Or Yehuda opposes Ben Gurion airport expansion

Or Yehuda opposes Ben Gurion airport expansion

Expansion of Ben Gurion Airport will severely damage the economy of Or Yehuda, drive economically prosperous people away from it, and detract from its residents' quality of life, an objection recently submitted by the Or Yehuda municipality asserts, Globes reports.

The objections concern the development plan for the northern part of Ben Gurion Airport initiated by the Israel Airports Authority, which also includes a northern entry gate to the site. The airport expansion plan was submitted to the District Planning and Building Commission, which will discuss the matter next week. The plan applies to an area of over 1,200 dunam (300 acres) in the northern part of Ben Gurion Airport bordering Or Yehuda and Yehud-Monosson. The plan rezones the area, some of which is zoned for expanded parking for airplanes. The new zoning, which includes varied uses related to the airport, applies to a total of two million square meters.

"Construction of a new northern entrance to Ben Gurion Airport has considerable economic potential for local authorities to the north, among them Or Yehuda. Unfortunately, the plan in its current form threatens the future economic vigor of the city and its residents' quality of life. Construction of the northern entry gate to Ben Gurion Airport is liable to cause noise pollution and traffic jams in the vicinity," the objection filed through Adv. Eyal Mamo and Adv. Gal Ohev Zion from the Agmon & Co. Rosenberg Hacohen & Co. begins. The municipality alleges that the traffic and environmental analysis ignored the volume of traffic that will be created in the area and the noise pollution caused by construction of new terminal "at a distance of 600 meters from the homes of Or Yehuda's residents."

In its objection, the municipality expresses concern that if the northern entry to Ben Gurion Airport facilitates access for passengers on commercial flights to Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, the passengers might park their cars in Or Yehuda and use the city as a "long-term parking lot." The municipality argues, "This is liable to impose enormous burdens on all of Or Yehuda and paralyze the city." The municipality is therefore asking to District Planning and Building Commission to rule that passengers cannot use the northern entry gate and that access not be allowed from the gate to Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

The municipality states that the new plan will drive economically prosperous people away from the city, writing, "Because of the worsening acoustic nuisance, a large proportion of the city's veteran resident have been abandoning the southern neighborhoods in recent years. They have been replaced by people of low economic status, due to the fall in housing prices in these neighborhoods caused by the noise, which has been increasing with the rising number of takeoffs and landings at Ben Gurion Airport."

In its objection, the municipality is therefore demanding that the plan not be approved without an assessment of an acoustic appendix attached to it that includes the impact on the residents' homes and acoustic protection that should be built if airplane engines are run close to the homes of residents in Or Yehuda.

The municipality expresses anxiety about the city's economy because of the proposed plan, which will lead to direct competition for sources of municipal revenue by "allowing construction of two million square meters of office, commercial, and logistics space to be put on the open market on the site of the airport. This will deal a devastating blow to Or Yehuda's ability to fully utilize its business and commercial space… The result is liable to be substantial damage to the city, which is in the midst of a residential development boom. The municipality relies on income-producing space to provide services to its residents."

The Or Yehuda municipality claims that the volume of income-producing space in the proposed plan obligates the District Planning and Building Commission to assess the demand for income-producing space and the needs the local authorities in the vicinity of the plan, including Or Yehuda. The municipality is also asking that distributive justice with respect to the revenue expected from the plan be taken into account. "The construction rights in the plan are disproportionate, without any regional economic examination of the resulting damage to the nearby local authorities… In view of the many residential plans being promoted in the area, which will double the population in the next decade, as part of the national effort to increase the supply of housing in central Israel, an additional 1.2 million square meters of income-producing space is needed in order to maintain a balanced budget for a 20-year period. Allowing the Airports Authority to market such large amounts of business space exempt from municipal taxes, while the bordering local authorities are bearing the burden of increasing the supply of housing and providing services to their residents, amounts to an unfair economic advantage and contravenes principles of distributive justice," the objection states.

Commenting on the size of the plan, the municipality's objection says, "Or Yehuda objects to both the excessively generous construction percentages set forth in the plan, in stark contrast to the program prepared, and to the lack of clarity concerning uses mentioned in the plan, which will allow use of the space for offices, commerce, and logistics for the general public, not merely for airport employees and the airport."

The municipality claims that a large proportion of the space is currently zoned under National Outline Plan 2 for "a parking lot for airplanes," which the plans seeks to rezone to "general airport and regional service." In its objection, the municipality argues that the District Planning and Building Commission lacks authority to rezone land set aside under National Outline Plan 2 for an airplane parking lot, and this zoning should therefore be left unchanged. According to the municipality, in addition to the operational and aviation functions needed to operate the terminal, the plan permits a huge volume of construction for office, storage, restaurant service, and commercial uses in the vicinity of the plan. The municipality accordingly demands in its objection that the District Planning and Building Commission make it clear in the documents for the plan that all of the space in the plan be used solely for the airport's needs, and that the uses be allowed only as passenger service for those going through passport control.

The Airports Authority said in response, "Completion of the detailed plan for the northern part of Ben Gurion Airport on the last land reserves for development of Israel's international airport is needed to streamline operations and improve the level of passenger service. The Or Yehuda municipality's objection is inconsistent with the welfare of the millions of passengers passing through Ben Gurion Airport each year. The Airport Authority's response to the objection will be brought to a discussion of the matter in the District Planning and Building Commission."

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