For 29 years, owners of properties in the crafts zone in Qadmous city (administratively a part of the coastal Tartous governorate) have been suffering due to their properties being marked with restraints on disposal in the zoning plan, preventing any transactions, despite the area not being developed to date.
Local media describe the situation of these owners as a “freezing” of their properties, but that term is not legally accurate. It essentially means marking the property on the zoning plan, i.e., placing an expropriation mark on the property within the zoning plan before the issuance of an expropriation decree. The expropriation mark theoretically prevents any transactions related to the property. However, some judicial interpretations have determined that marking a property does not preclude establishing rights over it. For example, the sale of the property is considered valid, and ownership is transferred to the buyer. Still, it remains burdened with the expropriation mark.
These properties administratively belong to the villages of Salabeh and Saadani, adjacent to and part of Qadmous City, covering an area of 4.4 hectares. According to the city’s zoning plan issued in 1994, they were marked as an industrial zone. Qadmous remained a town administratively until 2011 when the Ministry of Local Administration decided to convert it into a city via Decision No. 146/N. In 2011, the city council relocated the industrial zone to Property No. 2042 to the west of the city, covering an area of four hectares, and converted the old industrial zone into a crafts zone, which means Salabeh and Saadani became part of a crafts zone. However, nothing changed on the ground, and these properties remained “frozen.”
With urban expansion around the city, these properties were added to the expansion of the zoning plan for Qadmous City issued in 2018, changing – again – their designation from industrial to crafts-related in the plan and changing the designation of the surrounding properties to residential. According to official newspapers, the Qadmous City Council has refused to grant construction permits to the owners of these properties.
In 2017, the Minister of Local Administration indicated that the issue of the crafts zone in Qadmous would soon be resolved after the land allocated for it was transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform to the properties of the Qadmous City Council. This shows that these properties are officially treated as expropriated despite the absence of an expropriation decree. Expropriation Law No. 20 of 1983 permitted the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform to take control of agricultural land and unbuilt properties before issuing an expropriation decree.
Conversely, the owners of the properties marked on the plan as a craft area in Salabeh and Saadani collectively filed numerous complaints to demand the reclassification of their properties from craft to residential or to be officially expropriated and compensated. In 2019, the regional committee rejected a collective request submitted by the residents to include the frozen properties in Salabeh and Saadani in the residential expansion area.
On November 23, 2023, the head of Qadmous City Council told the semi-official Al-Watan newspaper that the residents have the right to benefit from their properties and submit their objections anew following the anticipated annual announcement of the city’s zoning plan. The regional committee will decide on the fate of the properties: whether to expropriate them or change their regulatory status to residential.