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City backtracks on Broadway alley assessments

City backtracks on Broadway alley assessments

An outcry from property owners along North Broadway has led the city to reverse earlier assessments related to alleyway improvements.

The City of Rochester has sent out updated letters to property owners along the corridor informing them that they likely will not be liable to cover the costs of the alleyways. Additionally, they will not be responsible for sections of the sidewalk that connect the alleys with Broadway.

Previous assessments, sent out last month, had put property owners on the hook for the improvements. For homeowners like Lindsay and Mike Nelson, who live in the area, that meant a bill of $14,261.

But the Nelsons and other property owners, including Penny Bracken of Kismet Consignment, said they had previously been informed by city consultants that they would not be charged for alley improvements.

Ward 5 Council Member Shaun Palmer said he heard from many other property owners, both business and residential, who shared similar concerns about the alley costs. Ultimately, he said, the city decided it “cannot and will not” charge neighbors for the work.

As a result, the Nelsons’ bill has been nullified. They owe zero.

Special assessments — which are common for public infrastructure projects — allow the city to tax property owners who benefit directly from project improvements. By law, a special assessment cannot exceed the amount by which the property benefits from the construction.

Altogether, the alley revision will lower the city’s special assessment for the Broadway project from $3.2 to about $2.8 million, said Palmer. The gap in funding will be made up through state and local tax revenue.

The Broadway corridor, which extends from Civic Center Drive to 13th Street North, consists of residential homeowners along with over 50 small businesses. Construction on the $19 million project is scheduled to begin this spring and take about two years to complete.

Earlier this week, Palmer met with about 45 business and home owners on the topic of assessments. He has also been working with the Lowertown Neighborhood Association and Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.

Palmer said his primary goal is help neighbors understand their rights when it comes to special assessments. If a property owner disagrees with the city’s assessment, they do have the abiity to file an appeal.

Appeals, either in person or by letter, must be into the city by Monday, April 15. There will also be a public hearing on the assessments that same night before the Rochester City Council (7 p.m. at City Hall).

During the meeting, the council will discuss whether to accept the total assessment. Ultimately, if property owners do appeal, it will be up to the city attorney’s office to prove the assessment in district court.

“My hope,” said Palmer, “is that we will reassess these assessments and be a bit more reasonable on it.”

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Story updated 4.11.19

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