The state government in Maharashtra is set to dilute norms for grant of additional buildable space for luxury hotels in Mumbai.
Top government sources confirmed that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led Urban Development (UD) department has proposed setting aside the condition that a star category residential hotel must have come up on a plot of over 2,500 square metre or more to avail of the sop. According to information, the department’s proposal for modification of Mumbai’s development control regulations in this regard had already been placed before the chief minister.
Fadnavis, when contacted, said, “I don’t have information in this regard. I’ll find out.”
But questions are being raised over the move especially since Mumbai’s new development plan (DP 2014-34) has already formulated fresh regulations regarding floor space incentives (FSI) to hotels, where it has proposed doing away with the special distinction made for star category hotels, while extending the benefit to all hotels.
Official records reviewed by The Indian Express show that a three-star hotel in Mumbai’s Vile Parle, which faces action for allegedly building areas in excess of what was permitted, may be an immediate beneficiary of the government’s proposed easing of rules. Documents reveal that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has launched action against the 12-storey hotel constructed by Genesis Resorts Private Limited in the suburb of Mumbai alleging FSI violations and deviations from the approved building plan. The documents show that on June 6 this year, Mumbai civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta ordered that “all additional areas (constructed beyond the approved FSI) in the hotel be sealed and marked on the floor plans as proposed to be demolished.” The civic chief’s orders followed a report from the building proposals department officials in August and October last year, where it was observed that “the hotel had deviated from the building plans.”
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In their report, the senior civic engineers had cited FSI violations indicating that misuse of common areas that were approved free of FSI in the approved building plan. Documents show that on October 6, 2015, the Deputy Chief Engineer, Building Proposals, had directed the firm and the project’s architect to rectify these violations.
“We have noticed construction in the front open space. Office cubicles have been set up in the space meant to be kept open to sky. Spaces approved free-of-FSI for building elevational features, and the air handling unit have also been misused,” the senior engineer had noted in the letter sent to the firm and the architect.
Objecting to the building of these extra areas, the BMC claimed that the permissible floor area of 38604.44 square meters approved for the hotel is entirely consumed till the eight floor itself. This has basically rendered the construction of the upper three floors irregular. Documents show that the firm knocked on the government’s door in September last year for regularisation of the additional construction. On September 5, 2015, the BMC forwarded a proposal of the project architect Yunus Jhaveri’s letter to the Urban Development department for granting additional FSI to the hotel. “As per government notification dated May 14, 2009, the permissible FSI for star category hotel buildings has been enhanced from 2.5 to 3.5. The government is allowing additional FSI 2 instead of the earlier permissible FSI 1. The UD department has processed the proposal as per the said notification,” the letter said.
Further, on February 9, 2016, the firm wrote to Mehta reiterating the claim that the UD had processed the additional FSI proposal, but adding that it was likely to take some time. Arguing that the hotel had been ready for use for over two years and that the recurring expenditures were mounting, the firm had requested the commissioner to issue part occupation certificate (OC) for the first eight floors, while keeping approvals for the upper floors in abeyance. “We are ready to give a registered undertaking that we will demolish the upper floors if the further additional FSI is not sanctioned by the government,” stated the firm’s letter.
But sources confirmed that the additional FSI proposal was grounded after it was found that the plot’s area (1799.33 sq mtr) is much below stipulated 2500 square meter. While processing the approval for regularisation of the construction carried out within the permissible floor area on June 6, Mehta had categorically ordered that regularisation for construction out of this limit would be taken up only after the Urban Development Department conveyed its consent to it.
“If permission was not received within six months, further action under law will be initiated,” he had observed. The UD department’s latest proposal has withdrawn the minimum plot area condition, which would pave the way for regularisation of the hotel’s construction.
Madhukar Shetty, Chairman, Genesis Resorts Private Limited, when contacted, confirmed that his firm had been seeking relaxation and would benefit from it. “The hotel is ready for use for over two years. But since the occupation has not been granted by BMC, there is no revenue generation. On the other hand, the recurring expenditure on house keeping and maintenance of central air conditioning has to be undertaken to keep amenities and interiors in proper condition. We have to also pay off loan installments to bankers who financed the project,” he said.
“The building plans were first approved in 2008. Since then, there has been a significant advancement of technologies in the utility sector. We have incorporated services such as an evacuation room, an ioniser, a server room, a chiller and a boiler plant as per international standards for hotel building, and this had led to certain changes to the buildable area. It is not as if we have built additional guest rooms or would be making additional revenue from these areas. How can the hotel industry and tourism flourish if we are penalised for providing such services,” Shetty said.
“We’ve already said that we would be willing to demolish the upper floors if the authorities think we were in the wrong. But they must at least allow us to start services on the lower floors,” he said.
Ironically, the civic body has also questioned concessions in open space requirements granted in 2010 to the hotel project as non-admissible. Documents show that the concessions had been approved by the then civic commissioner. Incidentally, documents reveal that on January 25, 2016, BJP MLA from Vile Parle Parag Alavani had written a letter to the CM, demanding that the minimum plot area condition be waived. Confirming this, Alavani, when contacted, however, said, “A waiver of the plot size criteria has been a longstanding demand of hotel owners. Some of them discussed this with me during a tourism mart organised in my constituency, following which I decided to write to the government in this regard. Since I feel that the demand is justified, I’ve been following it up with the government,” he said.