THERE’s a rumour making the rounds that the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) will close down the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya (PJ) because the premise was not approved for a church.
For certain, the land that DUMC is located on is not designated for a “religious institution” that would permit the land to be used as a place of worship. However, before the ones who created the rumour rejoice and insist that the city council close down DUMC, let’s review some of the development rules I have previously raised that would be relevant to this case.
All land titles have what you call “express conditions” which state what the land can be used for. The term is described in detail under Sections 103 to 108 of the National Land Code.
The National Land Code further prescribes that the land cannot be used for anything other than what the express condition permits. Since the land that DUMC is sitting on is designated for industrial use only, it should technically be used as a factory and nothing else.
That said, if the council were to enforce the land code strictly, then the houses in SS2 in PJ that have been converted to bridal shops should also be shut down. The properties there are strictly for “residential use” only.
The same action would also apply to quite a number of commercial buildings that have sprung up in Section 13 in PJ. The colleges that currently occupy these former factory lots – like Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman – would also have to ship out.
If the authorities want to impose the land code effectively, they must do it fairly across the board. But in doing so, they might just facilitate a small-scale economic collapse within PJ.
Still, what is the point of having laws and rules if they are not enforced? Now, this is where we have to hold accountable the politicians of yesteryear for not adhering to development rules and regulations when they should have.
I have previously highlighted that the development rules stipulate that 10% of land that has been approved for development must be turned into open space. On top of that, there are also rules that prescribe the need to surrender up to 30% of the development area for public use. That would include land for religious institutions, cemeteries and schools.
Of course, no one bothers with these rules because they argue that the rules are just guidelines and need not be followed to the letter. Everyone can instead maximise profit and not bother with requirements such as surrendering 30% of the total land for public use.
Are we surprised, then, that communities have to resort to using houses, factories and commercial buildings as places of worship or institutions of higher learning?
Correcting the problem
In order to correct this problem, development rules need to be reinstated and applied strictly for new developments. At the same time, the state government must look at legal remedies for existing problems. The only problem is there would be zero development in PJ if these rules were applied, and property developers would certainly object.
Since money speaks louder than a councillor’s advice, one would be right in assuming that the status quo will be in place for a long time yet.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak has been told he is no politician because he doesn’t know the art of sugar-coating. All he has to say is, “Too much sugar can cause diabetes.”