C'tee to Rethink Planned Military Port for Haifa

A committee headed by a reserve major general will examine the alternative proposed by the Haifa municipality to a military port in the city, according to an agreement reached between Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and the Defense Ministry.

Two years ago the Defense Ministry presented Haifa with a plan to expand a military port and build a new marina for the navy, at the northwest of Haifa's port.

Yahav said that the Defense Ministry concealed its intention to build excessively large buildings, as part of the military port, in places including the area near the tourist attraction of the Bahai Gardens.

"We found out by accident," Yahav said. "The project's landscape architect, who lives in Haifa, said he would not take part in building those gigantic buildings. He resigned and came to tell me."

The plan was to construct buildings much taller and wider than permitted, including a central structure 150 meters wide and 25 meters tall. The massive construction would be a fatal blow to the city's tourism, economy and environment between the Carmel and Bahai Gardens to the German Colony (Ben-Gurion Boulevard).

In addition, the plan is contrary to the city master plan stipulating that the region would serve as a commercial, tourism and entertainment center, as it has become in recent years.

"This ruins Haifa's strategic and tourist assets," said Yahav. "It damages our ability to attract foreign and domestic tourism, and harms our place on the tourism map,"

Despite this, the special planning committee that deals with defense projects approved the plan.

Haifa's appeal to the appeals committee was rejected, and two weeks ago it appealed to the Jerusalem District Court against the appeals committee, the Defense Ministry and special planning committee to revoke the plan.

"The defense authorities must understand that they can't do whatever they like under the guise of defense," Yahav said. "They must act with transparency. In this case concealing information will cause a fatal blow to an entire city."

MK Ophir Paz-Pines, chairman of the Knesset's Interior and Environment Committee, told Haaretz that the committee's legal advisers are preparing a bill to grant cities the right to appeal decisions to build defense structures.

The municipality proposes building the military port in the eastern side of the existing port, to reduce the harm to the environment. It would also enable developing the urban sea front as part of the city's master plan. This would not have been possible had the Defense Ministry's plans for the military port been carried out.