Ground floor for parking rule changed as not many follow it

Thromde:  With the number of vehicles in the capital city increasing almost on a daily basis, parking space crunch could soon take over others as a major problem for the thromde as well as motorists.

There are 36,273 vehicles in Thimphu as of January while parking spaces are not created although the thromde is in the midst of building two four-storied buildings with a combined parking space for 550 cars. The shortage has therefore pushed vehicles on public roads, as both sides of the roads are used as parking space.

This could worsen as the thromde had stopped allowing  ground floor (commonly called as basement) for parking space.  The thromde approved basement construction for vehicle parking spaces when the plot size fails to meet the required parking space, but Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said building owners are not making use of it. “When the plot size is small, vehicles cannot pass through the pillars,” he said.

The Bhutan building rules mandates every residential building to have a parking space in keeping with the number of dwelling units within their plot.Those without spaces propose the basement or the ground floor as the parking space but is converted into dwelling or shops once the building is completed.

The Thrompon said that when the built up basement is not feasible for parking spaces, owners convert and use it for commercial and residential purposes increasing the density of the area leading to an additional requirement of parking space and traffic congestion within the town.

Thromde’s officiating chief with the development control division, Palden Khandu said that the number of applicants  proposing for basement when presenting building plans and drawings for approval has declined over the years.

Thimphu thromde received only 42 proposals for basement construction since 2013, after the office issued an order stating that basement construction will not be allowed irrespective of its location and land use in August 2012.

“The investments in constructing a basement in buildings are high while the rate of return is nominal,” said Palden Khandu.

However, there are few cases when the proposal for basement construction is approved.

The Thrompon said that the proposal for basement construction will be approved if the plot is of 25 decimals and in cases where the plot is located on a sloppy area.

There have been issues in the past where buildings were not built according to approved drawings, said Palden Khandu. “Realising the lapses, thromde strictly monitors the basement proposals. Buildings built from 2014 onwards will not have such issues,” he said.

He said that for each basement proposal, concerned thromde officials and thrompon make site visits, look at the plot and designs, and make sure the applicant’s proposal is genuine. Building owners attribute the huge loan repayments they have to make to the banks for converting the parking space into room or shops.

“Every extra Ngultrum is needed to repay the loans. It becomes difficult when the rental income is not enough to pay the monthly installments,” said a building owner in Changzamtog. “We convert that after getting approval from the thromde.”

According to building rules, basement is permissible only for vehicular parking or store spaces, yet in commercial areas like Norzin Lam, basements for shops are permitted with the approval of city council. However, using it for residential purpose is not permitted.

The city is estimated to house around 6,500 buildings till April this year.