URA split over call by owners to leave their Staunton St buildings out of project

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 August, 2009, 12:00am

Urban Renewal Authority members are divided over a call by residents in Staunton Street for their recently renovated tenement homes to be spared from a redevelopment plan.

Their views were expressed after the residents called a press conference to back their demand. The Town Planning Board supports the residents and is seeking advice on excluding the five tenement buildings from the redevelopment site.

Dare Koslow, who said he bought two flat at 64 Staunton Street two years ago and now lives in them, said he was pleased to hear that the board urged the government last month to consider reducing the redevelopment to preserve the five buildings.

'It was a very comforting message that the board wants the government to listen to the people,' said Mr Koslow, who works for a telephone company. He and six other residents of the five buildings, who claim to own more than 60 per cent of the site, made their case to the board at last month's meeting.

The site, where a 28-storey block is planned, is one of three in the project. Blocks of six and 13 floors are planned on the other two sites.

A URA spokesman said it had already struck a balance between preservation and development last year by slashing 18 storeys off a planned 24-storey building. And a URA board member said the development on the tenement site enabled lower density buildings on the other two.

Mr Koslow said at the press conference at his home that he had not been 'fully aware' of the development when he bought his flats in 2007 and spent HK$2 million renovating them, although the scheme was announced in 2003.

'I did not know what it meant... I believe private property rights should be respected,' he said, adding that he was not aiming to sell his property for a high price and would like to stay for another 15 years.

Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan, a non-executive director of the URA, said she hoped the authority would review the scheme. She said she would raise the issue at the next authority board meeting at the end of the month.

Lawmaker Ip Kwok-him of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, another non-executive director, said he was concerned that sparing one site would affect the redevelopment's financial viability.

'It is the development on the site in question that makes lower densities possible for the other two sites,' he said, adding that Mr Koslow knew about the development when he bought the property.

Daniel Lam Chun, also a non-executive director, said the law did not allow the URA to cancel a project it had announced and he hoped such an option might be introduced.