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Niseko Hirafu Welcomes Change in National Park Building Regulations

Jun 24, 2012

Niseko – Hirafu Village is about to see a new chapter in the area development, as a result of changes to the national park building regulations. On July 27, Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi granted a special exemption, which will allow the development of strata titled condominium hotels within Hirafu’s section of park. The vast majority of the ski-in, ski-out sites within Hirafu Village fall within this area, and most of these sites have changed into foreign ownership in the past few years. The impact for Hirafu Village, and the Niseko area in general is potentially huge, and I anticipate a large number of new developments, possibly with hundreds of condominium units.

Previously the park was zoned favorably for hotels, but was unclear for the less traditional condominium hotels, which was making it difficult for government to grant approval to new developments. The exemption will essentially extend the current building regulations for Hirafu Upper Village up into the park:

- Maximum height of 22 meters (about 6 stories)
- Building Coverage Ratio (Footprint) of 40% (previously 20% for non-hotels)
- Floor Area Ratio (Volume) of 300% (previously 60% for non-hotels)

The government has chosen to enforce a stricter setback of 10 meters from the road and 5 meters from the neighboring site. Upper Hirafu Village has setbacks of 4 meters from the road, and 2 meters from the neighboring site).

Each condominium will be compelled to provide accommodation services with the inn keeping license, which means that owners will not have the option of a condominium purely for private use. In addition, it is likely that each building will be compelled to reserve the ground floor for common space, for restaurants, onsens, spas, shops, and other commercial area. The purpose of these two rules is the underlying principle that the park is for everyone’s use, and both buildings and individual units should be accessible to the paying public.

The ruling applies to individual sites which currently or previously had hotel accommodation, rather than being a zone based rule. This means that existing parking lots will essentially remain.

Over the past few years, we have seen the demolition of Yamada Onsen, the Scott Hotel, Kogen Hotel, J-First Hotel, Takagi Sansoo, Uranako Lodge, and Ginreisoo. The loss of overnight hotel beds is especially onerous for Japanese tourism numbers, as the Japanese have short holidays and prefer fully serviced accommodation. Since Japanese still account for the majority of lift tickets, Grand Hirafu Resort has been feeling the pinch. The Governor’s special exemption essentially requires these developments to act as hotels, with large common areas and enforced letting, and many locals are hopeful that the needs of the domestic Japanese market will also be met.

Click here to download the special exemption (Japanese only).

The lots indicated in red are the affected areas of the exemption.

Hirafu National Park Exemption Map
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