In the end of September, locals of Kakumäe, a small single family house community in Tallinn, lost their 5 year battle against 23500 square meters of marina development and are preparing for the final battle in court. Since only marina facilities are allowed so close to the shore, developers claim the whole complex is a marina facility. Tallinn’s deputy mayor Taavi Aas says Tallinn needs a big marina and without profitable development there isn’t going to be any, yet in May Tallinn introduced the Old City Marina in May. “True, but its not completely new, besides there are 599 yacht spots in Tallinn while Helsinki has almost 10 000,” says Aas.
Estonia’s coastal zone was a restricted coast guard area back in the soviet era, so the human impact was minimal. Former soviet countries eagerly waited to get public opinion and private property on their constitution, but these two are often at conflict between themselves. It has mainly influenced the real estate industry where, for example, property developers had filled preserved shore areas with projects the size of a small village.
Yet last year the Environmental Institute found the Kakumäe marina development not worth it to take down valuable, preserved forest land and reduce the building exclusion zone of 200 meters from water to 20-40. So there was a glimpse of hope for the locals that the detailed plan wouldn’t pull through city council. Although the capacity of the development doesn’t correspond to the Tallinn comprehensive plan and a previous marina 100 meters away was declined 3 years ago, the compromise was made by the city council to reduce the development only by 6%. Now, it’s a bit smaller than half of Ülemiste Center, the biggest shopping centre in Estonia. “The due date for contestation is in the beginning of November, we’ll certainly have our court papers ready by then,” says the representative for the locals, Almar Sehver
A green card to the whole Kakumäe marina development means an eight storey marina building, eight apartment buildings, three single houses, a day-care center, sporting facility, office building and one manufacturing building. “In the course of planning the marina we improved the traffic pattern, added a fishquay, playground and a pathway.” said Aas to newspaper “Eesti Ekspress”. Since only marina facilities are allowed into water, developers claim the whole complex is a marina facility which creates a precedent of how big of a development could a marina facility be.
Internet commentators speculate, that marina is “a gateway to money” and say locals should be proud of the new complex, but also draw suspicion on where would the residents come from, considering Tallinn is filled with leftovers from property overheating. “There isn’t a place in Europe where 23,500 square meters is known as a marina, besides there is another marina approved just around the corner,” say others. True, the Merisalu marina has been under development for years now.
Could the new Kakumäe marina open doors to more exploiting?
While most of Europe preserve their coastal area through “Integrated coastal zone management”, Vietnam, also putting emphasis on ICZM, invites foreign investors to develop in their coastal areas. The head of planning and foreign investment say they have no worries about exploiting beautiful areas.
In Estonia, according to the audit, excessive development a few years ago had a great impact on the coastal area. After receiving a green light for the euro, Estonia’s next goal is economic growth. Will that effect coastal area preservation? Olari Kärmas from The City Planning Department says errors in law or corruption do jeopardize coastal preservation. He doesn’t believe though, that the Kakumäe marina could open the way for similar coastal developments, because the Environmental Department has turned down most of those detailed plans.
Last year, in order to control the excessive development, public opinion was given more authority by the planning law. Altogether it was changed five times, mainly inflicting the capacity of any marina facility. It is now mandatory to ask the local government planning conditions for building a bigger facility than 60 rm2.
The State Audit Office claims public opinion still doesn’t have enough authority. Since their audit “Development in Coastal Areas” three years ago it’s common to use an otherwise exceptional opportunity to change the conditions in the statutory plan with a detailed plan to pull through an unsuitable development for the specific area. And to this day, it’s easier to ask for the permit after, not before building, because the consequences are mild – the maximum fine for illegal building activity is equal to one for drunk driving.
But the new marina in Pirita is a true eye opener into the life of a sailor. The “Tourist Action 2010” prize winner will have an Estonian handicraft market, yacht related exhibitions, excursions. “We emphasize club activities for sailors where the old sea wolves could share their stories to younger ones,” says Sven Ratassepp, chief of communications in the Port of Tallinn.
The Norwegian town of Risor was the first to implement the town’s identity for their economical success, something they didn’t know would become a role model for other European countries. Their approach was to keep massive industrial development out and help the town’s identity to reach it’s highest peek. For that they restored every detail referring to their history, now Risor is a tourist attraction with its small cafes, all white wooden houses and a very calm lifestyle. The soviet coast guard buildings throughout the Estonian coastline will probably never be restored, but old memorabilia from the KIROV collective farm like wooden fish boats in Kakumäe marina, are a valuable possession.
Considering Tallinn will probably have 27 kilometers of new seafront development, there is a lot at stake. The complete makeover project represented in the beginning of October by Ars means covering all seafront in Tallinn with a promenade to enjoy the sea and birdwatching. The project also includes at least one marina, some bigger glassed walls and probably a test for the new planning law once more.
Estonia’s first proper marina creates a court rally for the locals