Pattaya halts construction of view-blocking condominium tower

Friday, 22 August 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 34 By  Theerarak Suthathiwong

 

Developers claim they have complied with all legal steps required of them

Pattaya officials have halted construction of a 53-story condominium and hotel project at Bali Hai Pier that sparked an Internet firestorm after photos showing the tower obstructing a classic Pattaya viewpoint were published online.

The Waterfront Suites and Residence was ordered July 16 to stop work after inspectors discovered that the building - particularly its fire escapes and elevator systems - varied from approved construction designs.

Pattaya officials have halted construction of a 53-story condominium and hotel project at Bali Hai Pier that sparked an Internet firestorm after photos showing the tower obstructing a classic Pattaya viewpoint went viral online.  Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome stated that the project - first launched in 2004 - has continually followed correct and fully transparent legal processes and he urged anyone alleging that shortcuts were taken to investigate the various hearings and reports themselves. Pattaya officials have halted construction of a 53-story condominium and hotel project at Bali Hai Pier that sparked an Internet firestorm after photos showing the tower obstructing a classic Pattaya viewpoint went viral online.  Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome stated that the project - first launched in 2004 - has continually followed correct and fully transparent legal processes and he urged anyone alleging that shortcuts were taken to investigate the various hearings and reports themselves.

Lead contractor Thai Engineering, however, allegedly ignored the stop-work order and continued until Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome called a press conference Aug. 18 to address the chain of complaints that went viral on the Internet last week.

Photos showing the tower obstructing a large chunk of Pattaya Bay were published on Facebook, Twitter and other online sources, with outraged Thais writing a message on republished pictures to the National Council for Peace and Order urging the military regime to investigate.

The complaints accused the developer of building a structure both taller and closer to the beach than permitted and noted it also obstructs the view of the Prince Chumphon Khet Udomsak statue sitting on the top of Pratamnak Hill.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome called a press conference to address the chain of complaints about the construction of a 53-story condominium and hotel project at Bali Hai Pier after photos showing the tower obstructing a classic Pattaya viewpoint went viral on the Internet last week.Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome called a press conference to address the chain of complaints about the construction of a 53-story condominium and hotel project at Bali Hai Pier after photos showing the tower obstructing a classic Pattaya viewpoint went viral on the Internet last week.

Itthiphol repeatedly stated that the project - first launched in 2004 - has continually followed correct and fully transparent legal processes and he urged anyone alleging that shortcuts were taken to investigate the various hearings and reports themselves.

However, he noted, during the approval process, Pattaya City Hall did oppose the size of the tower, noting its impact on the skyline, but the city’s objections were overruled.

The mayor also said allegations that Waterfront Suites was built too close to the sea are incorrect. Law covering the Bali Hai area forbids building within 100 meters of the waterline. However, Pattaya already approved construction of a new marina built on reclaimed land. That project extended the shoreline out by 100 meters, thus making the condominium and hotel, which would be managed by Accor Hotels, legal.

The developers had submitted an environmental-impact report to a Chonburi Province panel, which approved it in May 2008 and forwarded it to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning. After being lashed at online, the ONREPP said last week it would investigate the project again.

An office official told the media last week that EIA criteria forbid new projects to block beach views. However, if public agencies approved the impact report knowing it blocked scenery - and the developer followed that plan exactly - the fault lies with the government and not the developer.

Itthiphol said, however, it appears that project developers or contractors have strayed from the approved plans, at least when it came to fire escapes and elevators. Further checks will be made of the entire structure to see what else, if anything, has been changed.

Itthiphol said it was possible that if the changes were substantial, officials would go to court to have the multi-billion-baht project demolished.

The tower’s financial backers, of course, will do anything possible to avoid that. Cobbled together out of seven land-title deeds spread over two rai of prime beachfront land, the towering condo and hotel was seen by Pattaya officials as an anchor for their aspirations of a luxury-yacht marina.

Developer representatives said online this week that they have complied with all the legal steps required of them for the past 10 years and only now - with construction set for completion on Sept. 6 - is the issue of the condominium’s height being debated seriously.

Last modified on Friday, 22 August 2014 13:22
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