J'lem Engineer, Adviser Want Holyland Project Stopped

Jerusalem's municipal engineer and legal adviser have called for a halt to construction at the Holyland residential project, the center of the latest corruption scandal in which former prime minister Ehud Olmert is a suspect.

Engineer Shlomo Eshkol and city lawyer Yosef Havilio have no authority to order the project stopped, but they issued an opinion on the subject yesterday.

The local planning and building committee will hold a hearing on Monday about the project's future. A senior source at Jerusalem's city hall said chances are high that the committee will decide to put further construction at the site on hold.

Sources say the developers submitted a request to the Jerusalem municipality in January, just before the opening of the criminal investigation. The developers sought approval for a change so that the number of apartments in the project could be increased by 20 percent. The request has not yet been considered.

At this point about half the planned project has been built: Five 20-story towers joined on the top floor and a 32-story building containing 415 apartments. Plans have been approved for four more 20-story buildings and another 32-story tower. Two other towers are currently under construction, and excavation has been carried out to prepare the foundation for three more towers.

Havilio and Eshkol are seeking a halt to construction of at least those three towers. They say the developers have no legal right to build the towers. In the opinion they submitted to Deputy Mayor Yosef (Pepe) Alalu, they say a total of 580 apartments have been approved and, with the inclusion of the two towers currently under construction, about 500 units have been built or are underway.

Havilio and Eshkol say the number of approved units will be exceeded if the three planned towers are built; this is why the developers submitted their request in January to be able to increase the number of apartments in the project by 20 percent.

In light of the opinion submitted by Eshkol and Havilio, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Kobi Kahalon ordered the meeting of the local planning and building committee for Monday.