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Old Town with Srd Hill

Old Town with Srd Hill

Economic development, yes, but at what cost? That’s the question dividing Dubrovnik’s citizens as they ponder the proposal to build a golf course and luxury accommodation on top of Srd Hill. Amid the festivities surrounding the feast of St Blaise this past weekend, a petition circulated to hold a referendum on the proposed project. According to local law, the petition must gather at least 20% of the population or 8000 signatures by February 15 in order for the referendum to be held. To date, 5000 have signed.

Local opposition has been strong ever since the project’s inception in 2007 when Israeli businessman Aaron Frenkel and golfer Greg Norman bought 765 acres on top of the hill with plans to invest one billion euros to develop a golf resort. A key point of contention was the city’s requirement that the development not be visible from Dubrovnik’s old town. Razvoj Golf Company, the consortium in charge of the project believes that the plan will comply with the visibility requirements but local officials were unconvinced and the project stalled. Now with the support of Dubrovnik’s Mayor, Andro Vlahusić, administrative obstacles have been cleared and the plan to build 240 villas and 400 luxury apartments around a golf course is once again moving ahead.

Not so fast, says Enes Ćerimagić of the group, Srđ Ja Naš (Srd is Ours) which is determined to hold the referendum and ultimately to halt the project. According to Mr  Ćerimagić, it’s not really about golf but about a real estate project that will turn about one third of Dubrovnik’s existing public space over to private development. It’s been said about the hill that “whoever controls Mount Srd controls Dubrovnik”, said Mr Ćerimagić. “The hill is not only a strategic point but has symbolic significance to the people of Dubrovnik who fought for control of the hill in 1991” against Serbian-Montenegrin forces. It’s a matter of “how we strategically plan the future”, he pointed out. Turning ownership and control of Dubrovnik’s last remaining public space to such a large development would place a strain on Dubrovnik’s water supply, its transportation infrastructure and even call into question Dubrovnik’s status as a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site. Dubrovnik wishes to remain a cultural site, not a golf resort, said Mr Ćerimagić.

Over the weekend, Mayor Vlahusic, former mayor Dubravka Suica, bishop Mate Uzinić and a number of prominent citizens signed the referendum petition. Mr Ćerimagić emphasizes that it is important for citizens to sign the petition no matter how they feel about the real estate project, in order to make their voices heard on this important issue affecting Dubrovnik’s future. More about the petition can be found on this website.

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