Jerusalem recently completed the first section of its Railroad Park, and for months bicyclists and pedestrians have been enjoying the long and meandering island of green following the train tracks that once led to Tel Aviv.
Now, the bill has suddenly come in for scores of homeowners living next to the park.
At the start of the month, residents received bills from the municipality totaling millions of shekels for the work done in repaving and adding sidewalks to Rehov Harakevet, the park's principal street.
Each of the households is expected to pay between NIS 20,000 and NIS 40,000. One homeowner received a bill for NIS 137,000. More typical is the family in a 128-square-meter apartment who received a NIS 24,000 bill from the city.
The city collection agency is giving residents the chance to stretch out payments over 12 monthly installments without interest. But they have been warned that they have no more than three months to make payment arrangements - otherwise they will be faced with interest and inflation-linked charges.
Under the 1975 Jerusalem Municipal Assistance Law, as well as Interior Ministry regulations, the city is allowed to collect money from nearby residents whenever it makes street improvements, with the cost divided according to the number of square meters of the house.
Nevertheless, for most of the residents, the bills came as a complete surprise.
"My family and the others that live on Rehov Harakevet last week suddenly received a letter that said we have to pay NIS 22,000 for the work done on the Railroad Park," said one resident, in a Facebook message. "They not only built the pedestrian walkway without getting any feedback from the people who live along the railway track - they've handed us the bill for it. Apparently a law-abiding citizen who pays taxes and covers his obligations to the state simply can't afford to live in this city."
A similar incident occurred nearby on Rehov Lloyd George, in the city's German Colony neighborhood, where residents were charged about NIS 30,000 apiece for road work. In another case, a Yefe Nof resident went to court after he was charged twice for his road being repaved. The court sided with him against the municipality.
"There's no way to fight it," explains a Lloyd George homeowner, who was asked to pay NIS 36,000 when the street was repaired. "The only way is to prove that the property owner paid a similar sum in the past. It's one of the biggest problems in older neighborhoods where infrastructure work wasn't done. Those who pay for it are the current residents."
The Jerusalem municipality responded that the park itself was paid for by the city and through private donations. "Residents are required to pay for a repaving assessment only in the case of road and sidewalk improvements required by law, as are done all over the city and country," the city said in a statement.
The municipality noted that the same charge, calculated on a square-meter basis, applies throughout the country and is fixed by law. "It should be remembered that part of the repaving assessment is invested in further developing city roads," it added.
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