Last Thursday, Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon declared independence from the Planning Administration. "In the past, we copied what they decided for us. We're going to reverse this," he said, summing up the vote in the Herzliya City Council. Sitting as the plenum of the Herzliya Local Planning and Building Commission, the Council approved for deposit plan 2530, a new version of Herzliya's outline plan. While the previous was dictated to the municipality from above, according to Fadlon, the current version is defiant and challenging. It cancels the Apollonia national outline plan and the airport national outline plan, and cuts the number of housing units added to the city in the previous version by two thirds.
The previous version of the outline plan was deposited in March 2017. Following widespread protest by the city's residents that jeopardized Fadlon's position, the District Planning and Building Commission took the unusual step of canceling the depositing of the plan and returned it to the municipality. The District Planning and Building Commission told the municipality to examine the plan's public transportation and infrastructure aspects, including drainage, sewage, urban renewal, etc.
Some believe that returning the plan for discussion was a life preserver sent by Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, responsible for the Planning Administration, to Fadlon.
Immediately after the plan was returned to him, however, Fadon went on the offensive against the government agencies, which he said had dictated the plan according to Kahlon's demand to approve more and more housing units, in many cases without checking whether local infrastructure would be adequate for the planned units.
The municipality says that in the revised version of the plan, the compatibility of the housing units and infrastructure was examined, resulting in the number of housing units to be added to the city being cut dramatically from 52,000 in the version deposited in 2017 to just 18,000 in the current version.
Herzliya outline plan
The Ministry of Finance may regard it as rebellion, but it is no surprise that the first plans to go under the ax as a result of the reconsideration were the government plans for Apollonia; for the IMI Industries site; and for a site called the "Northern Quarter," which contains Gan Rashal, Nahalat Ada, and the site of Herzliya Airport (slated for evacuation). Through the National Planning and Building Commission for High-Priority Region Housing, the government plans to build 3,900 housing units at Apollonia, 15,000 housing units in the Northern Quarter, and 5,000 on the IMI site (located in southeastern Herzliya on the boundary with Ramat Hasharon) - a total of 24,000 housing units.
The new Herzliya outline plans provides for only 7,200 housing units in the Northern Quarter, Apollonia, and the IMI site; these have been classified as sites for future planning.
The municipality explained that it had decided to avoid planning sites that there was little chance of developing in the coming years. "What is unrealistic will not be done," it said.
"The state talks about housing units? I'm talking first of all about infrastructure - about what is happening in the field," Fadlon says. "Apollonia has to be decontaminated at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels, just for 3,000 housing units. I have a municipal urban renewal plan that contains 9,000 housing units that requires only a quarter of the amount that the state wants to invest in Apollonia. This is a green area with vegetation and rare animals adjacent to an archaeological site - why destroy this place? It's time for Israel to give us responsibility and authority over the area, and we will plan it better than the Planning Administration and the National Planning and Building Commission for High-Priority Region Housing. Let me do it."
Ironically, just hours after the plan was approved, the High Court of Justice ruled that the National Planning and Building Commission for High-Priority Region could go ahead with the Apollonia site, despite the land pollution discovered there.
Fadlon himself has no illusions that the Planning Administration will welcome the municipality's act. He again emphasized, however, the high level of the professional examinations featured in the new plan: both the professional personnel involved and one of the main sources of the residents' complaints about the plan's previous format - public participation. The current plan was drawn up following 22 meetings with the public. "Herzliya constitutes about 1% of Israel's population, and it is contributing 18,000 housing units. I only wish that all of the authorities would do the same as I did - the country would get over 1.5 million planned housing units. I've done my share," Fadlon declared.
Fadlon's personal lesson from this saga is "The state should release land. It has to listen to people living in these places, and it isn't doing that. It's charging straight ahead without looking right or left. It's nice that in Jerusalem they're talking about housing units when there's no water, no drainage, and no airport being vacated."
Now the ball, or rather the hot planning potato, is in the court of the Tel Aviv District Planning and Building Commission, whose chairperson, Daniela Posek, says cautiously, "The plan has not yet reached us, so we can't comment on it." She mentions, however, that the Tel Aviv District Planning and Building Commission discusses every plan submitted to it, and has the authority to approve, revise, or change it, "whichever is relevant." Things will clearly not go so smoothly.
Herzliya is not the only place where residents have risen up against outline plans adding tens of thousands of people to their cities. They are making the same complaint - the infrastructure cannot support so many new residents. We will now see whether Herzliya is a harbinger that will be followed by other cities.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 1, 2019
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