by Aileen P. Refuerzo / PIO
The mushrooming of high-rise structures defying the building height requirement imposed by the city government has alarmed city officials.
During the inquiry conducted by the city council last Monday, Building Official Oscar Flores confirmed that a number of building owners managed to obtain exemptions from the city’s height limit from the National Building Code Development Office (NBCDO) under the Department of Public Works and Highways, which has the authority to issue such exemptions on building heights.
Flores said although these establishments comply with the city government requirements on building permits and clearances, they manage to skirt the city’s restrictions on building heights by seeking refuge from the DPWH central office.
A case in point was the application of MPB Realty for a six-story commercial building along Session Road which was issued permits and clearances by the city government.
Flores said at the course of the building’s construction, there were deviations from the approved plans, prompting the City Building and Architecture Office to issue cease and desist orders five times.
The MPB applied for clearance for the additional two floors but this was denied by the Local Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals (LZBAA), since Session Road is zoned as Commercial C-1 where the height limit is six floors. It eventually secured an exemption from the NBCDO.
Engr. Felino Lagman, a member of the LZBAA wrote the city council informing them that there are other structures that go beyond the six-floor limit, particularly the hotel projects along Kisad Road, Legarda Road, the Ina Mansion condominium along Kisad Road, Good Taste restaurant along Cariño Street, the West Burnham Place also along Cariño St., Veniz Hotel along Abanao Street, Tiong San along Harrison Road, Goshen Land in Bakakeng, La Brea Inn along Session Road, and Mt. Crest Hotel along Legarda Road.
Lagman informed that the LZBAA and the City Development Council have recommended the reclassification of certain portions of Session Road and Harrison Road from C-1 to C-3 which would allow the construction of buildings up to eight floors in consideration of the following: terrain, cost of land, small lot areas, cost of business permits, and real estate tax.
The matter is now being studied in line with the move to amend Ordinance 51, s. 2001 entitled “Revised Comprehensive Zoning Regulation for the City of Baguio” and the updating of the City Land Use Plan (CLUP) now pending before the city council.
But Mayor Mauricio Domogan said this proposal could not be used as basis in the grant of exemption to MPB Realty for the construction of additional two floors as it has not been approved yet.
Flores said the practice makes the city government helpless in implementing its own rules.
What is more alarming, according to Flores, is that more establishments are now applying directly to the DPWH and are not coursing their applications through the CBAO.
Councilors opined this practice practically renders the local law futile.
“What would stop other building owners from adding more floors if this is the case?” Councilor Perlita Rondez asked.
“It seems the exemption is now becoming the rule,” observed Councilor Joel Alangsab.
Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. said this tramples on the intent of the Local Government Code.
The council referred the matter to the committee on urban planning, lands and housing chaired by Cosalan to come up with recommendations on the possibility of seeking relief possibly to ask for an amendment of the law covering the matter.
Cosalan said this will also be considered in the ongoing study on the proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance and the CLUP.