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Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

Est. 2014

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Special assessments raise concerns among North Broadway property owners

Special assessments raise concerns among North Broadway property owners

Lindsay and Mike Nelson, who own property in the North Broadway reconstruction zone, say they were “shocked” upon receiving a $14,000 bill requiring them to pay for repairs for sidewalk and alleyway improvements.

The couple says that despite attending multiple project meetings last year, they were unaware that Minnesota statute allows for the city to assess property owners to fund public infrastructure projects.

And it appears the Nelsons aren’t alone. Many of their neighbors, they told us, are also “distraught over this unreasonable assessment by the city.”

“I understand the desire to improve our infrastructure and make our roadways safer,” they wrote. “However, their proposed method to fund this project displays a complete disregard for hard working citizens in this area.”

(Last fall, the city did hold a public meeting regarding the proposed tax assessments. The Nelsons, who were also notified that they would be receiving $5,000 in exchange for easement rights to a portion of their property, said they were unable to attend the November meeting.)

Under Minnesota law, municipalities have the authority to collect additional taxes from property owners — through what’s called a “special assessment” — when completing public infrastructure projects.

The special assessment, according to the law, cannot exceed the amount by which the property benefits from the improvement. The amount a property benefits from an improvement, the so-called “special benefit,” is measured by the increase in the market value of the land due to the improvement.

Ward 5 Council Member Shaun Palmer represents much of the area affected by the Broadway reconstruction project. He noted that if a property owner disagrees with the city’s assessment, they do have the right to file an appeal.

A public hearing on the assessments is scheduled for April 15. If residents are unable to attend the city council meeting, they can file a written appeal.

“You have a right to say, ‘I don’t agree and I want my day in court,’” he said.

In recent days, Palmer has been meeting with impacted residents and business owners, many of whom, he said, are concerned with the city’s assessments. Ultimately, he noted, the burden is on the city to prove the calculation lines up with the projected increase in property value.

The Broadway corridor, which extends from Civic Center Drive to 13th Street North, consists of residential homeowners along with over 50 small businesses. Some property owners are facing assessments up to $80,000.

In total, the city is aiming to collect $3.2 million in additional revenue through special property assessments. The funds will go toward street reconstruction, alley upgrades and sidewalk improvements. Things like sewers and waters lines are being paid for by the state.

Construction on the $19 million project is scheduled to begin this spring and take about two years to complete. The final road design, which was approved last year following months of contentious debate, includes two lanes in each direction, left-turn lanes, a one-way protected cycle track on each side of Broadway, sidewalks, and in-lane bus stops.

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Cover: Rendering of a reconstructed North Broadway corridor

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