A recent landmark decision in the Israeli Supreme Court shows that sometimes you can fight City Hall and win.
In 1973, a family bought a plot of land in Ra’anana. About ten years later, the Ra’anana municipality appropriated part of this land in order to build a synagogue without reimbursing the family that owned the plot. The synagogue was never built and the family applied to the courts for the return of their land.
The District Court of Tel Aviv ruled in the family’s favor and ordered the Ra’anana municipality to return the land. Legally, any change of use in land from a municipality must be approved by the Minister of Interior, so the municipality requested that the Ministry of Interior approve the return of the land to the family. The Ministry decided that an appraiser would determine how much money the family owed the municipality for the return of the land.
The family returned to the Tel Aviv District Court who again ruled in the family’s favor, stating that because the family had not been compensated by the city for the confiscation of the land to begin with, in this case there was no need either for the Ministry of Interior’s approval or for paying the municipality. However, the court did rule that the family would have to pay a betterment tax for the enhancement of the property due to the change of the use.
While the Ministry of Interior appealed the ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the District Court.
This is an important ruling because there are many instances in which private land is appropriated for public use, but never actually used as intended. This decision of the Supreme Court should give many disgruntled land owners legal recourse.