The Tartu city council has approved a controversial plan that allows 28 private residences to be constructed in what is currently a forested area covering 12 hectares in Ihaste. While around six hectares of forest would remain, residents are not happy with the decisions and are weighing turning to administrative court.
The project covers around 40 percent of the plan area. The rest of the woods would survive, the "Aktuaalne kaamera" evening news program reported on Saturday.
"I believe we have pursued successful cooperation with residents, received a lot of feedback and found a solution that considers public interests, but unfortunately, does not consider every individual's private interests. It is the task of the local government to finally make a decision and find that balance," said Tartu Deputy Mayor Reno Laidre.
The plan was first introduced 15 years ago. Ihaste residents have collected over 2,000 signatures against the planned estate and written to the city with requests to keep the woods intact.
Even partially turning the area into residential land should have been discussed with the entire community and not just immediate neighbors right from the start. I believe actions to involve the broader community came very late. We learned during our campaign to collect signatures that Ihaste residents living close to the area were unaware of the process," local resident Ingrid Sahk said.
"They are shocked to learn that a residential development is planned in place of forest that lies in the middle of a city. This in a situation where there are over 50 vacant residential plots in the vicinity. Countries sporting the same level of cultural development as Estonia generally do not pursue residential land developments in forested areas," local resident Lenne Rähn-Kuusik said.
"Even the 28 plots in question cover an area where tall greenery needs to be retained. Regional landscaping will also be based on existing tall greenery, meaning that additional trees will be retained," Laidre commented.
The woods are currently privately owned. The plan would see six hectares of forest move into the hands of the local government that would make sure no more houses would be built in the area.
Residents are worried over diversity and habitat of protected species of plants in the forest.
"Environmental impact leaves no one untouched, which is why it is important to conserve the forest as a whole. It will never be the same if we destroy even a part of it. It baffles me why we would plant trees so we could cut them down somewhere else," Sahk said.
"We are seriously considering taking this matter to administrative court," Rähn-Kuusik added.
Editor: Marcus Turovski