By SHARON UDASIN 02/28/2012 03:39
The residents of Givat Masua and their supporters have until March 8 to file objections to both the regional and local planning committees.
Looking up at Givat Masua By Sharon Udasin
A green, blossoming valley along Jerusalem’s most southwestern border may soon be populated by 482 new apartment units in high-rise buildings – unless the objections of local residents strike a chord with the city’s regional planning committee.

The residents of Givat Masua and their supporters have until March 8 to file objections to both the regional and local planning committees stating their opposition to the construction of apartment buildings on the grassy, wooded slope trailing down from their neighborhood into the Refaim Valley below.

Already, 400 people from the neighborhood’s 1,200 families have filed their petitions, and Dan Amir, resident coordinator of the efforts, said he expects to have 500 by the deadline.

The new neighborhood, which would be called “Mordot Masua,” would be built among trees planted throughout the years by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund volunteers and would push gazelles and other local wildlife out, Amir told The Jerusalem Post during a tour of the area on Monday morning.

“We are talking about an area now that is still open space,” said Amir, who is one of the managers of the Community Park Administration that oversees maintenance of the local parks of Givat Masua, Ir Ganim and Kiryat Menahem.

“We think it should remain like this because of the nature and the history of the place,” he added, noting that it harbored Jerusalem’s main food supply during biblical times. “It’s very important to leave this for the next generation.”

Both the current residents of Givat Masua and the forthcoming residents of Mordot Masua would find themselves at a disadvantage if the new neighborhood does arise, according to Amir.

Many of Givat Masua’s residents have already informed him that they would leave the neighborhood – and Jerusalem at large – if the new apartments are built, especially since the high-rise, eight to 10-story buildings would likely block their view of the valley, Amir said.

“People came and bought flats because of this view,” Amir said.

Meanwhile, another resident of the area, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, would lose much of the natural setting that surrounds it, Amir said, and the new residents of Mordot Mesua would have to cope with the noises and smells emanating from the zoo.

Near Givat Masua is the Lavan Valley in the adjacent Kiryat Menahem neighborhood, whose green agricultural terraces held farms and wineries in ancient times and in the spring months are “like a carpet of flowers.”

They are slated to be flattened and traversed by a road connecting Givat Masua to the Ora junction and Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Amir explained.

The anticipated four-lane road has aroused much local contention, and will soon be under discussion in the High Court following a complaint filed by a private citizen.

“We all have the same feeling – there should be someone from an organized group that does the job, like SPNI [the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel], but they haven’t,” Amir said.

In response, an SPNI spokesman said that the environmental organization does not oppose the plans because it considers Mordot Masua to be an expansion of Givat Masua.

“The plan is to expand an existing neighborhood, in accordance with national planning policy. The condensation and strengthening of existing neighborhoods, which prevent the need for establishing new neighborhoods, are policies that SPNI supports,” the spokesman said.

One alternative, suggested by Amir and his fellow residents, is to invest money in improving and renovating nearby Ir Ganim’s impoverished areas – such as those on Stern, Costa Rica and Hanurit streets.

“The municipality should go for this,” he said. “But they are just going for the easy way, and the easy way is not the right way or the good way. They are going against the interests of the public.”