The inspection was conducted in order to meet the demands made by a local environmental civic group and some landlords in Bugahyeon-dong. The Bugahyeon-dong Association for the Conservation of Natural Scenery had questioned Seoul Metropolitan Government’s (SMG) procedure of permitting the project and aggregating local residents’ opinions before allowing the construction of the dormitory.
The two main issues on which Ewha, SMG, Seodaemun District Office, and local residents conflicted are as follows: whether the lowered biotope level of Bugahyeon-dong Forest from level one to two was legitimate, and whether the District Office conducted a thorough examination in permitting the use of forest land.
The BAI ruled that there is no sufficient proof to consider the lowered biotope level as unlawful. They concluded that the change of the level had undergone proper procedure by the evaluation committee on the urban ecological environment of Seoul. The committee determined that the extent of green-life preservation of the Bugahyeon-dong Forest does not have to match the strict level of that in other habitats, explaining the reason behind the adjusted level.
Regarding the propriety in the procedure of reviewing usage of the forest land, the BAI issued a state of “warning” to the head of Seodaemun District Office, suggesting more caution in giving out permission on such projects. However, the BAI concluded that building more dormitories for university students is a public demand that should be satisfied.
“Along with expensive dormitory fees and soaring monthly rent of rooms near campus, we concluded that the investigation is necessary because the project can be viewed as a solution to the struggle over students’ housing problems rather than a financial privilege for universities,” wrote BAI officials in the report.
The school respects the investigation results.
“Some of the questions posed by local residents and environmental associations have been resolved through the investigation,” said Kang Sung-gi, the official at Facilities Maintenance in charge of constructing the new dormitory. “However, we want to make sure that the district office undertook a thorough review on the use of forest land upon our request. No clear evaluation standard is registered in any management system for the Korea Forest Service, and the new dormitory is situated on the same general building site as the existing one. This leads us to disagree with the result from the BAI concerning forest use.”
Meanwhile, the Bugahyeon-dong Association for the Conservation of Natural Scenery filed administrative litigation against the Seodaemun District Office, calling for confirmation of the construction’s nullification.
Because the school is not a direct counterpart in the litigation, it is not taking measures against the lawsuit.
“However, if the association files a lawsuit against the school, we will react with a definite legal basis,” Kang declared. “For the welfare of our students, the new dormitory project was set up to work after a long but legitimate process to gain construction consent.”
Construction is underway with over 30 percent of the work having been completed. The new dormitory will be partially open right before the start of the spring semester of 2016.
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