Environmentalists win dispute over two 44-story buildings planned for Ahdod.
By Zafrir Rinat | Mar. 9, 2014

High-rise residential towers will not be allowed to be built in every urban residential neighborhood, according to a decision last month by the southern district Regional Planning and Building Committee.

The committee made the decision after accepting objections by a local environmental group to a plan to build two 44-story buildings for apartments and hotel rooms in one of Ashdod’s newer neighborhoods. The plan had been approved by Ashdod’s municipal planning and building committee, but the regional committee accepted the objections of the Public Forum for Environmental Quality. In accepting the objections, the committee noted that most of the neighborhood consists of two- and three-story homes, and near the planned construction site, at Yovel Square in a neighborhood known as Quarter 15, there are 12-story buildings.

The committee noted that the “building rights are exceptional with regard to the location of the complex and it does not conform to the environment.“ Granting these rights would mean an essential change to the character of the neighborhood without having gauged its effect on the surroundings, the committee said.

The committee also said that the towers do not conform to the city’s current planning concept, which is based on more dense construction in older neighborhoods.

There are also plans to build tall residential towers elsewhere in Ashdod, not far from the Yovel Square site, and environmentalists say they hope that the committee will reject that plan too.

The Public Forum for Environmental Quality raised a number of other objections, among them that the towers would block the view and the breeze enjoyed by residents of already existing buildings. Attorney Hagit Helmer, who submitted the objections to the regional planning and building committee, said that such construction requires extensive planning of entertainment sites, restaurants, shopping centers and public institutions and that these do not exist in Quarter 15, but rather are in the center of town.

Another objection was that the towers are being marketed mainly wealthy foreigners. Purchases of apartments in Ashdod by French Jews, particularly apartments near the beach, have driven up housing prices in this part of the city, critics say.

Residents of other cities, including Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, also object to the construction of towers of 30 or 40 stories in neighborhoods where the rest of the construction is low. They also argue that such towers ruin the skyline and that they are mainly destined for sale to the wealthy.