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(1/27/2013) The well-written and researched Balipublika has published an examination of the long-standing case of the Best Western Resort Kuta – a hotel that continues to operate despite violating local zoning laws, lacking a building permit and the absence of an operating licenses.
The Best Westerns Resort Kuta stands on a back avenue of Kuta, a short distance from the landmark St. Franciscus Xaverius Catholic Church. A three-storey building, room rates run between US$50 – US$100 per night.
In 2011, the hotel was sealed by Badung regency officials and a sign proclaiming the hotel’s illegal status posted outside its fence. The owner ignored the closure order, wrapped the government notice in white cloth and continued to operate the hotel.
A spokesman for the Badung regency, Anak Agung Raka Yuda, told Balipublika that the Best Western Kuta Resort was erected illegally in an area zoned soley for single family residences and that tourism accommodation was strictly not allowed in that location.
According to Balipublika, the owner of the resort, Wayan Wijana, supported the election of the current regent of Badung, Anak Agung Gede Agung and his vice-regent Sudikerta in the 2010 elections. During the course of that election, Sudikerta was also reported to have visited Wijana’s house.
Wijana, however, denies any connection between the failure of the regency to strictly enforce the law and his close relationship with the two top officials of the regency. Defending this position, Wijana retorts: “If that was true, it is impossible that the regent would have sealed my hotel or filed a police report against me.”
The Beginning of the Conflict
Before the 111-room Best Western Kuta Resort was built its predecessor was the 7-room Sapta Petala Hotel owned by the Wijana family.
The original Sapta Petala Hotel was built by Wijana’s Father in the 1970s, becoming one of the first hotels in Kuta’s seminal days of tourism.
After the 2002 Bali bombing when tourist arrivals to Bali plummeted, the small hotel became a boarding house in order to financially survive. Then, in 2005, the Wijana family wanted to take advantage of improving tourism prospects and decided to build a largere hotel on their land.
To achieve this dream, Wijana sold family lands in the Kedonganan area of Jimbaran to generate the funds to undertake the construction of a larger hotel on the Sapta Petala site.
In 2007, the family extended the operating permit of the Sapta Petala Resort and reportedly announced their intent to add more rooms with local community officials (kelurahan and Kecamatan) and sought permission from adjoining property owners (izin penyanding).
When Wijana approached the Tourism Service of the Badung Regency with his expansion plan, however, he was asked to seek a new license. “The reason given at the time,” said Wijana, “was that the additional number of rooms was substantial and the old permit no longer applied for the larger property.”
The original permit issued to the seven-room Sapta Petala Hotel in1983 by the Province of Bali was only for a small “melati hotel” or inn.
Wijana then attempted to put forward an application for a new operating permit. And although the new permit has not been approved, he pushed ahead with the construction of the hotel. In 2008, enforcement officers from the Badung Enforcement Agency (Satpol PP) visited the construction site and told Wijana to halt the project due to its lack of the necessary permits. Wijana ignored the officers order, explaining that is new permit was still "in progress."
Despite several warnings to halt building, the construction of the new hotel continued was completed in 2009. A management deal was then cut with Best Western Hotels that paved the way for its rebranding.
With his hotel completed and a management contract signed, Wijana revisited the Badung Tourism Office seeking an operating permit for his new hotel. At that time, the Badung officials explained that the desired permit could not be issued as the hotel’s construction violated the 2002 zoning law for Kuta.
In 2010, Enforcement officials (Satpol PP) again visited the hotel and issued a formal warning demanding the property cease operations. And, again, Wijana ignored the officials, now claiming his original permit for the Sapta Petala Hotel was sufficient and made it legal for him to operate the larger property.
“If I am violating the law, then why was I given the original license by the province? Why wasn’t I told I am not allowed to build? Now, when the building stands and employs tens of workers, it becomes a problem. This is not fair,” complained Wijana.
Wijana also insists he did not know that the area used for this hotel is zoned strictly for residential dwellings and prohibited from being used for a hotel. He claims that the zoning rules were never socialized to local community members.
The Badung regency counters Wijana's arguments, saying three separate official warning letters have been sent the hotel’s owner. Moreover, Wijana was called to attend Commission B meetings at the Badung House of Representatives (DPR-Badung) where he was also told to immediately cease operations. And, again repeating an established pattern, Wijana ignored officialdom and continued to operate his hotel.
Apparently, Wijana’s confidence in the face of official warnings was grounded in the knowledge that “fees” had been paid to certain legislators who had promised to assist in the issuance of the needed licenses. “I already paid lots of money to obtain theses licenses,” lamented Wijana.
Angered that reported warnings were being repeatedly ignored by the Best Western Kuta Resort, the regent of Badung, Anak Agung Gede Agung, issued an order on April 28, 2011 for the hotel to be sealed and closed.
While the owners offered no resistance when officials came to “seal” the hotel and post an official notice at the property’s entrance, the sealing did not necessarily mean an absolute closure of the hotel. Badung enforcement officials explain that an abrupt closure of the hotel might inconvenience guest, prompting officials to grant time for guest in house at the time of the official closure to complete their booked stay.
Days after a large wooden sign declaring the property illegal and closed was erected by Badung officials at the hotel's entrance, the hotel staff covered the sign in a white cloth. And the operation of the resort continued unabated.
A member of the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali), Wayan Diesel Astawa, sees the drawn out case of the Best Western Kuta Resort as a bad precedent for law enforcement in Bali. “Other investors will certainly see this case and the steps taken by the owner to avoid the law. Earlier the Badung regency said the Best Western is violating the law, so why don’t we just immediately tear it down? Let’s not be seen as toothless tigers,” said Diesel.
Diesel says the Best Western Kuta Resort is a failure of both the owners and many other parties. Technically, he contends, permission to build must be in hand before building process commences. Admitting it is unlikely that the Best Western Hotel will now be torn down, Diesel is calling on the government to quickly find an acceptable solution to the legal impasse embodied in the Best Western Kuta Resort case.
Meanwhile, the lack of an operating license for the Best Western Kuta also makes it impossible for the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) to provide an official classification for the property.
[Webs Woven in Deception]
[The Slow Moving Wheels of Justice in Bali]
[How Goes the Best Western Kuta?]
[Crime and Punishment in Bali]
[Keeping the Rule of Law Under Cover]
[Warming to the Fight]
[Best Western Kuta Changes its Name & Fights Back]
[All the Best Westerns End in a Showdown]
[Best Western Kuta in Bali Posted and Closed]