Mayors Oppose Housing on Military Industries Compound in Central Israel

Area towns ask interior minister to hold up approval of plans until a full environmental survey is conducted.

Alon Ron

The mayors of three towns in the center of the country have asked Interior Minister Gilad Erdan to delay the process of approving a plan for mass construction in the area between Ramat Hasharon, Hod Hasharon and Herzliya until a comprehensive environmental survey is conducted. The huge plot of land, covering the site of an Israel Military Industries complex that is to be converted into housing, is suspected to be heavily contaminated and the mayors are demanding that the pollution study be carried out before any plans are approved.

The plan has already reached the final approval stages in the Tel Aviv Local Planning and Building Committee. A number of appeals were filed against the plan after the committee approved it, and they will be discussed at the beginning of January by the National Planning and Building Committee’s appeals committee.

The planned complex covers some 7,000 dunams (1,750 acres) and includes over 20,000 residential units in a number of different sections, each of which has its own detailed plan. The area under debate is highly contaminated – both the soil and the groundwater – as a result of IMI’s operations there. The present plan states that the study of the pollution and its treatment will be carried out in stages, separately for every section to be constructed.

The three mayors told Erdan that before approving a plan of such large scope, the pollution survey should be conducted first, as well as the environmental survey of the entire complex as a whole, and not for just the separate parts. The lack of such surveys at this stage could make the future plans irrelevant, and could threaten the residents of neighboring towns and neighborhoods, wrote the mayors.

The planning committees and government ministries only see the economic potential of the site and not the health of the future residents and hundreds of thousands of others living nearby, said the mayors.

The appeals committee will discuss more than the issue of pollution at its meeting next month. Another issue will be a request to declare the whole area – or a large part of it – a park to preserve the green area and open space, as well as a recreational area near the crowded urban areas of the center of the country. The mayors asked to completely cancel the plan a year ago and make the area a park, but did not mention this request this time.

The government’s position is that there is no need for a complete environmental survey before approving the plans, and the land also cannot be cleaned up before funding is found since the costs of the cleanup will be very high. The funding is supposed to come from revenues from selling the land for residential construction.