Greens Ask Court to Scrap Kinneret Vacation Resort

Petitioners say building permit issued for the vacation facility by the Golan Planning and Building Committee is illegal.

The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva V'Din ) and other "green" activists asked the Nazareth District Court Monday to halt construction of a vacation village going up at the Kursi Beach on Lake Kinneret. Work on the vacation village began six months ago.

According to the petitioners, the building permit issued for the vacation facility by the Golan Planning and Building Committee is illegal, because it deviates significantly from conditions and restrictions cited in the area's zoning plan.

Illegal buildings on Kursi beach -  Archive: Dror Artzi / Jini - 02112011
Archive: Dror Artzi / Jini

Among other things, the group said, the building permit allows for 3,100 square meters of construction, while the zoning plan allows only 2,800.

The permit also, according to the petition, "totally contravenes many important and obligatory instructions in the [zoning] plan, including the obligation to build a promenade along the shore and assure public access to the beach; issues relating to the development and roadwork in the area, including the paving of public parking lots; and the obligation to obtain approval, prior to receiving the permit, for a drainage and sewerage plan."

In a professional opinion submitted with the petition, the IUED's senior planner, Yael Dori, wrote that developing the huge vacation village, which includes a tourist center, could seriously harm the area's nature and landscape by blocking the contiguity of the open spaces, which contain many natural habitats, and increasing the number of people who would be plying the area.

About a month ago, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss visited the area at the behest of the hotel's opponents and hinted that he might intervene.

The story of the hotel plan for the area, known to surfers as Diamond Beach, goes back 15 years, when the Israel Lands Administration put forward a plan to build a marina and a hotel at the site that was nixed when it was the subject of a negative environmental impact statement.

The ILA agreed to reduce the size of the hotel, drop the marina plan, build a public promenade along the shore and - most importantly - said it would support a plan to declare the area on both sides of the Nahal Samech estuary a nature reserve.

From then, until the winner of the tender to build the vacation village was announced five years ago, no further objections were raised. The ILA went forward with the hotel plan, which had the full support of the Golan Regional Council, and it sailed through all the planning bodies. Opposition that arose in 2006 receded when the main activists were called up to serve in the Second Lebanon War.