Councilors question new high-rise building-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Sunday, September 9, 2012
COUNCILORS recently questioned the exemption issued to a developer of the eight-storey building in the corner of Mabini Street and Session Road for allegedly violating the Baguio City Zoning Ordinance.
Councilor Philian Weygan-Allan expressed her opposition to the recent issuance of the exemption permit of the National Building Code Development Office (NBCDO).
She said the building, which is now the highest in Session Road, is literally changing the skyline of the Central Business District, and this may cause a bad precedent on upcoming building developments in the area.
She said the building, owned by MPB Realty and Development Corporation, only got hold of a permit from the NBCDO under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Central Office as owners of the property appealed for height clearance exemption for its on-construction building.
Weygan-Allan said the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) of the City has not yet been confirmed by the City Council, which is why the DPWH-NBCDO should recall its issued exemption as their reasons of the CLUP reclassifying Session Road from C1 or low density to C3 or high density development has not yet been approved.
In Monday’s regular session, City Building and Architecture Officer (CBAO) Engr. Oscar Flores, City Planning and Development Officer Engr. Evelyn Cayat and Local Zoning Board representative Architect Elvis Palicdon were present in the council to clarify issues on the development, while Tony Ang of MPB Realty Corporation failed to appear.
Engr. Flores said the building developers were granted an exemption by NBCDO Director Emmanuel Cuntapay after making an appeal to add two floors to their original building design of six floors.
Flores said the firm was able to get hold of two exemptions: first, not to provide a parking space due to space limitations, and second on the zoning provision.
Flores said the firm was already issued several notices of violation by the CBAO, particularly on their failure to follow the city’s zoning ordinance but the developer did not reply to their notice and instead, directly appealed to the DPWH-NBCDO.
He said the developers should have already included in their design the seventh and eight floors and not just appeal for it in a national office instead of CBAO.
“Exemptions should have been applied before construction of the building or when the first building permit was issued and not during or after construction of the building,” he said.
He added that despite the law, they don’t have the power to ask building developers to remove excess floors constructed, nor do they have the police power to stop any development in violation of the zoning ordinance.
He said the City can only file a case against violators but the penalty is very minimal at less than P10,000 or imprisonment of not more than a year.
According to CPDO Engr. Cayat, Session Road is supposed to be a C1 or for low density developments up to six floors only.
She said there are several buildings in C1 areas but these were granted prior to the approval of the zoning ordinance, or were granted exemption by the DPWH Central Office.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said there are some 11 buildings violating this height limit, with some new buildings violating the existing Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Flores said they have also issued notice of violations to the new Good Taste building along Cariño Street and the ongoing construction along the intersection of Montinola and Kisad streets also for deviating from their original building design and for zoning ordinance violations.
The councilors said the DPWH-NBCDO director might have been made to believe that the City has already reclassified Session Road from a low density to a high density zone.
Flores said the National Building Code, as a curative law, explicitly states a city zoning ordinance is more restrictive since it prevails over the national law.
The council, on a collective motion Monday, stressed there is a need to inform NBCDO Director Cuntapay, the DPWH, the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board that they have not yet amended the City Land Use Plan, especially on provisions of height requirement and procedures of exemption.
The councilors also referred the matter back to the Committee on Urban Planning, Lands and Housing chaired by Councilor Isabelo Cosalan for immediate action.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 10, 2012.