Jerusalem hilltop with deer herd under threat of development

JNF: Mitzpe Naphtoach, near Ramot neighborhood, should remain undeveloped, not be zoned for construction.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
February 2, 2010 09:35
1 minute read.
Deer.

deer. (photo credit: Amir Balaban)

The future of the oft-disputed Mitzpe Naphtoach next to Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood is once again set to come up for discussion at the National Planning and Building Council on Tuesday. At issue is whether to remove it from National Outline Plan 22, which governs forests around the country.

The hilltop, which has been at the center of conservationist efforts for years, is home to a wide variety of animal and plant life, including a herd of deer. At the same time, it is zoned for housing, and in the past the Jewish National Fund has said they would not object to developing it. However, the JNF has now changed its position, board of directors member Prof. Alon Tal told The Jerusalem Post Monday. The JNF will tell the council that it now believes Mitzpe Naphtoach should remain undeveloped, the veteran environmental activist said.

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Tal said the original deal was conceived under former mayor Ehud Olmert to create a metropolitan park in another area of the city, in exchange for turning Mitzpe Naphtoach into a housing development.

The Jerusalem Municipality would first like to see what the JNF's position is and would perhaps like to see the hilltop intelligently developed, deputy mayor for environment and planning Naomi Tsur told the Post Monday night.

“It’s a very complicated issue. On the one hand, it’s clearly a wooded area with a great deal of wildlife. On the other hand, by excluding it from development plans, the city is reducing its building reserves, and therefore it may be that young couples won’t have affordable housing anywhere in the city. In addition, if Mitzpe Naphtoach is not developed, then it may encourage urban sprawl in the future, which is certainly not sustainable,” she said.

She said that she had asked the JNF to reexamine its plans to determine whether they had used the five percent that can be rezoned for development elsewhere in the city.

“One possibility would be to intelligently develop the area to preserve it and build housing. Housing could perhaps be built closer to Ramot along the edge,” she added.

Local residents who formed environmental group Ramot for the Environment have been campaigning to keep the hilltop pristine for years. They have sent letters twice to the national council, asking that it desist from discussing National Outline Plan 22 until all the development plans have been completed.


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