The town council of Bulgaria's Black Sea resort Nessebar has effectively saved its UNESCO-recognized Old Town from destruction over the construction of a dolphinarium.
The Nessebar Dolphinarium saga finally ended on Thursday, after the town councilors approved the settlement between the municipality and Festa Holding, a private company which planned to build a dolphinarium on the small Black Sea peninsula harboring the Old Town, an UNESCO World Heritage site.
In a special press statement, the press office of the Nessebar Municipality praised the role of Mayor Nikolay Dimitrov for managing to renounce the dolphinarium deal sealed by his predecessor, and pointed out that Dimitrov has kept his 2007 election campaign promise to rescue the Old Town from construction.
The Municipality has also slammed a local political party called DELA for opposing the deal during Thursday's debates in the town council.
"The hypocritical position of the corporate political party DELA was demonstrated by the fact that its councilors demanded that the Municipality return at once all the money for delphinarium plot to Festa Holding. This would have ruined the local budget," says the statement.
The scandalous deal for the construction of a dolphinarium would have destroyed much of its UNESCO-protected Old Town. Under it Festa Holding AD acquired about one-fifth of the area of the entire Black Sea peninsula on which the Old Town of Nessebar is located (a plot of 23 decares) in exchange for BGN 5 M. The deal was approved by the municipality in 2005 with the active role of former Mayor Nikolay Trifonov.
As the parameters of the deal became publicly known, there was a strong public reaction because the construction of the new aquarium for dolphins would have practically destroyed much of the UNESCO World Heritage site, and would probably have led to the removal of the UNESCO status from the town.
The deal could be renounced as Festa Holding has agreed to receive back its money and give up it property claims and construction rights on the plot in the Old Town. This happened after two months ago the Municipality threatened to refer the deal to the Supreme Prosecutor's Office of Cassation. On Thursday, the official statement of the Nessebar Municipality recognized the role of the state in the face of Burgas District Governor Konstantin Grebenarov for pressuring Festa Holding to back out of the deal.
The scandalous dolphinarium deal has thus be formally annulled. The dispute, however, has a long history after in 2007 Festa Holding's owner Petya Slavova refused to accept a similar annulment deal, and won the case with the Supreme Administrative Court which they filed after Mayor Dimitrov refused to finalize the property contract.
Subsequent negotiations to replace the Old Town plot with another one located in the mainland New Town also failed.
The Nessebar town council is now expected to come up with the precise formula for the annulment of the deal, and returning the money to Festa Holding, which has agreed to this settlement.
Bulgaria presently has only one existing dolphinarium, it is located in Varna.