Construction on Holyland project frozen
Municipal planning and building committee discusses construction at real estate 'monstrosity' at city engineer's behest, decides to impose 100-day freeze. City presents evidence showing builders don't have necessary permits to continue building. Project planners' proxy says decision is 'populist'
Despite it being at the center of one of Israel's most far-reaching corruption scandals, Holyland's entrepreneurs sought to continue building. However, for the first time since the affair broke, the local Jerusalem planning and building committee discussed the real estate enterprise to demand that construction on the project be frozen.
At the end of a loaded discussion, the committee decided to impose a 100-day construction freeze on the Holyland project.
The committee was faced with granting permits to dig foundations for three more buildings to be included in the project. Proxies of the Holyland Park – the company that bought the building rights from Hillel Cherny, the main suspect in the case – was summoned to the meeting.
The proxies asked that the committee allow the company to continue digging foundations.
On the other hand, committee chairman and Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Kobi Kahlon asked that the digging be suspended.
In a presentation he made to the committee, Kahlon showed that the building percentages authorized for the project have nearly been expended. The project, according to him, only has permits for 79 more housing units, versus the 210 housing units the requested three towers would contain.
'Even if only meter left, permit can be granted'
In response to the committee's assertions, the project's representatives claimed that the committee members knew all along precisely how the project was progressing in terms of its expended building percentages, but didn't open their mouths until the affair broke. According to the building representatives, the only reason for suspending construction is the publication of bribery suspicions, out of considerations they called "populism."
"The digging permits were issued legally. They must be authorized in any case," said a representative of Holyland Park, Attorney Rafi Ettinger. "The remaining building percentages have no significance in this matter. Even if only one square meter remained on each lot, a digging permit can be issued. You knew the numbers all along. You didn't just discover this all of a sudden a month ago."
He also claimed that hundreds of thousands of shekels had already been spent to ensure that there were not ancient graves below the dig sites, and that these operations were nearly concluded.