The building in the photograph, located at 56 Aleja lipa in the Hrasno neighbourhood of Sarajevo, has long been abandoned. Situated between two residential buildings constructed about 50 years ago, near the Miljacka River, it was once a retirement home and was used by the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war. Since then, it has been left to the ravages of time, and the area around the building currently features organized parking, containers, and a road that locals refer to as the fire road…
This building and the surrounding area, which are in private ownership, recently came into the public spotlight when it was announced that changes and amendments to the zoning plan were being prepared, envisioning the construction of a new, much larger residential-commercial building in place of the existing one.
Residents from two neighbouring buildings quickly organized and opposed this plan. Journalists from Žurnal spoke with them under the condition of anonymity. However, before we present their concerns and opinions, and for better understanding, we will try to briefly explain how the situation has reached its current state.
INCREASE IN DIMENSIONS
The first significant changes and amendments to the zoning plan were adopted as far back as 2006. This plan, which is still in effect, envisaged the expansion of the existing building, along with the construction of another building of similar dimensions. Both buildings would, therefore, have basement rooms, a ground floor, and four floors.
However, construction according to this plan never took place, and nothing else significant changed on the site. Nevertheless, changes begin to occur when the current owner of the building, the Sarajevo company Senabil, submits a request to the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo for a change in the zoning plan, and this is to be done through an expedited procedure.
The Institute for Development Planning of the Sarajevo Canton and the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo deemed the request for the price justified, and the municipal mayor Hasan Tanović submitted a proposal for a decision on initiating the amendments to the zoning plan to the Municipal Council. On October 18, 2022, the Municipal Council of Novo Sarajevo adopted it, and the process of amending the zoning plan began.
Essentially, the intention is to change the existing zoning plan from 2006 in favour of the interests of the plot owners.
Namely, instead of expanding the existing building, it is to be demolished. Furthermore, in that location, and in the area where the construction of a new building was initially planned, the proposal now envisions the construction of a larger integrated structure.
So, instead of two smaller buildings with basement rooms, a ground floor, and four floors, the plan now involves constructing a larger one with two underground levels, a ground floor, and even five floors. Additionally, a portion of the public green space would be paved, and on the other side, some existing parking spaces would no longer exist.
WOULD THE CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW BUILDING JEOPARDIZE THE STABILITY OF SURROUNDING STRUCTURES?
What concerns the group of residents in neighbouring buildings the most is the planned demolition of the existing structure. They claim that the current surrounding buildings are already partially compromised stability, having undergone repairs for cracks at the base several times, and they fear that any major intervention near the buildings could seriously undermine their stability. Additionally, they emphasize that the ground is unstable due to its proximity to the river.
"Our primary concern is the excavation pit of 800 square meters. We don't know how it will be carried out because no one has informed us or provided any written details. Furthermore, we believe that adequate pre-investigation measures haven't been taken regarding how this will impact the surrounding structures. We respect ownership, but it's our property as well. We seek absolute legal protection of our property and a guarantee that, in case of problems, someone will compensate for the 40 million worth of damage, which is the total value of these two buildings", said the residents.
In doing so, they refer to Article 75 of the Law on Real Rights of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which clearly states that "the owner is not allowed to dig on their land or perform other actions on their property that could reasonably be expected to endanger the stability of someone else's property".
Excavation is not the only reason why residents are concerned. They state that the construction of a new building would decrease the value of their properties, significantly limit the right to natural sunlight, obstruct views from apartments of the landscape, Miljacka River, and the promenade, reduce wind flow, thereby increasing temperature, and permanently destroy more than two-thirds of the park-like green space. All of this, they argue, would disrupt the quality of life, safety, and health of the residents in this neighbourhood.
They are disappointed in Mayor Tanović and the municipal services. They claim that it seems like they are more concerned about the interests of the investors than the interests of the citizens who elected them. They also believe that the existing building has cultural and historical significance and should be adequately protected. They attended a public forum, and a meeting was held at the premises of the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo.
"The atmosphere at the public forum was very negative, very arrogant on the part of the employees of the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo. Throughout the public forum, we never felt heard. We received 'approximate' answers to all our questions, not with facts, not with evidence, but with a fairy tale. We didn't get a single fact that would convince us that everything would be fine. The fact that the employees were protecting the investor was an absolute shock to us. Their primary job is to protect the interests of the citizens and the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo, not to protect the investor", residents tell Žurnal journalists.
Since, as they say, none of their objections were considered, they sought and got a meeting with the mayor and representatives of the relevant municipal service. Again, without a specific agreement.
"At that meeting, we felt like we walked into a prepared matter. They listened to several questions, but had a negative answer to each one. The mayor himself was pleasant and courteous at the beginning until we started expressing our objections, and then he began to lose patience. We are not satisfied with his attitude; it cannot be his argument that it's an eyesore and that we will have a beautiful building", said the disappointed residents.
Journalists from Žurnal sent an inquiry to the owner of the plot, Senabil company, but we did not receive a response by the conclusion of this text. The Municipality of Novo Sarajevo confirmed to us that it was concluded at the meeting at the Institute for Development Planning of the Sarajevo Canton, held after the public forum, that the objections, suggestions, and comments of the citizens were not justified.
"The height of the newly planned building is in line with the height of existing buildings parallel to the Miljacka River and is in accordance with the provisions of the 'Study on Urban Ventilation Corridors and the Impact of High Buildings,' which allows the construction of new buildings with a maximum height of 20 meters within 200 meters from the edge of the primary ventilation corridor - the bed of the Miljacka River", claim the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo.
However, in their response, the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo did not specifically address perhaps the most important question - whether there is a risk of compromising the stability of surrounding buildings.
Instead, they emphasize that "it is evident that the planned building cannot restrict natural sunlight to taller structures" and that the "residents' objection regarding the 'elimination of the fire escape route' is entirely unfounded, as the existing road on the north side of the building is not registered as a road in the cadastral survey and Land Registry, nor is it defined as any kind of road by valid planning documents".
In addition, the relevant municipal services, in earlier statements to the media, stated that if the amendments to the zoning plan were adopted, only obtaining urban planning approval would result in new investigative activities and a more detailed geological study for the issuance of a building permit.
However, residents of surrounding buildings do not trust the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo. They tell Žurnal that the relationship is significantly strained. They are disappointed that before initiating the entire procedure, neither the municipal services nor the investor talked to them to try to reach a compromise.
Today, their demand is entirely clear and unequivocal – the solution from 2006 is unacceptable, and especially the proposed amendments to the zoning plan.
"Our common goal is not to allow a monstrosity of a building here. This building needs to be reconstructed, it needs to be repaired. If there were wisdom, the public authorities would have bought and renovated it, putting it to public use. But there is no ear for the citizens. Instead of talking to us, finding a solution, arranging the green space, they are creating something that will be some new eyesore", they explain.
What should follow is that the Municipal Council of Novo Sarajevo votes on whether they are in favour or against the proposed amendments to the zoning plan. Žurnal unofficially learns that currently, there is no majority to approve it.
On the other hand, the residents are ready, they conclude, to use all legally permissible options, including filing a lawsuit and organizing protests, all with the aim of preventing the demolition of the existing building and the construction of a new one.