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The Hetzi Hinam supermarket chain is liable to run into problems when it tries to build a new store on the land it purchased from Ganden and Delek Real Estate for $25 million. The chain bought the plot after receiving an eviction notice for its branch at nearby Yarkonim junction, which the court ruled had been built without proper permits and was being operated illegally.

Hetzi Hinam's relocation plans were thrown into disarray, however, when it emerged that another private supermarket chain, Stop Market, had already signed an agreement for the construction of a supermarket on a 4,000-square-meter (43,200 square-foot) space in a shopping center planned for that area. Stop Market CEO Yossi Mashiah claims exclusivity for a supermarket at the planned commercial center, contending that the agreement states no supermarket other than Stop Market can be built in the commercial center.

The project, located at the entrance to Hod Hasharon, covers some 45 dunams (11 acres), but its first stage will involve only a 25,000-square-meter shopping center. The second stage includes plans for an office tower. There will be 80 stores in the shopping center, and most of the commercial space in it has already been rented to private or chain stores.

One of the large anchor stores was supposed to be a Stop Market branch. The chain, which currently operates two branches - one along the highway near Moshav Beit Herut and the other at Tel Aviv port - is planning to open two more large outlets within a year. The first will be the one in Hod Hasharon, with the second apparently in the Yagur power center.

Hetzi Hinam's Yarkonim branch, which is adjacent to the site of the new project, is to be vacated in keeping with the terms of a plea bargain reached between the local planning and building committee and Hetzi Hinam and its owners, concerning four indictments. The sides formulated the plea bargain after the previous court order to close the branch in 1999 was not honored. The arrangements, approved recently by the Petah Tikva court, include orders for the closure of the Hetzi Hinam branch, the cessation of use of the building housing it and the demolition of the building by March 2006 and fines of NIS 690,000 against Hetzi Hinam. The chain's owners are Zahi and Mazal Shalom and Cooper Lee Zvi.

The court approved the fine, but hinted that it might have considered a heavier punishment.

"The court would certainly not have ruled a monetary punishment lower than that in the plea bargain reached by the sides," wrote Judge Aharon Makover in the ruling. "Given the circumstances under which the court's order was violated for several years, it is uncertain whether the court would not have considered a prison sentence."

During legal discussions between the sides, it turned out that there is planning chaos in the Yarkonim area, including the irregular use of both legally and illegally built structures. The Petah Tikva city engineer said it would take six or seven years to approve all the rezoning plans, while sources in the planning committee said a permanent solution could be found for the area within five years.

The fines included in the plea bargain are NIS 100,000 each against the Shaloms and Zvi, and NIS 490,000. The approval to extend the execution of the closure and demolition orders until March 2006 was based on the agreement of the local planning committee and the fact that the building has permits from the fire and building safety authorities and does not pose a danger to the public.