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Photo by: Gal Ayal/SPNI
Panel postpones new hotels on Eilat’s Almog Beach
By SHARON UDASIN
02/19/2013
Partner in one firm involved in plans for complex confident of project’s success – despite his offer to sell land.
 
The objections board of the Southern District Committee for Planning Partner in one of firms planning to build complex confident of project’s success, despite offering to sell the land Building has sided with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and decided on Thursday to hold off on making a decision about plans for a hotel complex on Eilat’s Almog Beach.

Disputing the project from the onset, an SPNI marine biologist examined the potential impacts of building a hotel in the area before then submitting an official opinion to the objections board.

The plans call for the establishment of both a 10- story hotel and a commercial center on a 1.2-hectare plot, just over 100 meters from the shore and located behind the Coral World – Underwater Observatory Marine Park. SPNI had argued in the objection – submitted last spring – that the construction would cause irreversible damage to Eilat’s scenery and that the shore had already reached development capacity.

“This is a clear case in which it is necessary to employ the precautionary principle and reject the plan,” a statement from SPNI said.

After hearing the objections, the committee decided to appoint its own external marine ecologist to examine the plans and submit reviews about potential environmental hazards – like lighting, infrastructure, sewage, pollution, dust, irrigation and fertilizer use, according to the decision. As necessary, the conclusions made by the ecologist will be incorporated into the project’s provisions, and the committee must receive these conclusions within 60 days. Afterwards, the committee will then discuss the plan and further objections once again before reaching a decision, the committee said.

At an objections board forum that took place on February 4, prior to Thursday’s decision, the local marine biologist working with SPNI – Dr. Jacob Dafni – explained to committee representatives that never before had a hotel been constructed so close to the city’s coral reefs. These reefs, he explained, are Eilat’s number one attraction and could be easily damaged by such a project.

Yehuda Katav, a partner from one of the firms planning to build the hotel, Derech HaArava Ltd., said in response to the objections that the project team had integrated all requests of the Environmental Protection Ministry in the plans, and that all water, for instance, will be recycled internally rather than emptied into the Red Sea.

“Because it’s an ecological hotel and we are establishing it according to green building codes, there is no problem,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday afternoon.

Speaking with the Post in June, Katav said that the developers have been receiving trouble from green groups about the plan for the past 15 years. He went so far as to say that the plans have caused so much stress for the companies involved that if the green groups “like the project [site], please buy it.”

He noted, however, that the complex was slated to be built across Road 90 away from the shore, and that all plans were according to green codes.

His offer to sell the site to green groups or to the government still stands, however.

“If the government wants to make a solution and buy it from us, they are very welcome,” Katav said.

That being said, Katav stressed that he was confident the hotel complex would emerge successfully.

"It’s 100 percent,” he said.

“Nothing will stop the project.”
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