Developers say they have lost NIS 100 million because they have been unable to start building a planned vacation village on the shore, after objections by environmentalists led to the government shelving the project.
By Zafrir Rinat | Jan.20, 2013

The Planning and Building Law does not assure that an area with approved plans is immune to changes in those plans, the state has told the Central District Court, in response to an appeal from developers who want to build a vacation village on the Palmahim Beach area of the southern Coastal Plain.

The government shelved the project in response to objections by environmentalists.

The court is scheduled to hear the developers’ appeal on Sunday. The appeal was submitted by real estate development firms Maoz Daniel and Avalon, which want the court to order the Central District Planning Commission to convene and re-approve the original plan to build the vacation village.

Two years ago, at the behest of environmental groups and other local activists, the government asked the planning commission, which had approved the vacation village plan, to reconsider it and examine alternatives.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority drew up a plan that would turn the Palmahim beach into a national park, but could not identify an alternative tract on which to build the vacation village.

The developers, meanwhile, insist that there is no alternative land available in the area and that they have already lost NIS 100 million because they have been unable to start building.

In its response, the state argues that the law does not convey “immunity” to any particular tract of land from having its zoning changed. If such a change is approved, the state said, the developers can apply for compensation.

But against the developers’ interest in preventing a change in the plans stands the clear public interest to maintain access to the beach and preserve it as a public resource for future generations, the state said. The state also said that an alternative plan is being considered and will be debated next month.

Meanwhile, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense has asked the court to include it as a respondent to the appeal, so that it can present the position of the environmental groups against approval of the vacation village plan. Among its objections is the concern that the vacation village will eventually turn into a private residential project that will permanently block public access to the beach.