The Supreme Administrative Court rendered the 109-Pan-56 Decision of February 6, 2020 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that whether a building can be registered as a historic building or not should be determined by a review committee composed of representatives of the authorities and scholars and experts; and if there is no wanton violation of the law, the court should respect the results of its determination and can hardly accuse it of legal violation.
According to the facts underlying this Decision, the building at issue was constructed by the Appellee in 1955. A borough chief, not a party to this lawsuit, of a borough where the building at issue was located reported that the building at issue is of cultural value. The Appellee registered the building at issue as a historic building in Taipei City by way of public announcement (hereinafter, the “Original Disposition”). After the Appellee brought an administrative action, the original trial court issued a decision (hereinafter, the “Previous Decision”) to set aside the Original Disposition on the ground that the Appellant’s recognition of the building at issue as a historic building was based on erroneous facts such as whether the building at issue had a fireplace. Since the Appellant did not appeal, the previous decision became final. The Appellant reopened the investigation. After the Taipei City Cultural Assets Review Committee (hereinafter, the “Committee”) conducted a review again later, it believed that the building at issue met the evaluation standard under Article 2, Paragraphs 1 and 4 of the Rules for the Review and Facilitation on the Registration and Annulment of Historic Buildings effective at the time of the disposition, still concluded that the building at issue is a historic building and issued a letter to the Appellee to that effect. Dissatisfied with the letter and the Original Disposition, the Appellee filed an administrative appeal. The portion about the above letter was not accepted by a decision which rejected the portion about the Original Disposition. The Appellee brought an administrative action to set aside the Original Disposition and the decision on administrative appeal. The original trial court set aside the Original Disposition and the decision on the administrative appeal. The Appellant was dissatisfied and appealed.
According to this decision, Article 2, Paragraph 1 of the Rules for the Review and Facilitation on the Registration and Annulment of Historic Buildings effective at the time of the disposition provides that the registration of historic buildings shall be based on the following standards: “(1) they shall have historical and cultural value; (2) they shall convey regional style or folk art characteristics; (3) they shall be valuable in architectural or technical history; or (4) they shall be otherwise valuable as historic buildings” (renamed as the Rules for the Review and Facilitation on the Registration and Annulment of Historic Buildings and Memorial Buildings with revision to their provisions on July 27, 2017). The above determination standards are all uncertain legal concepts, professional in nature and involve cultural value judgments. Whether or not the building at issue could be registered as a historic building should be determined by a review committee consisting of representatives of the authorities and scholars and experts based on their expertise and should be respected by the court. It is difficult to accuse an administrative agency of violating the law if it does not wantonly make a determination.
This Decision further stated that the original decision neither applied the rules effective at the time of the disposition as the review standard nor specifically indicated the newly amended provision which was relied on for the review and elected to point out that the Original Disposition had failed to perform the explanation obligation for a disposition that registers cultural assets. Since the original decision was potentially reckless, it was unlawful for insufficiency of grounds.