Special assessment appeal filed in light rail case
As most Minnesotans know, over the last several years, St. Paul and Minneapolis have worked together to build a new light-rail line on University Avenue that connects the two downtowns. Now that this project is complete, however, St. Paul has taken action to collect special assessments from businesses along the new rail line.
According to the city, these assessments are legal because of the increased property values seen along the new rail line. In particular, the city says the businesses are benefiting from improved street lighting and street frontages.
Therefore, typical businesses with frontage access have faced assessments averaging around $1,700. However, those businesses with larger building — half-block to block-long properties — have faced much higher amounts. These special assessments have averaged between $15,000 and $30,000 each. Businesses that have been charged can either pay the bills — they have up to 20 years with interest — or appeal the findings.
The Mosquito Control Commission — an agency responsible for overseeing the monitoring and spraying of mosquitos in seven Metro counties — has decided to appeal the decision. The Commission had been assessed $23,000 for improvements related to the light-rail and subsequent street reconstruction. Eighteen county board unanimously approved the appeal, which comes after the agency was paid $125,000 for the loss of some land during the project.
In these cases, assessments are allowed by the city to account for an increase in property value after a particular project. It is, however, up to the city to prove that the assessment represents the exact increase in property value. If the assessment is greater than the increase in property value, then the assessment is nothing more than a taking and an appeal may be necessary.
A special assessment appeal can help businesses stop actions by local governments. However, the process is complicated and governed my short, rigid time lines. Those seeking to appeal an assessment should quickly seek to understand their legal options.
Source: Pioneer Press, “St. Paul street-tax bite has even mosquito board buzzing,” Frederick Melo, Oct. 28, 2014
Image Source: TwinCities.com