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The view from the top of Phuket's Karon Hill as the road descends to the sea

Phuket's Vanishing Vista: No Solution in Sight Yet

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
News Analysis

THE VIEW from Karon Hill is what Phuket's latest and most intriguing property crisis is all about. And reaching an agreement that pleases everyone won't be easily.

For the first time that Phuketwan can recall, aesthetics is the issue. So a proposed seven-storey development has been halted - voluntarily, by the developer - while the talking continues.

There is certainly truth in what the Karon protesters say. If the top two storeys of the Kata Royal Condominium are completed, then the iconic panoramic view of Koh Boo (Crab Island) will be lost behind concrete and glass.

Historically, it's unlikely that the road-makers planned the route across Karon Hill because of the view of Crab Island. But it is memorable and it has become one of the pleasant aspects of the drive across the hill. The glory of the vista certainly adds the feeling that you are on a tropical island that remains beautiful in parts.

Plenty of other properties on the road down the hill towards Kata and Karon could have been the site for a seven-storey development. It just so happens that by chance, the proposed seven-storey development is the Kata Royal Condominium project.

And it just so happens that it aligns perfectly in between Koh Boo and all vehicles as they come over Karon Hill and begin to descend.

Managing Director Joe S. Kasisopa of Phuvah Marketing was sanguine about the issue when Phuketwan dropped by at the group's sales office last week. Once he heard that the local people had a problem with the project, he stopped work almost immediately, he says.

A couple of days before we talked, he had met with about 10 protesters. Originally, their concerns also related to the construction crane, but Khun Joe, he says, managed to resolve issues concerning the crane.

He is keen to negotiate a solution to the vista issue, but that won't be easy. While the top two floors remain invisible for now, the nine apartments on each of the unbuilt floors have been sold, according to Khun Joe. The contracts call for completion before a specific date next year.

Khun Joe, a 15-year veteran of the Phuket property scene, and Bangkok real estate as well, says this problem is a first, and, he hopes, a last. Phuvah have managed to satisfy everyone that the developers have all the right approvals, and that there is not a single reason, even a small one, why legally the building shouldn't be finished.

As part of the environmental process of obtaining permission, Khun Joe says a survey was conducted among local residents in the immediate vicinity that showed 76 percent approving, five percent disapproving, and the rest without an opinion.

Karon protesters from broader afield now say that they weren't consulted, although clearly, anything that affects the iconic view from Karon Hill and obscures Crab Island changes the ambience of Karon and Kata in permanent ways.

The fact is, this probably wasn't even an issue for the Phuket governor's special committee, which was set up last year to overcome some obvious deficiencies in the property permissions process.

The property is at least 500 metres from the beachfront, so its height was never seen as an issue . . . until the builders reached five floors.

Only then did Karon residents - and everyone driving over the hill - realise what would happen if the entire project rose to seven floors. Goodbye, Koh Boo.

The island would reappear later, as vehicles proceeded on down the hill, but from a lower aspect the dramatic impact of the full glorious seascape at the top of the hill would be lost.

The only vaguely similar case Phuketwan can recall is the Villa Santi development, on a hillside to the north of Patong. Years ago, when locals saw the construction site gouging away the greenery, they complained in considerable numbers to the then governor of Phuket. A major investigation resulted.

Of course, it was all legitimate. But the shock of seeing a large construction site where once there had been nothing but greenery caused alarm. Today, Villa Santi is now IndoChine and landscaping at the resort makes the site much more presentable than the raw, earthy construction site.

Other large projects on and around Phuket have caused similar anguish, but with less drama and impact. No amount of green gauze screening can hide the fact that construction sites are plain ugly, and the larger, the uglier.

What's different about the Karon Hill fuss is that time will not improve the situation. If Koh Boo is obscured by two more floors, the stunning vista will be gone for good.

Yet Khun Joe has done everything by the book, and then some. He has voluntarily halted work on the 53-unit project, even though he has staff to pay.

It's a thorny one. We hope that a solution can be found soon, and that all parties walk away happy with the outcome.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Its not so much the new Hotels that are spoiling the place. How many more shophouses will be put up and remain unoccupied? Rawai used to be a haven now everywhere you turn, Shophouses Shophouses Shophouses and not 10 percent are occupied. Blot on the Landscape or what???

Posted by Greenman on September 21, 2010 13:08

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Greenman, can't do anything about those shop houses now, it's too late with more to come it looks like. Seems like the local land owners have figured out they can make more money renting and selling buildings than planting rubber and palm trees. And most of those shop houses won't be empty for too long with a new crop of expats coming in from Russia and India. The world is changing, so Phuket has to change sooner or later.

Posted by Treehugger on September 21, 2010 15:22

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Soon this island's jungle will start reclaiming all the nice, finished, unoccupied buildings on this concrete island. Then what Phuket, a new paradise begins. Stop the concrete jungle, tourists want nature and paradise, not concrete euro trash !

Posted by Graham on September 21, 2010 16:09

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Dear Greenman and Graham,
unfortunately the History can't teach the people: it was the same on Red Sea, in Tunisia, in Spain and in Hawaii and is already happened in Patong!!! Too many buildings and not enough customers to fill. And when the nature and jungle are destroyed, this is forever... Soon the bankrupt will come for many Thais.. and the next step will be the credit crunch.. the poor people will become more poor.. ( as in USA, in Ireland and soon in China)..

Posted by Dave on September 21, 2010 18:58

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" While the top two floors remain invisible for now, the nine apartments on each of the unbuilt floors have been sold, according to Khun Joe."

Who in any frame of sane mind, buys something that is not already built or there?

Posted by Robin on September 22, 2010 10:26

Editor Comment:

Buying off the plan is a standard option in many countries.

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Welcome to the endless growth model of capitalism.

Posted by Ripley on September 22, 2010 19:35

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Today I took a drive to Karon from Chalong to see the view for myself. What I found, is that, as you crest the hill and get a look at Kho Boo for the first time, I don't think the building will conceal the view. Only once you get lower down the hill will it disappear.

I think the building should continue and when the crane is gone, it will be ok. I don't live there and never ever will, so this is just my opinion.

Build on, dear fellow.

Posted by Robin on September 24, 2010 16:37

Editor Comment:

At the top of the hill the island may actually sit on the condo like an icecream on a cone, but an island with no water under it isn't quite the same.

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Hey Ed, have you check out the picture at the beginning of the story, the island has trees beneath it. I canna see nae water under it, looks more like little white roofs of more buildings.

However, when smoking the wrong stuff, I suppose you could also see whales frolicking in the bay too? Big whoo haa over nothing really.

Posted by Robin on September 24, 2010 18:51


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