Koh Larn development suspended as city surveys construction

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Mayor says island protesters misinformed; land concession, deforestation legal

Pattaya officials have halted development of four plots of land on Koh Larn as inspectors investigate protests by island residents that private companies had violated property boundaries and environmental laws.

Following a Pattaya City Hall protest by 660 islanders Oct. 5, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh, members of the city council and various bureaucrats inspected the disputed land Oct. 14. Together with Koh Larn Village Chief Booncherd Boonying, they surveyed 320 rai of hillside above Samae Beach that has been deforested and flattened to make way for condominium and resort.

Residents had protested that the land was razed improperly and that the trees removed had been planted as part of royal reforestation project. However, Itthiphol informed villagers they were wrong and that the royally protected trees were elsewhere on the island. Itthiphol added that Pattaya Pavillion Grand Condotel Co., which had leased the land for 25 years from the city, had stayed inside its allotted boundaries.

Nonetheless, the mayor said he has suspended development of the site as construction plans may violate building codes because the hillside slopes more than 35 degrees. He said development of this project, and three others, will be halted until city officials inspect each site, review development plans and land concession contracts.

In a meeting with about 500 Koh Larn residents, the mayor said it appeared locals were not aware of the steps Chonburi Province has taken to develop the island, leading to misunderstandings and anger. He told them the provincial government had split 320 rai of land into four plots that could be rented for 5,000-6,000 baht per rai and privately developed. Tree removal was permitted although, acknowledging residents’ anger, the mayor said he’d question Pattaya Pavilion about its aggressive tree-removal tactics.

Koh Larn islanders, unhappy to be told the city had blessed the protests they disapproved of, further complained about more development along Nual Beach, where more than 100 rai have been cleared to construct a large commercial complex.

Locals pined about the days when the back side of Koh Larn was a peaceful, beautiful beach and expressed fears that the previously public Satharan Road might be privatized, impeding access to the shoreline. They further questioned whether the foundation of the building now in place sits the legally required 20 meters from the sea.

Itthiphol again told the residents the land concession was legal but that construction has been suspended while the city investigates property boundaries and the distance from the water. If violations are found, he said, the contract will be terminated.