Anxiety over ‘new mega project’ in Bukit Kiara

Bukit Kiara

Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) residents are mostly a financially savvy bunch who know the power of “bricks and mortar” investing.

For many constantly tuned in to the real estate grapevine, last month brought about an interesting new prospect through direct marketing.

“Launching Nov 2019, TTDI along Jalan (Abang) Hj Openg, Fronting Bukit Kiara Reserve, Size 1900 & 2500 sf, 3R/3B & 4R/4B respectively, Separate Maids Room & Powder Room, Private Lobby,v12.5′ Ceiling Height, 160 units very low density, 8 units per floor, 4 Car Parks (2 side by side and 2 tandem) per unit, Leasehold, Golf view, Nett Price RM 1100psf (sic). ”

This came in the form of WhatsApp messages and personal phone calls, seemingly targeted at those living in the Abang Haji Openg neighbourhood close to where this “project” is purportedly located.

Except that it is not yet a project as far as the public record stands, with no such project application seen on Kuala Lumpur City Hall One Stop Centre (OSC) portal.

The advertisement itself is cryptic enough. “Fronting Bukit Kiara Reserve” and “golf view” tickled imaginations as to its exact location.

Could this be another new chapter in the rape of Bukit Kiara, the long litany of lands sacrificed from the “Bukit Kiara Park”? Is it even a real project, or perhaps just a market feeler of sorts, a proxy for gauging buyer sentiment for some kind of hush-hush project on another comparable site nearby?

TTDI residents’ interests and concerns manifested in different forms. A perceptive few could see through the would-be developer’s “wisdom” in focusing their feelers “concerned investors” who would also have to consider traffic and parking congestion impact, regardless of its exact location on the narrow single carriageway Jalan Abang Haji Openg.

The Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK), an NGO championing the preservation of remaining forests and greens on Bukit Kiara, has within their conservation narratives documented the history of “NGO Block”, a cluster of land parcels sandwiched between two parallel roads: Jalan Abang Haji Openg, and Changkat Abang Haji Openg which faces the TPC golf course.

Over the years, a coterie of ‘well-connected’ NGOs came to own these lands, paying low land premiums reflective of “non-commercial uses benefiting community/society”.

The Women’s Institute of Management (WIM) was first to inaugurate their premises in 2001, followed quickly by the Welfare Club of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (BAKTI) the following year. To date, four NGOs have their premises up and running and another four have not, leaving a ‘mini green belt’ meandering through the block.

Through various iterations and right up to the final Kuala Lumpur City Plan gazette last year, the built-upon and unbuilt-upon lands continued to be zoned and treated as institutional – though some “business tenancies” and “hostel apartments” are somewhat questionable in this regard.

The Kuala Lumpur City Plan, controversially gazetted by the Federal Territories Minister in October 2018, zoned the entire NGO Block as Institutional with plot ratio limit of two, which by definition also means zero density, i.e. apart from preserving their non-commercial status, no homes are allowed to be built.

One of these lots (52396), owned by a “women’s organisation” was the subject of a surreptitiously submitted planning application approved “conditionally” by City Hall just days before GE14, for two blocks of 43-storey serviced apartments. The brakes were pulled following a decision on Oct 24, 2018 to ‘suspend’ a change of use application from institutional to commercial.

It is alleged by some quarters that the Federal Territory Land Office had some time ago already changed the land title condition to commercial. If true, such anomaly (of allowing this before City Hall’s zoning change) is neither new nor unique.

It is understood to be “unlawful”, but has happened before with seemingly no one being punished, giving the impression that only some council formalities need tidying up to make it a fait accompli.

Back to the question of that “advertisement”. Assuming it is indeed located in “NGO Block”, which parcel/s will it occupy? Why is there no development proposal seen on the public record nor any public hearing conducted to date? There is no way of knowing for sure whether this is a “rework” of the stalled Lot 52396 project.

The entire episode has raised several pertinent points:

  • What are the proper processes and procedures that must be followed when a landowner/developer proposes a project which deviates from the land use and intensities specified for that land parcel?
  • Why should a development order be conditionally approved, tantamount to cart before the horse, when the land use specified in the local plan is yet to be legally amended to accommodate the development proposal?
  • Why are developers and their agents allowed to market properties, even to the extent of collecting ‘pre-registration fees’ from potential buyers, for projects that do not yet exist in any form of regulatory process that is verifiable in the public domain?

Such issues are neither unique nor special but come into the sharp focus of a local community now sensitised and deeply suspicious, having seen various intrigues and shenanigans aimed at developing every piece of available land in TTDI usually at the expense of residents’ quality of life – none more so than the protracted Taman Rimba Kiara saga which has played out for so long in the political arena and the courts of law.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.