A plane flying over a neighborhood near Ben-Gurion Airport
A plane flying over a neighborhood near Ben-Gurion Airport. Photo by Alon Ron
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Residents of communities near Ben-Gurion International Airport will be compensated by the state for the drop in value of their homes due to the increase in aircraft noise, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled yesterday.

In her ruling, Judge Michal Agmon instructed an appraiser to gauge the extent of the damage inflicted on residents according to specific parameters. Residents will be compensated according to the amount determined by the appraiser.

Residents have complained about the noise, which has increased since 2000, when the airport underwent an extensive expansion, including the opening of Terminal 3. Lawsuits brought by communities against the project have totaled NIS 5 billion.

"The time has come to recognize people's right to live in a fitting environment," Agmon wrote. "Living in the modern world ... brings with it improvements in technology and a rise in the standard of living. Yet that same technology and those same airplanes also bring serious hazards, including noise and pollution."

The judge noted that while the state had approved the airport's expansion to enable more passengers to fly, this subsequently harmed the quality of life in local townships.

"We mustn't continue to shift the economic burden onto the shoulders of the community residents alone," she wrote. "This is the meaning of environmental justice."

"The welfare and quality of life of the individual is to a great extent dependent on the environment in which that person lives," Agmon continued.

The case was heard as an appeal of an earlier decision handed down by the District Planning and Building Committee. In 2007, the committee's appeals council rejected most of the lawsuits filed by the residents of Or Yehuda, Modi'in, Lod and other communities. The panel ruled that the level of noise was not sufficient enough for these areas to be affected and that their property value had dropped by no more than 5 percent.

Agmon threw out the committee's criteria and determined her own set of parameters to gauge the extent to which the homes' values had been affected. According to the judge's ruling, their decrease in value will be calculated by measuring the noise levels generated by the old airport terminal (with a capacity of four million passengers per year ) compared to the new terminal (with a capacity of 16 million passengers per year ).

The judge also ruled that those home buyers who signed a declaration which stated they were aware of the noise caused by arriving and departing airplanes at Ben-Gurion Airport, and that they waived their right to sue, will not be able to claim compensation.

The Israel Airports Authority said in response to the ruling that it plans to file an appeal. "At this stage, the judge's ruling is not an actionable plan," the IAA said in a statement. "Rather it represents a set of instructions for the Central District Planning and Building Committee's appeals panel. The IAA invests tens of millions of dollars in providing sound barriers for apartment buildings and schools in communities neighboring Ben-Gurion Airport. In addition, the IAA has adopted the most advanced soundproofing standards in the world."

The IAA added that the airport has served "to foment economic growth in all of the communities located in its vicinity," and that the values of homes in nearby towns such as Shoham, Yehud and Beit Dagan have actually risen due to their proximity to Ben-Gurion Airport.