Municipal c’tee nixes blueprints for 3 Holyland towers

Permits for previously approved additions in sprawling south Jerusalem complex permanently frozen.

Holyland projectt311 (photo credit: AP)
Holyland projectt311
(photo credit: AP)
The sprawling Holyland complex in south Jerusalem, affectionately termed “The Monster” by some city council members, was planned to be even bigger. A second round of approved construction called for three more apartment towers, two of which were planned for at least 20 stories.
But the new construction was effectively canceled last week when the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee voted to permanently freeze the necessary permits.
The permits for the additional construction were initially frozen for 120 days starting on May 3. The freeze was announced just a few weeks after the allegations broke of a massive bribery scheme, which has embroiled former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, among others, for accepting bribes of millions of shekels for the project, according to police. That initial freeze expired at the end of August, prompting the Local Committee to act now.
The municipality’s success in stopping the additional construction was a small salve for “one of the most difficult chapters in the city’s history,” according to city council member and opposition head Pepe Alalu.
“Everyone, almost without exception, says ‘How was this monster built in front of our eyes and we weren’t able to do anything?’ I think the public gave us the mandate to do everything we could, a mandate to get to something that at least gives a little compensation to the city,” he told The Jerusalem Post. He hopes that they will be able to build a park in the three plots where the towers were planned.
“That project was not right from the beginning and it got worse as it got along, but some of the worst parts were the extra building percentages over and above what should have been approved,” said Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, who sits on the Local Committee and filed a complaint against the building of Holyland in 1996 as the head of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
“Once you realize the permit was given wrongly, then you can’t go on,” she said. “I was very proud to be part of a new administration that’s trying to put right what went so terribly wrong,”
The city’s legal adviser, attorney Yossi Havilio, recommended freezing the permits rather than canceling the entire project, to avoid a lawsuit by the contractors, Alalu said. He added that the municipality was sure that the contractors would not be able to get the freeze lifted on the yearlong permits. Once the permits expire, the city can cancel the project.
The contractors have the option of appealing the decision of the Local Committee to the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee, which is under the direction of the Interior Ministry.