Mevasseret Mayor fights plans for absorption center site

Yoram Shimon outside Mevasseret Absorption Center Photo: Lior Mizrahi

The Israel Land Authority and Jewish Agency are trying to triple the building rights for the former absorption center so that 900 homes can be built there.

The Israel Land Authority (ILA) is planning to build 900 housing units on land vacated by the Jewish Agency absorption center in the center of Mevasseret Zion, the local council claims. The land is owned by the Jewish Agency Pension and Remuneration Fund.

Mevasseret Zion Local Council Mayor Yoram Shimon has vowed to fight the plan. He told "Globes," "There is no justification for building 900 housing units in towers that will change the character of the town, simply because it is in somebody's economic interest. We won't let them build a single unit more than the 300 homes permitted by the valid masterplan."

The Jewish Agency absorption center covers 5 hectares (50,000 square meters) in the very heart of Mevasseret Zion, opposite the Harel shopping mall. The Jewish Agency Pension and Remuneration Fund allegedly plans marketing land in a tender for developers after completing procedures for enlarging the building rights.

Documents seen by "Globes" show that the ILA, which claims that it is not a party to the planning process, is encouraging future plans to build 900 homes with financial incentives, on condition that two-thirds of the apartments will be marketed through its Mechir Lemishtaken (Buyer's Price) program.

Since the early 1970s the land has been zoned for public use by the Jewish Agency in order to operate an absorption center. In 2005, the ILA and Keren Kayemeth Le'Israel, which has owned the land, sold it to the Jewish Agency for NIS 33 million. The Jewish Agency transferred it to its employees' Pension and Remuneration Fund in order to cover the fund's deficit. At the same time, the ILA rezoned the land from public use to residential use - an odd procedure that would be unlikely to be approved today. A source at the ILA, speaking to "Globes" described the historic procedures regarding the land as "a mistake."

In 2014, a tender was issued to sell the land for construction of homes at a minimum price of NIS 250 million. Several bids were received but the tender was cancelled due to legal proceedings by the absorption center's new immigrant tenants. In August 2017, the High Court of Justice dismissed the petition by the 650 tenants against the closure of the absorption center and their eviction. The immigrants were moved out of the abosprtion center at the end of 2017. This cleared the way for the land to be marketed under a new tender and the ILA and Jewish Agency Pension and Remuneration Fund have since set about enlarging the building rights for the land.

The ILA denies involvement in promoting such a plan but documents seen by "Globes" dated March 2018, including a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) about the masterplan, between the ILA and the Jewish Agency's Pension and Remuneration Fund, show the ILA offering economic incentives for marketing 900 housing units, providing two thirds of the units are part of the government's Buyer's Price program.

Mevasseret local council says it will oppose any plan not coordinated in consultation with it and that does not take into account planning to coordniate appropriate infrastructures including public and private transport, educational and public institutions, sports facilities, roads, cycle paths and more.

Both the ILA and the Jewish Agency Pension and Remuneration Fund deny they are promoting such a plan.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 4, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Yoram Shimon outside Mevasseret Absorption Center Photo: Lior Mizrahi
Yoram Shimon outside Mevasseret Absorption Center Photo: Lior Mizrahi
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