Friday, June 21, 2013

FSI SCAM: Tardeo bldg in dock over flats built in refuge areas

Mumbai: The BMC has reported a host of irregularities in Willingdon Heights,a34-storey tower at Tardeo’s Tulsiwadi, where apartments cost around Rs 5 crore.

Refuge floors meant for fire-fighting have been converted into flats, stilt parking used as habitable area and several flats amalgamated by demolishing walls, the Bombay high court has been told in an ongoing battle between the residents, the builder, civic authorities and BEST.

Last year, when the high court passed an interim order, directing these refuge areas to be cleared, the builder, Satellite Holdings, said it was not aware that the 16th, 24th and 31st floors were marked as refuge areas by the BMC. The developer said it would ask the BMC to regularize these areas if it was permitted to build six more floors with the balance floor space index (FSI) that it claims to possess.

If the BMC allows this construction, the builder said it would relocate people occupying flats on the refuge floors. “This is the proposal which the applicant has to regularize the entire irregularity,” said a notice of motion filed by Satellite. A senior civic official said no rules allow such irregularities to be condoned and the builder’s claim of additional FSI will have to be verified. The court will hear the matter later this month.

‘Tardeo building flouted norms’

Mumbai: The BMC has carried out an inspection of the posh 34-storey Willingdon Heights in Tardeo’s Tulsiwadi and reported a slew of violations, non-compliance and work carried out beyond approved plans by the builder.

The stilt parking area had been found covered with glazed partitions. On the first floor, the greater height stilt portion was covered with RCC slab while the meter room, telephone room and society room were converted into apartments.

The civic team said between the 2nd and 23rd floors, elevations and entrance passages had been merged into flats. The 8th floor, marked as a refuge area, was found converted into a flat. From the 24th to 34th floors, the team reported that flats were amalgamated by demolishing partition walls. The lobby area was merged into apartments while parts of the kitchen area, elevation features and canopy were included in rooms. Toilet ducts were also found covered with RCC slabs. The area near the lift was covered and converted into a small room.

“Thakker Tower is not constructed as per approved plans and, in fact, has not complied with the mandatory compliance stipulated by the concerned authorities,” said the BMC’s report.

The builder said that “in the interest of justice”, the court should stay its order to clear the refuge area “till the time our proposal is sanctioned”. “We will shift the occupant of the refuge area to the new flat on the additional construction which we are going to put up,’’ it added. The developer also asked the court to protect the flat owner on the 8th floor, which is a refuge area.

In the meantime, the court stopped the BMC from acting against a first-floor resident after it was found that the space was originally meant for second stilt parking. Senior advocate Joaquim Reis, who represented the resident, said the BMC had granted part occupation certificate (OC) till the 14th floor. Hence, his client could not be thrown out because of the builder. “We took possession of the flat only after the BMC’s OC,” he said.

Last year, Willingdon Heights (also known as Thakker Tower) dragged the BMC and Brihanmumbai Electric Supply Undertaking (BEST) to court for “illegally” threatening to disconnect its electricity connection and charging it a much higher rate for power.

The dispute was over installing an electric sub-station on the building premises.
Refuge areas must at every 7th habitable floor: Rules L ast year, the state government laid down stringent provisions for fire fighting and to curb misuse of refuge areas in skyscrapers. The new rules stipulate that a refuge area will have to be provided at every seventh habitable floor after the first 24m of a high-rise.

“The refuge area shall be provided within building line at floor level. In case of high-rises with more than 30m height, the first refuge area shall be provided at 24m or first habitable floor, whichever is higher. Thereafter, the refuge area shall be provided at every seventh habitable floor,” the norms state.

The guidelines mention that a refuge area will now be restricted to just 4% of the habitable floor area it serves, and will be free of floor space index (FSI)—the ratio of permissible built-up area vis-à-vis the plot size. Refuge areas will be designated exclusively for the use of occupants “as temporary shelter and for the use of the fire brigade or any other organization dealing with emergencies and also for drills if conducted by the fire department”. TNN
Nauzer K Bharucha TNN

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