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A moratorium on development?

BUKIT Gasing assemblyperson Edward Lee has been working on a proposal for the Selangor government to implement a five-year moratorium on development in Petaling Jaya (PJ).

The proposal is intended to complement the Selangor government’s plan to allocate RM10 billion to redevelop PJ and Klang. It is also meant to reflect public sentiments on wanting to see an improvement in the overall services in PJ sans private development projects.

A cessation of large-scale development would enable the state government to fund studies on traffic, drainage and other issues of public interest in PJ. Such studies are estimated to take at least a year but they will provide long-term solutions to such problems.

Benefits

Image of construction sign on the ground
Developers are expected to argue that the five-year moratorium will destroy thousands of jobs overnight

This proposal isn’t meant to punish developers though they would probably argue that such a moratorium would destroy thousands of jobs overnight. On the contrary, infrastructure projects identified by the study would be awarded back to the developers.

Such a massive study of the city would require input from experts like architects, engineers and traffic consultants. The implementation of these ideas would in turn create jobs for construction workers.

To illustrate the long-term benefits for property developers, I will use the empty plots of land in Kelana Jaya along the LDP highway as an example.

The public are steadfastly opposed to plans for large-scale projects along the highway. Their objections are backed by the LDP concessionaire who warns of worsening traffic conditions should any medium-scale development be allowed. Hence, even if these projects are approved at present, they may not take off as envisioned by the developer.

Mural that says
Without the research during the moratorium, developers may not get what they envision anyway

Also going against the developers is the imposed limitation for development in the area with the 2.5 plot ratio[1] set by the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) town planning department, as opposed to the requested plot ratio average of 4.0 by the developers.

Hence, it would be better for the developers to support the moratorium by getting the state government to pay them to do the necessary road infrastructure works that would ensure the conditions around their project are capable of supporting the intended 4.0 plot ratio.

If development in the area proceeds without addressing existing traffic problems, this will only increase traffic volume along the LDP Highway and possibly hamper the area’s commercial growth.

Flooded with problems

The lack of care for a development project’s surrounding area doesn’t just cause traffic problems but floods as well.

In Section 19 PJ, residents living in single-storey linked houses have been complaining about floods that started occurring just a few years ago. The floods began following the commencement of high-density development that replaced former squatter houses in the area.

Rain-warning roadsigns falling like raindrops on a flooded road
30-year-old drains are too small to handle larger volumes of rainwater
(Weather warning signs ©Kriss Szkurlatowski; flooded roads ©Rombough; source: sxc.hu)

Planning for these development projects did not take into account the surrounding neighbourhood’s drainage infrastructure. The drains there are more than 30-years-old. These drains are too small to handle the larger volume of rainwater that is no longer being absorbed into the ground because of built-up development.

And simply making bigger drains will not solve flooding problems. MBPJ engineers have advised that all the old drains need to be re-designed to handle both rainwater volume and the flow speed to ensure that the water doesn’t get deposited in low-lying areas too fast.

This can only be done when the drainage system is looked at in totality, taking into account existing and future developments. Any attempt to re-design the drainage system without a moratorium could potentially make a planned drainage system fix redundant when more development projects come up.

Consultation

All the arguments I have proposed are only a fraction of the potential benefits that developers and residents will experience from the moratorium. Detractors may argue that the proposal does not address many other concerns that they may have.

This is where feedback from stakeholders will help in developing this proposal. What happens next will depend entirely on the input that is provided. In the end, the success or failure of the moratorium depends on public support.

1.   ^ The plot ratio for development basically means the amount of floor space that the developer is allowed to build over the land. A plot ratio of 10.0 means that the buildings can encompass the total of 10 times the amount of floor space that is on the land, which would result in tall skyscrapers like the KLCC Twin Towers. A plot ratio of 1.0 means either a single-storey building that fills up the boundary of the land or a double-storey building that is built on just half the size of the land. 


MBPJ councillor KW Mak believes that governments should look at providing solutions to people’s problems. Whether the government is federal, state or local, the ultimate purpose of government is to ensure the public’s welfare.

See also:

Planning for a city

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6 Responses to “A moratorium on development?”

  1. Dhanen Mahes says:

    It is definitely necessary for the Selangor government to study and develop sustainable infrastructure. One does not need to look far to see the effects of shoddy, hasty, poorly planned or ‘pasted-on’ development projects on drainage, traffic, etc.

    However, the question that arises is timing. Is this the best time to impose a moratorium and focus on the study? What is the value of these development projects and could they possibly have any ripple effect on the economy?

  2. Dhanen Mahes says:

    By the way, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Selangor state government. So far, they are moving in the right direction. Good job, and keep it up.

  3. Arion Yeow says:

    It is way overdue. For example, I believe the ratio of parking bays are made according to guidelines that are about 30 years old. Current car ownership ratios have changed drastically since then. Water pipes and sewerage systems are similarly outdated.

  4. KW Mak says:

    @ Dhanen

    The best time to do a moratorium is now, as we can take stock of all the flaws and rectify them in preparation for better times.

    Fixing the flaws goes beyond just looking at plans but the processes that goes into planning development, like the subjectivity of how plot ratios are derived; why MBPJ allows high-density developments in the area for some developers and not others; etc.

    Even minute details like the filing of complaints by residents against developer / contractor violations like working past permissible hours, dust pollution by heavy vehicles and the traffic hazard caused by heavy vehicles moving into and out of the construction site has to be looked into.

    Application by developers to work past permissible hours must also be streamlined and allowed, whereby various works that do not cause much noise pollution would be allowed to decrease the time projects are spent in development.

  5. KW Mak says:

    @ Arion

    With regards to the car parks for high-rise buildings, the car park ratio isn’t the major problem but the present system that can easily be manipulated by unscrupulous developers.

    For example, car parks that are shown as common property in the development plan can be converted en masse into private property for individuals or companies when the development is completed.

    Following the logic of the development plan, car parks that are designated common property are part of the requirement for the developer to obtain a Certificate of Fitness, yet once the CF is issued, the environment changes as such that property owners are deprived of free parking within the compound of their high-rise building.

  6. KW Mak says:

    Here are some updates on the moratorium idea:

    1) The moratorium is targeted at high-density projects (definition of this will have to be worked out). Redevelopment of a house, shop lot and even small scale developments will not be affected by the moratorium.

    2) The moratorium period is between three to five years, depending on the scale of infrastructure redevelopment that needs to be carried out.

    3) The moratorium period will also be used to streamline the rules with regards to development application, as present rules are sometimes arbitrary and subjective in nature, leading to numerous complaints and could possibly allow corrupt practices.

    4) The moratorium will also give time to the state government to look into the matter of leasehold land (I can’t say more than this, so please don’t ask me for specifics).

    I would like to call out again to the readers of The Nut Graph to provide feedback. This is your chance to influence a policy decision.


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