastika has sought to bring building permits under control but constitutionally cannot sideline the regents. The leaders of both Badung and Gianyar have made it clear they wish to continue development in their regencies on their own rules.

The moratorium of major new hotels, designed to stop new developments in Badung, Gianyar and Denpasar in a bid to curb overcrowding in the south and encourage investment in other parts of the island, has won general approval.
But Gianyar is seeking amendments to the rule that would permit high-price hotels to build while cutting out new construction of standard five-star establishments over the life of the moratorium.

And it is not only the regents Pastika now has to deal with. Traditional Pecatu residents have protested against the temple exclusion zone around Uluwatu because villas and other accommodation places, and the service sector generally, depend on them for jobs and local income.

Pastika said it was essential to move against villas and other places that not only were unlicensed but which failed to meet the strict requirements of the new zoning law.

“It’s OK to remind the owners once that their premises must be licensed and must conform to the zoning law,” he said.

But where there was consistent refusal to rectify the situation the authorities had no alternative but to act. Pastika said there were 25 villas in Badung regency alone that were clearly known to be operating illegally.

The demolition threat has alarmed traditional Pecatu residents. Bendesa Pecatu indigenous leader Wayan Rebong and other officials have denounced the policy, saying local people reject the concept of implementing the actions contained in the governor’s circular relating to demolition of structures within the Uluwatu exclusion zone.

The village head of Pecatu, Made Sumartha, said this week: “We want to invite the governor to come to Pecatu order to see the condition of their communities and the impact implementing the instructions in his letter would have. About 600 employees would be laid off. I think this has been violating human rights.”

Sumartha said the villas earmarked for demolition are mostly owned by local residents who have opened tourist accommodation business. There were only three villas owned by investors. “If these villas are dismantled, Pecatu’s local economy will die.”

He added: “If you want to demolish, demolish them all. Do not be selective, or confine the action to the Pecatu area only. All development that violates the sanctity of the temple radius everywhere in Bali must be dismantled.”

The temporary moratorium on new hotels, a decree dated January 5, 2011, states that three regions, Denpasar, Badung and Gianyar, are over-supplied with hotel rooms and so further hotel construction is prohibited.

Government spokesman Ketut Teneng said at his regular Tuesday media briefing: “Permission for hotel development in the future must wait for the outcome of further studies.”

The political and administrative reasons for the growing row over zoning and building permits are clear from three letters sent out by the Governor. They are:

* Letter No. 645/61/Sat Pol Dated January 14, 2011, calling for the demolishing of 25 buildings standing within the five-kilometre forbidden zone surrounding Uluwatu Temple.

* Letter No. 660.1/2080/Bid.Was/BLH: regarding control of spatial use zoning issues.

* Letter No. 570/1665/BPM: ordering a temporary moratorium on in-principle agreements or investment registrations for hotels and guests house.

The Badung House of Representatives is to meet to discuss how best to respond to the governor’s demands, which are viewed in Badung as a burden and unfair. Badung is Bali’s richest and most developed regency.

The chairman of Badung’s Commission B, Putu Parwata, who is also the chairman of a special committee for the Badung Zoning regulations (RTRW Badung), said final revisions of a separate RTRW for Badung are in now hand.

It is reported to largely conform to the provincial zoning law but to set out a range of “special circumstances” applying in Badung. Parwata said one issue was that a moratorium of new hotels was detrimental to Badung’s tax-base growth.

Parwata, who has been prominent in the bid to sort out the unlicensed and illegal construction and operation of the Best Western Kuta hotel, said it was impossible to implement the governor’s demolition order on the large number of existing structures within a five-kilometre radius of Uluwatu temple. “What’s more, it’s not clear who must be responsible for demolishing the buildings, the province or the regency,” he said.

Gianyar Regent Tjok Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati said on Tuesday he believed there was still room for discussion over the actual implementation of the moratorium.

A Constitutional Court bench in January dismissed a legal challenge to Bali’s new zoning law brought by Bali’s affected regents.

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